Probe shows 9/11 is, sadly, forgotten

“It’s very hard to maintain a Sept. 12 view of the world,” says David Nahmias, a thought that well explains why some CIA agents may soon face criminal prosecution.

Nahmias, recently appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court after a career of prosecuting, among others, terrorists after Sept. 11, spoke those words a few days before the Obama administration reopened a criminal probe of CIA interrogators. But his observation about the difference between the raw wounds of The Day After and our more comfortable perspective eight years hence is right on target.

Let’s be honest. Liberals can get away with tsk-tsking about a handful of unauthorized CIA interrogation techniques — some of which would fit right into a Monty Python spoof: “Talk, or I’ll speak ill of your mother! And after that, turn on an electric drill in this very room!” — precisely because the CIA’s interrogations helped to prevent another terror attack on U.S. soil.

Had just one of the foiled terror plots gone off, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Some commentators have jumped on the conclusion by CIA Inspector General John Helgerson, in a 2004 report released publicly Monday concurrent to the reopening of the probe, that gauging the efficacy of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs) is a “subjective process and not without some concern.”

Read on, however, and you find that Abu Zubaydah, one of Osama bin Laden’s highest-level henchmen, “appeared to be more cooperative” after going through simulated drowning known as waterboarding. His cooperation included helping to identify Jose Padilla and other terrorists.

You find that another terrorist who provided valuable information, Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, did so only after “receiving additional EITs.”

And you find that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks and the man who personally beheaded the kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl, was “an accomplished resistor” who “provided only a few intelligence reports prior to the use of the waterboard, and analysis of that information revealed that much of it was outdated, inaccurate, or incomplete.” After being subjected to EITs, he became “probably the most prolific” source of good intelligence gathered through interrogations.
The point here is two-fold. First, those who argue against these interrogation techniques on grounds of both morality and their supposed lack of effectiveness cannot have it both ways.

If you want to object to actions such as waterboarding for moral reasons, fine. But don’t pretend that eschewing these techniques wouldn’t have put thousands of innocent American lives at grave risk from terrorists. The inspector general’s report recounts a litany of plots blocked thanks to knowledge gleaned from interrogations, some of which certainly came to light through the use of rougher questioning techniques.

The second point is that the CIA officers who employed these techniques did so at a time when another attack was thought to be imminent. They were, by all accounts, operating on ever-shifting ground in terms of legal authorizations and security imperatives. We cannot treat them as criminals now just because things turned out OK.

In so many ways it is good that we no longer have the Sept. 12 mind-set: That was a mind-set of fear. But the agents working then did not have the luxury of eight years’ worth of security and perspective. Again, we have that luxury only because those agents’ work gave it to us.

Perhaps the saddest commentary in all of this came, those several years ago, from unnamed officers cited in the report. Realizing that the Sept. 12 view would fade away, they feared that the American public that demanded security of them at the time would turn on them in the future. “Ten years from now we’re going to be sorry we’re doing this … [but] it has to be done,” was the way one of them summed up such worries.
Shame on us for proving that officer right.

39 comments Add your comment

[...] and Truth — The New YorkerA chilling effect on CIA agents? — L.A. Times opinionProbe shows 9/11 is, sadly, forgotten — AJC opinionEditorial: Tortured lessons on CIA abuses — Dallas News editorial [...]

[...] Kyle Wingfield says probe shows 9/11 is, sadly, forgotten. [...]

Katie

August 27th, 2009
11:31 am

Just because we don’t talk about 911 daily doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten. There’s only 24 hours in a day. How many historical events should we be talking about every day in addition to our work, family and personal events?? Come on….

AMB

August 27th, 2009
11:46 am

9/11 has not been forgotten. Neither have the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg Trials, or the military codes of conduct.
Torture cannot be condoned. Ever.

HellinaHandBasket

August 27th, 2009
12:00 pm

Those of us who lost loved ones on 9/11 and have family members fighting in the resulting war in Iraq & now Afghanistan cannot forget. I miss those who have died and I live in fear that those in Iraq & Afghanistan will soon join them. I had hope that Obama would end the war in Iraq as promised & would not wage another war but he lied & has done neither. The madness continues as Obama blames others & he has the power to bring our troops home & does nothing. He is using the military to make himself look tough on terrorism but is doing little to give them the support & equipment they need. Ask any family who has to send blankets & food to their loved ones in Iraq/Afghanistan because they have been on 1 ration a day for weeks. Shame on us all for forgetting the terrorist attacks before 9/11 & that horrible day itself but more so shame on us all & specifically our government for risking the lives of our military but ignoring their basic needs. I love this country but I hate our government.

JM

August 27th, 2009
12:05 pm

I don’t talk about it every day, but I think about it every day … trust me … 9/11 has not (and will never be) been forgotten.

Wesley Au-Yeung

August 27th, 2009
12:22 pm

I invite you all to watch documentaries such as “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib” and other related films. Innumerable prisoners who were later tried “not guilty” were thoroughly tortured in a multitude of ways. “So? It makes our country safer!”

Try flipping the script. Imagine a military of another nation prescribing such acts of torture… on YOU. Or your son or daughter. And you know for a fact they/you are innocent. And they induce the never-ending pain until you succumb and even fabricate information just to make the horror stop.

9/11 is clearly an egregious act performed by few.

If there is solid–VERY SOLID–evidence for an inmate’s knowledge of potentially serious threats, I would support the idea of torture for him/her in particular. However, the government took it too far and injected xenophobia and anger/fear in their operations.

The triumphant resilience and precautions espoused by 9/11 should continue to influence our mindsets, lifestyles and memory, but it does not necessitate MANY of the tortures that have happened in our recent past.

Again, just imagine you (innocent) being the target.

Wesley Au-Yeung

August 27th, 2009
12:25 pm

With all that said, I agree with most of the points you’ve made, HellinaHandBasket.

I’m a Marine veteran and one of my commanding officers once stated (prior to shipment to Iraq): “the military is the strongest political tool.”

kwingfield

August 27th, 2009
12:35 pm

Let’s focus less on the headline and more on the issue I was trying to address: That these CIA agents might face prosecution for doing what the nation essentially asked of them at the time (prevent another attack at all costs), and it’s because we’re judging them with a different perspective than they could have had at the time.

AMB: That’s a perfectly reasonable opinion, even if I would argue that in a handful of circumstances it carries significant risks.

Wesley Au-Yeung: The CIA inspector general’s report makes clear that the inmates in question — i.e. not those at Abu Ghraib, unless they’re mentioned in the (many) redacted sections — were believed to have the kind of knowledge you’re talking about. It also makes clear that this kind of treatment was the exception, not the norm.

Hal

August 27th, 2009
12:36 pm

If people can pretend there’s a God I can pretend that crap didn’t nothing because there was nothing to stop. Same a-holes that ignored memos and flight schools. Fool me once with these suits in DC.

Truth Seeker

August 27th, 2009
12:39 pm

Yeah I don’t know how I could have stood having panties on my head…

Big AL

August 27th, 2009
12:57 pm

I will never forget 911. I remember where I was, and the chill that went through me when I was told, we were being attacked. That was the most horrifing ordeal I have lived to see thus far. However, that does not give us the right to break international laws. If I lose my job, and my babies are starving, we have no electricity, water, or gas, I don’t believe the judge will find me “not guilty” for armed robbery. He will not look at my circumstances and say I was justified. The judge will find me guilty, and send me to prison. With that said, my heart goes out to the agents for their sacrifice, but as I have heard so often said, “Do the crime do the time”.

Hillbilly Deluxe

August 27th, 2009
1:05 pm

I don’t believe anything more than perhaps a couple of low level prosecutions will ever come of this. It’s basically a smoke screen to distract us from our current problems. They’re using this to take the heat off our domestic problems. While we argue about this we don’t have our eye on the ball. It’s an old political trick.

I do feel sorry for whoever the sacrificial lambs will be.

Jefferson

August 27th, 2009
1:11 pm

Those who caused it are dead.
Those who planned it — should beware.
If the airlines had locks on the cockpit doors, like they knew they should — there would have been fewer deaths. 20-20 hindsight.
Why did the gov’t pay off the families ? Guilt ? Fear of litigation.

Like Pearl Harbor, 9/11 should not be forgotton.

NetBanker

August 27th, 2009
1:31 pm

As a person who grew up in a military town with a father who was a research scientist on a military base I’m really torn about the issue of torture. I have great respect for our members of the military and believe in a strong defense. I’m sure my views are greatly influenced by growing up with military brats and running around on an army base all the time. However, the use of waterboarding against U.S. soldiers by the Japanese during WWI was considered torture and a war crime. If that technique was considered torture 50 years ago why isn’t it now? Because WE are the ones doing it to others? If waterboarding was or would now be considered torture if used against OUR soldiers then I have a really hard time justifying its use against foreign combatants or soldiers.

I do not think that the CIA officers should be prosecuted. I know that it is considered an excuse to carry out orders that one knows will result in a war crime, but my personal opinion is that carrying out orders should provide protection to those executing the order, but not those who either gave them or provided the basis for making the orders legal. Going after the CIA officers is akin to the soldiers at Abu Graib. Where is the accountability up the chain of command that authorized the use of EITs? Those are the people who should be held accountable…even if that means it was the former V.P. or President himself. Tough times and being the top dog does NOT make you above the law…even if you find lawyers who work for you to interpret or twist the law to say it means what you want it to in order to accomplish what you want. Simply stated for me the ends do not justify the means.

Kim

August 27th, 2009
1:32 pm

Just because Duhbya, McSame, et al aren’t saying 911 every other word, doesn’t mean it’s forgotten. Thanks for the protection Duhbya & Condi!!

2Cents

August 27th, 2009
1:39 pm

The criminalization of presidential policies, if the democrats continue down this road, it will only escalate in the future. When Obama’s time is done, his policies will be raked through by republicans, with the ensuing ‘criminal’ behavior and scapegoats. One may not agree with an individual president and his policies, but this is nonsense. Presidents have the right to enact policies. The next president can, and often should, say he disagrees, won’t continue, will abandon, whatever policy he chooses. But criminalizing policy just increases partisanship and keeps good people like lawyers, possible CIA agents, and others from working for the govt. Good luck unringing this bell.

Activecitizen54

August 27th, 2009
1:54 pm

Kyle may be touted as a “30 something conservative” but he demonstrates open contempt for the rule of law, the mindless sheep mentality that leads to “I was just following orders” and the heinous crimes committed under that guise are known from Nazi acts through the Viet Nam police action and extend to the CIA in Gitmo and Homeland Security Gestapo of today. An idiot with a basic supposition of “9/11 is forgotten” and is just following his own mouth music as conservatives are wont to do. Grow up and become responsible for self first then focus on the real damage torture does to our troops in the field and the quality of the “intelligence” gathered. I’ll bet he has a shrine to the Bush family on his desk…. Other attacks being imminent is as accurate as Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq and are another graphic example of conservative mindless sheep demonstrating that the blind really do follow the blind…

booger

August 27th, 2009
2:12 pm

What we are doing now will set our intelligence gathering back twenty years. It’s reported that the CIA is currently in a holding pattern because the rules are being blurred, and if any of them are prosecuted, it will have chilling effect on all intelligence related areas.

The real question I have is why the flip flop from Obama on this subject. He has already stated he has no appetite for pursuing this, now suddenly he does.

As for torture, I fail to see how any of the things mentioned so far carry that lable. Threats are not torture. Hurting someone is torture.

Billy Bob

August 27th, 2009
2:12 pm

I’ve always considered the enhanced techniques used by CIA to be useful so long as it was not (permanently) physically harmful to the detainee. If permanent physical harm is being alleged by some detainees then let the prosecution begin, but merely thinking you’re going to die isn’t sufficient grounds to claim torture. Ask any Navy SEAL candidate going through BUD/S training.

NetBanker,

The Japanese and Germans were guilty of far more heinous and clearly defined acts of torture than waterboarding. Starvation, summary execution by bayonet or beheading and medical experimentation were certainly confirmed practices. Waterboarding would be the least of many Japanese prisoners concerns and the water would have been welcome by U.S. prisoners on Bataan.

kwingfield

August 27th, 2009
2:20 pm

Activecitizen54: Are you seriously comparing a CIA officer firing a gun in another room — harming no one — to a Nazi soldier who killed people in gas chambers?

As for the quality of the intelligence gathered, read the report…the reasonable conclusion is that EITs were applied to an extremely limited number of people, and that they led to those handful of people being more cooperative. If you’d prefer that they kept that information to themselves at the risk of American lives, you’re entitled to that opinion. But nothing in the report supports the idea that these interrogation techniques were entirely superfluous.

As for whether attacks really were imminent, that’s my point: Those agents didn’t know at the time what we know now. And the IG’s report lists a number of terror plots that were uncovered through the interrogations.

Howard

August 27th, 2009
3:00 pm

I say allow the Muslims to take control of all the major cities in this country, esp. Washington, DC…and allow them to impose Sharia law for one month…by the letter. Then see how many of these liberals love ‘em. Of course with this bunch in control of this country, that could some day be a real possibility. Liberal Democrats would turn over the keys to the country if they were allowed to stay in power. Oh, Kyle, one comment on the passing of the “Lion of the Senate,” Ted Kennedy. Yea, he was the lion and we were his prey…as for his passing…lost as much sleep over it as when John Gotti died.

Kim

August 27th, 2009
3:18 pm

Billy Bob: “The Japanese and Germans were guilty of far more heinous and clearly defined acts of torture than waterboarding. Starvation, summary execution by bayonet or beheading and medical experimentation were certainly confirmed practices. Waterboarding would be the least of many Japanese prisoners concerns and the water would have been welcome by U.S. prisoners on Bataan.”

So this is the standard we need to live ‘up’ to???

Barnacle Bill Bavasi

August 27th, 2009
3:20 pm

When I calls ‘em out, they finally step up to the plate. Game on Mr. Wingfield. Welcome.

extremerightwing

August 27th, 2009
3:41 pm

obamite appointees better beware of this if holder goes through with his witchhunt. you know what they say about payback and there is nothing like political payback. obama, by not stopping holder, is setting this nation up. the badguys know he is weak just like the russians knew carter was weak. bad things happen when you are weak.

catlady

August 27th, 2009
5:50 pm

Karl Childers

August 27th, 2009
5:56 pm

AMB – terrorists are not part of any military force and therefore should not be granted the same protections as soldiers. You are terribly naive.

Ironman Carmichael

August 27th, 2009
6:58 pm

The attempt to make a moral rationale out of torture on the grounds that the end justifies the means is like encouraging your children to cheat in school as long as they get into a good college. To argue that “our” torture is nicer than “their” torture is like saying shoplifting should be allowed because it’s not grand larceny. To correlate an investigation of torture with “having forgotten 9/11″ is simply morally indefensible.

Michael H. Smith

August 27th, 2009
8:43 pm

I hope this will post, Kyle. I tried several times before on other AJC blogs, unfortunately it was not allowed. However, it is very apropos to this blog topic.

Senator Chuck Schumer spoke out on the controversy over torture a while back in an interview on MSNBC: Senator Schumer said the officials who approved enhanced interrogation techniques should be investigated.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D) New York: I have some faith in Eric Holder and the Obama administration on this issue. The first day they said OK water-boarding is torture. We’re not going to torture and the most important thing they did is they extended the Army manual which isn’t bad…

That is Senator Schumer in the interview on MSNBC.

But back in 2004, Senator Schumer was telling an entirely different story. Senator Schumer then said that he and most of his colleagues would support the use of torture if it would save American lives.

Senator Chuck Schumer: If we knew that there was a nuclear bomb hidden in an American city, and we believed that some kind of torture, fairly severe, maybe, would give us a chance at finding that bomb before it went off, my guess is most Americans and most senators, maybe all, would say do what you have to do. So it is easy to sit back in the armchair and say that torture can never be used, but when you are in the foxhole it is a very different deal.

“When you are in the foxhole and not five years later doing an interview it really is a very different deal.”

Arnie

August 28th, 2009
7:07 am

Thought this would be of interest to readers.

Since September 2001 I have maintained a free and confidential “9/11 list-serv”.

The “9/11 list-serv” distributes daily e-mails containing newspaper articles and other relevant information re: 9/11 issues of interest to 9/11 families, 9/11 organizations and interested individuals.

The 9/11 List-serv archives can be accessed at http://groups.google.com/group/911-list-serv

If you would like to ’subscribe’ to this free news service – send an e-mail to amkorotkin@aol.com with the word “subscribe” in the subject box.

Arnie

bluerider

August 28th, 2009
8:28 am

NYC CAN News Bulletin – FORWARD WIDELY
SILENCING OF NYC VOTERS WILL NOT GO UNCHALLENGED

August 24, 2009

On Monday, August 10, NYC CAN began a comprehensive review of the nearly 26,000 signatures invalidated by the New York City Board of Elections and City Clerk. With 26,003 signatures accepted as valid by the City, at least 3,997 additional signatures were needed to exceed the threshold of 30,000 signatures. 10 days, 50 volunteers and 1,000 man-hours later, we are thrilled to report we have so far discovered 6,924 signatures we will argue were wrongly invalidated.

In addition, the Court has granted an extension allowing us to complete our review of 6 unfinished volumes. We anticipate having well over 7,000 additional valid signatures once the review is complete. The 50+ individuals who helped conduct the review take great pride in knowing their work has stopped the silencing of 7,000 New York City voters and allowed their voices to be heard.

On Friday, August 28, we must serve a Bill of Particulars listing all signatures we argue should be deemed valid by the Court. Special Referee Louis Crespo will begin a line-by-line review of the disputed signatures on Tuesday, September 8, and is scheduled to complete his review by Friday, September 18.

Pending the outcome of the Court’s review of the disputed signatures, lawyers for NYC CAN and the City will begin arguing the legality of the petition’s proposed amendment to the City Charter.

Looking ahead, NYC CAN will submit an additional 28,000 signatures on September 3 to satisfy the requirement of 15,000 valid signatures needed to override the City Council’s failure to act on the petition. The 60-day period for the City Council to approve the referendum’s placement on the ballot ended today, August 24, 2009. If NYC CAN wins in court, the submission of 15,000 more valid signatures will guarantee the referendum’s placement on the ballot.

Legal proceedings are expected to last through the month of September, by which time a favorable determination from the Court is needed in order for the referendum to be placed on this November’s ballot. Over the last 25 years six ballot initiatives have been attempted in New York City. Only one has made it on the ballot: the 1993 initiative to limit New York City elected officials to two terms in office, whose supporters also had to go to court to prove the initiative legal before passage by the voters, and which was nevertheless undone by the City Council last year. We will battle against all odds to see that the initiative to establish a critically needed reinvestigation of 9/11 does not suffer the same fate as past ballot initiatives.

NYC CAN now calls upon its thousands of members and millions aware of the egregious inadequacy of the 9/11 Commission Report to help ensure our fight for a real investigation does not go unnoticed by the larger public. Nearly 80,000 New Yorkers have put pen to paper to call for the right of all New Yorkers to vote an impartial, independent investigation into existence. This momentous step forward in the quest for truth about September 11th will be looked upon with admiration across the globe. Through the ages those who have fought for justice did not win by backing down when their government said no. We will continue this fight and future efforts with the same determination that has gotten us to where we stand today.

http://www.NYCCAN.org

Thinkers think and talkers talk. Patriots ACT.

Les Miles

August 28th, 2009
8:30 am

No Kyle. It hasn’t been forgotten. What has happened is that it is no longer allowed to be used as the built in excuse for trampling all over the 4th Amendment and no longer a fast track for those that would turn this country into a police state. “Those that would give up their freedom for security, deserve neither”. No truer words have ever been spoken.

Les Miles

August 28th, 2009
8:38 am

BigAl has this nailed. If I lose my job, and my babies are starving, we have no electricity, water, or gas, I don’t believe the judge will find me “not guilty” for armed robbery. He will not look at my circumstances and say I was justified. The judge will find me guilty, and send me to prison. With that said, my heart goes out to the agents for their sacrifice, but as I have heard so often said, “Do the crime do the time”.

If the law is situational, it should be situational across the board.

Les Miles

August 28th, 2009
8:56 am

HellinaHandbasket, nobody is forgetting. However courageous Americans are standing up and saying HELL NO it will not be used as an excuse to destroy our Constitution and turn us into a society living under a government that considers us the enemy. I applaud those who are standing against “big brother” bringing us totally under thumb. If you want to live in a country where government surveillance is the norm, or “show me your papers” is common, go live in one of those places. Give up your freedom for a little false security. Go on.

Chris Salzmann

August 28th, 2009
10:13 am

kwingfield August 27th, 2009 12:35 pm SAID: Let’s focus less on the headline and more on the issue I was trying to address: That these CIA agents might face prosecution for doing what the nation essentially asked of them at the time (prevent another attack at all costs), and it’s because we’re judging them with a different perspective than they could have had at the time.

CHRIS SAYS: Comments are finally allowed!!!! Hooray! That said, my beef with your reasoning here is that these actions went well beyond 9/11. In fact, many of the torture techniques used, were used 2-3 years later.

We prosecuted Japanese officers as war criminals after WWII and this type of torture was one of the crimes listed against them. An American soldier was photographed waterboarding a North Vietnamese POW, near Da Nang and the accompanying article described it as a common interrogation technique. Within one month of its publication, that soldier was court-martialled by a US military court and discharged from the military. The excuse “Just following orders” also does not hold any merit. That excuse did not hold any water when we prosecuted and convicted war criminals from Japan and Germany.

Hal

August 28th, 2009
5:35 pm

Great job Kyle. Looking forward to you “torturing” the far left with facts and reason. This is gonna be good…..

dewstarpath

August 29th, 2009
2:19 pm

- K. Wingfield – The 9/11 terrorist attacks will never be forgotten, but it’s
probably true for some Americans, and you have a right to your opinion.

– Howard – Inexcusable. “we were his (Sen. Kennedy) prey…”? What “we”
are you talking about? A senator who had bipartisan respect form his
colleagues is compared after he passes to JOHN GOTTI? That may pass
on your home planet, but on Earth we expect common sense to be used
by ALL citizens.

- extremerightwing – In order to vote, you should at least know when to use
capital letters at the beginning of a sentence.

- Les Miles – I agree completely. Politically-challenged whack jobs (like
extremerightwing et al.) don’t understand that if the 4th Amendment were
theoretically abolished to chase after “evildoers”, they would have more
to lose than the average citizen. The average citizen doesn’t stockpile
large amounts of weapons and explosives or write manifestos calling
attention to themselves or send mail-bombs to judges, editors and
CEOs. Maybe that’s because they seek to create the type of police-state
they claim to abhor in order to protect themselves from “undesirables”,
such as minorities, immigrants, etc. Those who fail to learn from the past
are doomed to repeat it.

dewstarpath

August 31st, 2009
2:39 am

CORRECTION: – bipartisan respect from his colleagues.

[...] national security threats. The Anointed One, the Idiot-in-Chief (i.e., Barack Hussein Obama) is prosecuting the CIA and ending the war on terror. And yes, I do think that “war on terror” is a stupid [...]