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  1. Wealth
June 1, 2009

Darth Vader knows the answer

By Spear's

This much detail is all available on the public record, so what more does Cheney want?

One of the more curious aspects of the debate over the decision to authorise the use of enhanced interrogation techniques against various terrorists is ex-Vice President Cheney’s demand for the declassification and release by the Obama administration of intelligence reports relating to the success of these methods.

His requests are curious because, to a large extent, the evidence he seeks has already been put in the public domain, and can be found in the fourth of the Department of Justice memoranda, dated 10 May 2005, which refers frequently to a recent report compiled by the CIA’s Inspector-General.

Specifically, there are two examples. The first was the so-called “Second Wave” plot which was intended to follow up the 9/11 offensive, and involved the seizure of an airliner by a group of men known as the Guruba Cell who would fly it into the Library Tower, the tallest building in Los Angeles.

Such an atrocity, of course, would have involved huge loss of life, and the scheme was thwarted by the arrest of Riduan bin Isomuddin, a terrorist known as Hambali. So how was he caught?

The information came originally from 9/11’s chief mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohanmmed, usually referred to as KSM within the intelligence community who was arrested in March 2002 and fingered one of his subordinates, Majid Khan who a legal resident in the U.S. but was arrested in Karachi while on a visit to his wife from his home in Baltimore, and held by the CIA.

He ended up in Guantanamo as Captive 10020, but before reaching Cuba he exposed a co-conspirator named Mohamed Farik bin Amin (known as Zubeir) who then identified the Indonesian terrorist leader Hambali.

Once Hambali taken into custody by the Thai police after the Bali nightclub bombing in 2002, KSM went further and revealed that Hambali’s brother, al-Hadi, was also part of the plot. He was arrested in Pakistan and then imprisoned in Indonesia for his involvement in the suicide bombing of the Mariott Hotel in Djakarta in August 2003.

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The memo reveals that CIA was always confident that KSM possessed vital information, and when he was first questioned about what he termed “the second wave” he simply replied “soon you will know”.

However, after he had been subjected to intensive interrogation, he disclosed that Allah felt it was permissible to disclose information when one had reached the limits of endurance. Accordingly, KSM provided “critical information” and became “a pivotal source.” 

He also supplied the intelligence that prevented Jose Padilla from detonating a “dirty bomb” in Washington, DC. Originally from Pakistan, Padilla was arrested in Chicago in May 2002 and subsequently was convicted of other terrorist-related offences and is currently serving a seventeen year prison sentence in a U.S. Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina.

According to the memo, “intelligence acquired from these interrogations has been a key reason why Al-Qaida has failed to launch a spectacular since 11 September.”

Furthermore the CIA experienced an “increase in intelligence reports attributed to the use of enhanced techniques” and noted that since 2002 some 6,000 intelligence reports had been generated by the Counter-Terrorist Center based on these terrorist interrogations.

Clearly Dick Cheney wants the entire Inspector-General’s report, and perhaps much else, to be released, but by any standard the material contained in the May 2005 memorandum kills the myth that waterboarding and the other methods proved counter-productive or provided unreliable leads.

As the memo explains, a system of “triangulation,” comparing the different versions of several detainees, offers a reliable route to the truth and gave the CIA specific actionable intelligence.”

In his confession read to a military tribunal in March 2007, KSM boasted that he had been responsible for the planning, training, surveying, and financing of attacks against the Library Tower in Los Angeles, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Plaza Bank in Washington State and the Empire State Building in New York.

He also described plots to bomb New York’s suspension bridges, to assassinate Jimmy Carter and to attack the New York Stock Exchange. These were all atrocities that were demonstrably prevented by the interrogation of hardened terrorists who had resisted initial attempts to question them about schemes that had been planned.

This much detail is all available on the public record, so what more does Cheney want?

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