The invaluable Carol Rosenberg remains on watch at the legal proceedings at Guantanamo Bay where, at the moment, pre-trial motions are underway to answer questions about whether Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and four other defendants “voluntarily confessed” after being entertained at CIA black-site facilities for years. Rosenberg now reports that all the stories about how FBI agents were revolted at the torture practiced at those sites and walked out, leaving the Bureau free to put together “clean” teams of agents to interrogate the defendants in admissible ways were, at best, exaggerated. From The New York Times:
But new information that emerged this week in the Sept. 11 case undermines that F.B.I. narrative. The two intelligence agencies secretly arranged for nine F.B.I. agents to temporarily become C.I.A. operatives in the overseas prison network where the spy agency used torture to interrogate its prisoners.
In open court on Thursday, another prosecutor, Clayton G. Trivett Jr., confirmed the unusual arrangement, in which nine F.B.I. agents were “formally detailed” to the agency “and thus became a member of the C.I.A. and worked within C.I.A. channels.” He said that the agents served as “debriefers,” a C.I.A. term for interrogators, and questioned black site prisoners “out of the coercive environment” and after the use of “E.I.T.s.”
E.I.T.s, or enhanced interrogation techniques, is a C.I.A. euphemism for a series of abusive tactics that the agency used against Mr. Mohammed and other prisoners in 2002 and 2003 — tactics that were then approved but are now illegal. They include waterboarding, painful shackling and isolating a prisoner nude, shivering and in the dark to break his will to resist interrogation.
The torture program was a malignancy that corrupted everyone and everything it touched, a malignancy that continues to do so even to this day. The government is turning itself into a pretzel to convict the guy who planned 9/11 because it tortured the hell out of him overseas for years. The malignancy corrupts justice more deeply than it corrupts almost anything else. And it went out of its way to corrupt the FBI.
Mr. Trivett offered no precise time period but made clear that the F.B.I. agents were absorbed by the C.I.A. sometime between 2002, when the black sites were established, and September 2006. On their return to the F.B.I., they took on the status of C.I.A. assets, he said, and so their identities are classified.
A defense lawyer, James G. Connell III, added more details in the same court hearing. He said that the nine agents “stopped being F.B.I. agents and became C.I.A. agents temporarily” under a memorandum of understanding that established a different arrangement than the more typical assignment of a representative of one law enforcement agency to work out of the organization of another.
As Rosenberg details, and god knows she’s better suited than any other observer to know, this is the ninth year of pre-trial motions in this case because the extra-legal activities of the government have brought upon the proceedings a staggering complexity. But, at the heart of that complexity is the fact that this government developed a formal program to torture people for the first time in its history.
A lawyer for Mr. Mohammed, Denny LeBoeuf, cast the collaboration as part of a conspiracy to portray F.B.I. accounts of interrogations of the defendants at Guantánamo in 2007 as “clean team statements,” a law enforcement expression. “They were never clean,” Ms. LeBoeuf said. “Torture isn’t clean. It is filthy. It has sights and sounds and consequences.”
It certainly does. Dark and awful consequences that corrupt justice and, ultimately, the history we all share as a nation.
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