CIA Torture Report Author Says More Than 119 Prisoners Were Held in “Black Sites” and More Than Three Were Waterboarded

10.11.19

Daniel J. Jones, in a screenshot from Vice News’ recent interview with him about the Senate Torture Report, prior to the release of the feature-length docudrama “The Report,” about the creation of the report.

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This week sees the release of “The Report,” an important new feature-length film about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,700-page report about the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program.

The “Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program — more generally known as ‘The Torture Report” — involved a team of five people reading and analyzing over six million CIA documents over the course of five years, and Committee members voted, by nine votes to six, to approve it as an official committee report on December 13, 2012, although the full report has never been publicly released.

Instead, a 500-page executive summary was released in December 2014, in which, as I wrote at the time for Al-Jazeera, the Committee “conclude[d] that torture was ‘not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees,’ that the CIA made ‘inaccurate claims’ about the ‘effectiveness’ of the program in an attempt to justify it and that it led to friction with other agencies that endangered national security, as well as providing false statements that led to costly and worthless wild goose chases.”

Although subject to redactions, the report’s findings were stark about the brutality of the program: ”At least five CIA detainees were subjected to ‘rectal rehydration’ or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity. The CIA placed detainees in ice water ‘baths.’ The CIA led several detainees to believe they would never be allowed to leave CIA custody alive, suggesting to one detainee that he would only leave in a coffin-shaped box. One interrogator told another detainee that he would never go to court, because ‘we can never let the world know what I have done to you.’ CIA officers also threatened at least three detainees with harm to their families — to include threats to harm the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee, and a threat to ‘cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.’”

The committee also concluded that the CIA’s interrogations “were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others,” and, in its analysis of waterboarding, an ancient torture technique that involves controlled drowning, the report stated, ”The waterboarding technique was physically harmful, inducing convulsions and vomiting. Abu Zubaydah, for example [the first victim of the torture program], became ‘completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.’ Internal CIA records describe the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad [the alleged mastermind of 9/11] as evolving into a ‘series of near drownings.’”

The film, released on November 15, was written and directed by Scott Z. Burns, and stars Annette Bening as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate intelligence Committee, and Adam Driver as Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones, who led the investigation.

To coincide with the release, Vice News interviewed Jones. The interview is available on YouTube here, and Vice News also published a transcript of highlights, which I’m cross-posting below, because it quite powerfully captures how, when it comes to the crimes committed by the Bush administration in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Daniel Jones is one of the most significant people in the whole of the United States, having been in charge of a team of just four people who read all of the six million CIA documents relating to the torture program and then produced the report.

Amongst Jones’ revelations, in this brief interview, are that there were clearly more than the 119 prisoners included in the report, because the CIA “had no idea how many people they detained,” and that more than three prisoners were subjected to waterboarding, because, as he says, “We found a picture of a waterboard at a detention site where there were no records of any waterboarding taking place, but it had clearly been used.”

Jones also assesses that no more than ten people have read the full classified report, and he says that, even when it comes to the executive summary, which was turned into a book, “My bet is, globally, under 1,000 people have read the whole thing.” I am one of those people — an admission that therefore contributes to Jones’ assessment that “academics or researchers or journalists overseas are far more familiar with it than the same kinds of people in the U.S.”

The video is below, followed by the transcript, and I hope you have time to watch the video or read Daniel Jones’ words, and that you’ll share them if, like me, you think he should be listened to!

Vice News interviews Daniel J. Jones

Vice News: Why did Sen. Dianne Feinstein, at the time the Democratic chair of the Intelligence Committee, choose you to head up the investigation?

Jones: I was viewed as a bipartisan staffer. I came from the FBI, where I’d been doing counterterrorism investigations. I was a data nerd, an investigations nerd — I was a safe choice. I think senators had an idea that I was less political than most; I briefed both Republican and Democratic members of the committee. Republicans were like, “Oh, yeah, we can work with him.”

Vice News: And how many other people worked with you on the report?

Jones: I’d say there were four core people.

Vice News: So four people read more than 6 million documents to write a 6,700-page report that had 38,000 footnotes?

Jones: It is kind of crazy when you think back on it, but that’s why it became an obsessive nonstop endeavor. I do remember being frustrated that I didn’t have a larger staff. But you work with what you have.

Vice News: You’re tasked with a sweeping investigation of a notoriously secretive agency doing something that was especially secretive even for them. Where the hell do you start?

Jones: With the detainees. It’s not like we got 6.3 million pages of documents the first day; it happened over many years. We asked for detainee records first. So we’d get them for a detainee, dump them into a folder, and go through them. And then the next detainee, and then the next.

Vice News: The report provides details about the torture of 119 detainees in all. Do you think there were more?

Jones: Oh, yes. Without a doubt. We made an early request that the CIA provide us with a list of all of their detainees, but the agency never could because they had no idea how many people they detained. One thing that haunts me is the stuff that didn’t make it into the report — all kinds of allegations that we just couldn’t corroborate. And those things are lost to history. Nobody’s going through those 6.3 million pages again.

Vice News: You think there were also more abuses?

Jones: The CIA maintains to this day that there are records of only three detainees being waterboarded, but there were clearly more than three people who were waterboarded. We found a picture of a waterboard at a detention site where there were no records of any waterboarding taking place, but it had clearly been used: There were buckets around it, it was old and rusted. When we asked the agency about it, they simply said they could not explain the presence of the waterboard. It just tells you how little we know, even with 6.3 million pages of documents.

Vice News: The full report will first be eligible for declassification in nine years — though it may take much longer than that. What do you think the public’s reaction to it will be?

Jones: I think people will be overwhelmed with the amount of detail. Things that are covered in a few pages in the executive summary are given hundreds of pages in the full report.

Vice News: How many people do you think have read the entire executive summary?

Jones: A lot of people bought the book version of it, which was on the bestseller list. But someone told me at the time, “You know, people aren’t reading it. It just looks cool to have on your bookshelf.” And man, I gotta tell you, it’s a huge disappointment to me that when I talk to people, even in the communities who you think would have spent a lot of time with it, they just haven’t. My bet is, globally, under 1,000 people have read the whole thing. I actually find academics or researchers or journalists overseas are far more familiar with it than the same kinds of people in the U.S.

Vice News: And how many have read the full classified report?

Jones: Jesus, I think it would be 10, maybe. Maybe.

Vice News: President Donald Trump presumably isn’t one of those people. He’s actually expressed enthusiasm for torture. Do you think he could lead the U.S. to use torture again?

Jones: I think it’s unlikely, though some people say I’m naive about that. I think that if you read the report, [the ineffectiveness and immorality of torture] is an open-and-shut case. But if not many people have read it and learned the lessons from it, then maybe I’m totally off base.

Vice News: Trump ignores or even ridicules the U.S. intelligence community when they present him with information he doesn’t like. What kinds of risks does that create?

Jones: I think the real risk is the numerous times he has unnecessarily released classified national security information to parties which he should not. Foreign governments may see this and become unwilling to share intelligence with us because they can’t trust the U.S.

Vice News: The current CIA director, Gina Haspel, ordered the torture of at least one detainee and later participated in the unauthorized and arguably unlawful destruction of videotapes of interrogations, thereby preventing them from being seen by congressional oversight committees. What does it mean that she could do all of that and still be nominated and confirmed as director?

Jones: It sends a message that you can violate your own director’s orders and not be held accountable for it, and then in fact be rewarded for it. Why? Because you’re not listening to your director’s orders if you think they run contrary to protecting the agency.

If you protect the agency among all else — and that means not listening to the president, not listening to the director of the CIA, not listening to agency lawyers — it’s OK if your intention was to protect the agency’s reputation.

Vice News: Do you think Haspel has changed? She vowed never to begin another “enhanced interrogation” program in her confirmation testimony.

Jones: I mean, color me unimpressed. “We won’t do this again.” Well, no shit. Your own agency says it was a complete clusterfuck. And you had the largest report in Senate history about it. And you broke international and domestic law. So what a major leap for you to say you won’t do it again.

Vice News: What did you expect the public’s reaction would be when the report came out in 2014?

Jones: I knew that people would respond to the program being brutal, terrible, wrong, ineffective. But I always thought people would be shocked on a bipartisan basis about the lies the CIA told the Department of Justice and two presidents from two different parties. In other words, holy shit, what else are they lying about? How do we know that whatever the CIA is doing on nuclear proliferation or drone programs or other counterterrorism or whatever it is, that they’re providing accurate information to the president of the United States? How can we trust this organization to act in a responsible and ethical manner in terms of providing accurate information to those who need to know it? The CIA essentially cannot submit to civilian oversight, because it treats civilian oversight with disdain.

Vice News: The CIA does a pretty good job of using the media to make itself look good.

Jones: They did a major press job when the report was released. They had people on every television channel saying the report was wrong, even though they couldn’t identify any factual errors. They’d say, “Well, they’re errors of context — it was a tough time after 9/11.” As if it’s OK to do really shitty, ridiculous things just because you’re scared. You want an agency that responds soberly and effectively after a national security crisis, not one that does massively ineffective shit outside the boundaries of law.

Vice News: Why didn’t anyone at the CIA stop the torture program when it was clear it wasn’t yielding any results?

Jones: The agency itself, decades before, had determined torture was ineffective. And then throughout the program after 9/11, there were people at the agency who were like, “This ain’t working.” But remember, the legality of the entire program relied on the techniques working. If they didn’t lead to captures, if they didn’t stop terrorist plots, then by the Department of Justice’s own legal opinions, the techniques weren’t legal.

Vice News: The 2012 movie “Zero Dark Thirty” sold itself as the true story of how the U.S. found and killed Osama bin Laden — and it showed the CIA finding him thanks to information gathered by torturing detainees. You were… not a fan?

Jones: I actually saw it with Sen. Feinstein at a screening before it was released, and she got up and stormed out halfway through. Outside she happened to run into the president of Sony Pictures, and she told him the movie was totally false. The info the CIA gave the filmmakers while they were making the movie was not too far off from the lies the agency was telling President Obama and Congress at the time.

Vice News: How did [“The Report” writer and director Scott Z. Burns] make a movie about writing a report? There must be some liberties taken to make it seem more dramatic than it was.

Jones: Things had to be condensed, and there are composite characters, but the movie didn’t need to be Hollywood-ized or dramatized. At one point Adam Driver asked if we were overplaying a certain scene, and I was like, “Well, what happened was actually far worse.”

We only have two hours for the film, so one small scene may have to be representative of, like, 20 terrible things that occurred. So Scott was actually underplaying this. We’re not taking any liberties here.

Vice News: Why is it such an uphill battle to convince people that torture is bad?

Jones: It’s maddening. Torture is like a plague that has always followed humanity. The idea that torture works has been Hollywood-ized, from “24” to “Zero Dark Thirty,” because it’s really helpful if you have only an hour to tell a story to put a knife in someone and then they give up information. But as Adam says in the film, you get false information. We’ve known for thousands of years that torture actually does not work. And yet it sticks with us, we can’t dislodge it.

Vice News: Do you expect that longtime conception of torture to change now?

Jones: We did very well in the media when the report came out. We had front-page coverage literally all over the world, but it lasted for 24 or 48 hours — and then poof, it was gone. That’s the news cycle. If you want to penetrate society, culturally, you need storytelling and narrative, so this film will reach way more people than the 500-page declassified summary of the report. And hopefully the film will make the impact that I thought the report was going to make.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or here for the US, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from seven years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

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27 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    In the week that “The Report” – the film about the Senate report into the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program – is released, I cross-post, with my own introduction, a revealing interview conducted by Vice News with the report’s main author, former Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones, who explains how he believes there were more than 119 prisoners held in the “black site” program, because the CIA “had no idea how many people they detained,” and that more than three prisoners were subjected to waterboarding, because, as he says, “We found a picture of a waterboard at a detention site where there were no records of any waterboarding taking place, but it had clearly been used.” He also explains how only a maximum of ten people within the entire apparatus of the US government have actually read the full 6,700-page classified report.

  2. Anna says...

    Nothing like small mercies to keep one going. This is great news, thanks for informing about it. The fact that there were many more secret prisoners and abuse unfortunately is no surprise, it was obvious that US authorities only admitted to those whom they could not possibly hide. But now we learn that they did not even know themselves how many human beings they had submitted to unimaginable suffering and probably death in absolute isolation, without the world ever knowing about them – all the while lecturing the rest of the world about the rule of law and human rights!

    Annette Bening is an excellent actress, I do not know the male actor or the director, let’s hope they managed to make something that will attract audiences and let the message sink in – as opposed to the disappointing film about Edward Snowdon.
    I will be looking forward to it, athough it probably will open here at a later date – if ever.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Anna, and I’m delighted to have been able to play a small part in getting Daniel Jones’ words out to people who may not generally follow Vice News – although they do have massive reach: 4.74m subscribers on YouTube, and, currently, over 38,000 views for the video. The problem, of course, is that much of the damage already done look irreversible. That wretched woman Kathryn Bigelow and her film “Zero Dark Thirty” have already convinced millions of Americans that torture works, and that only feeble unpatriotic liberals oppose its use to “keep America safe.”
    “The Report” has two weeks in cinemas and will then be released on Amazon Prime, so that will presumably give it the potential to reach a huge audience, although we’ll have to wait and see how many people actually engage with it. However, it’s certainly got the power to draw people in via its celebrity cast. Adam Driver is on the rise, having appeared in Spike Lee’s acclaimed “BlacKkKlansman,” and the cast also includes Jon Hamm and Michael C. Hall. The director, Scott Z. Burns, has worked frequently as a scriptwriter for the respected director Steven Soderbergh.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Pete Johnson wrote:

    Release it and I will read it.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, me too, Pete. Good to hear from you!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Strain wrote:

    That report won’t see the light of day until I am no longer on the planet. The US holds “reports” for decades until it is politically expedient to release them – usually when they have an ax to grind.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s infuriating, isn’t it, Jan, that it didn’t just get put on a USB and made available to the world. As it stands, however, and as you say, it will no doubt be sat on for years. There are nine years to go until it CAN be released, but will it be?

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia R Scott shared this on Facebook, and wrote:

    It is thanks to Andy Worthington that we get information about the past and ongoing torture or detainees in Guantanamo and other places. Information is very important. The US government have been doing monstrous things for so many years. They (Bush, Obama, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Yoo … Trump and Pence) need to be held accountable for their crimes against humanity.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for sharing – and for your comments, Natalia!

  10. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks Andy, for covering this interview, and many other important topics.

    You and I and every American, including Gina Haspel, were taught that we in the West were the good guys, because we honoured the rule of law. We were all taught that two wrongs don’t make a right.

    It seems Haspel, Rumsfeld, John Yoo, John Bogdan, Thomas Hartmann, General Miller, Admiral Harris, and all their cronies, unlearned those lessons. Ignoring those lessons, using torture, using tainted evidence, forged evidence, coerced confessions, untrustworthy denunciations, has savagely damaged public safety. It is not just the rights of a couple of hundred suspects that has been put at risk, it is the right to public safety of everyone in the west that has been put at greater risk by these tactics.

    Every dollar squandered countering something we regard as a risk only because trusted officials want to continue to justify using terrible unreliable torture, coerced confessions, untrustworthy denunciations, and forged evidence, is a dollar that is not being spent countering actual legitimate threats to public safety.

    Anyhow, thanks again for writing about the movie, and the interview. I am looking forward to seeing it, and I think I will post some further comments here after I do so.

    Cheers!

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver, for continuing to care about – and to point out – that the crimes committed by the US and its allies in the “war on terror” have made us less, rather than more safe. Feel free to post comments after you see the movie!

  12. Anna says...

    Yes, we’re all less safe because of GWOT, still on the cosy side of the divide – not having been tortured and/or killed. Watched a fragment of today’s T.impeachement hearing.
    Bill Taylor, professional diplomat and arguably one of the few ‘adults in the room’ in this administration, invoked T’s Ukraine scam as a national security risk, also for the US. And added, that every day Ukrainians are dying (because of ‘the Russians’ and the Ukraine’s incapability to defend itself without the armamament withheld by the US), and that he knows, because he keeps track of every single one of those victims…
    While his government, all the ones he’s been faithfully serving for many years also before T., never counts the victims it makes, this tale of the CIA not even knowing how many people it tortured being the umptiest proof of that.
    No account or accountablity for the countless civilians murdered either intentionally or as ‘collateral damage’ by his own country. I’m getting so sick & tired of the ‘democratic west’s and particularly the US’ hypocrisy.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Anna, and thanks for reporting from Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing. There’s a good summary by CNN here: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/11/13/politics/public-impeachment-hearings-day-1/index.html
    Video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ulWTJUQsVY
    NBC News here: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry/5-takeaways-public-testimony-n1081661
    As for the victims of the torture program, yes, it’s another example of the US’s callous disregard for human life – other than its own operatives, of course. I recall how the Bush administration bragged about not doing body counts in Iraq, for example, and under Obama, when killings by drone became so popular, there was, again, no interest taken in counting the dead – or, indeed, of robustly challenging the so-called “intelligence” that led to the drone attacks. I recall how shocking it was when the New York Times reported that Obama was told that all the victims were military age males and that therefore he should sleep soundly at night.
    Like you I’m thoroughly sick of the hypocrisy of those countries in the West – led by the US – that continue to trumpet their credentials as high-minded countries concerned with the law and human rights when it’s so demonstrably untrue.
    And now, of course, we’re seeing bloody regime change in the US’s traditional area for coups and destabilisation – south and central America – via the CIA-backed overthrow of Evo Morales in Bolivia: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/13/morales-bolivia-military-coup

  14. arcticredriver says...

    Vice magazine wrote a fact-checking article on the movie. We Fact-Checked 5 Horrifying Details in ‘The Report,’ the New Movie About Post-9/11 Torture

    I mentioned the article you wrote with Carlotta Gall in a series of tweets I sent the author, Jesse Hicks comparing the inversion of info US intelligence officials had on Gul Rahman, and the inversion of intelligence on Hekmati. Hekmati, of course, accused of plotting to free Taliban leaders from a Northern Alliance prison when he did the complete opposite, lead a daring rescue of Northern Alliance leaders from a Taliban prison.

    And Gul Rahman froze to death overnight while being “softened up” by a “bright and eager” CIA officer, who thought he was with the Taliban or al Qaeda, when he had actually saved Hamid Karzai’s life, which should have firmly established him as being on our side.

    I told Hicks I still want to know if John Yoo wrote the torture memo, which said the POTUS could order torture that included ripping someone eyes out of their head, before he knew the CIA had removed Abu Zubaydah’s healthy eye, or afterwards. Why does that guy still have tenure? Why hasn’t he been disbarred?

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the link – and for tweeting, arcticredriver.
    For some reason, that story about Gul Rahman had passed me by. What an absolute disgrace – as with the death of Hekmati, of course.
    And as you say, why is John Yoo still in his job?

  16. Anna says...

    Watched another bit of impeachment yesterday, Ms Yovanovitch undoubtedly also is one of the few ‘adults in the room’, yet here maybe even more than with Taylor, I wonder how this evidently intelligent and probably as honest as diplomats go person, could serve presidents and policies which she could not possibly have agreed with if she has any integrity. Is it like the scientists who claim that they are just doing their work and are not responsible for how it is applied to others?
    Or is it her anti-communist Soviet Union upbringing which has forged her blind devotion to the US and its crumbling democracy, as is the case with so many others, were it only that dreadful Madeline Allbright or ‘my own’ Brzeziński?

    All intelligent, well educated people but apparently incapable of realizing that the world is changing and someone who was your best friend yesterday, maybe now deserves to be opposed? This woman does not look like she is power-hungry like the other two examples, so I suppose I should give her the benefit of the doubt : that she honestly tried to use US power for as much as possible for the good of the countries where she worked?

    I sometimes ‘commit’ furious mails to the US embassy here, one of them ‘congratulated’ them on their international ‘diplomacy’: BULLY, BRIBE, BLACKMAIL (and the inevitable Backlash, Bankrupcy & Bust). The Ukraine being the latest victim of the last one, Bolivia of the first one.
    Maybe its time to send another one, with ‘H’ for Hypocrisy…

    Bolivia is close to my heart as I have a dear friend who is half-Bolivian. He just sent me this :
    https://mailchi.mp/thetricontinental.org/bolivia-does-not-exist-the-forty-sixth-newsletter-2019?e=68d7b34ffe
    http://cepr.net/press-center/press-releases/no-evidence-that-bolivian-election-results-were-affected-by-irregularities-or-fraud-statistical-analysis-shows
    Of course the OAS being dominated by the US, cannot be trusted in such matters. And the EU which used to be a bit better, now is increasingly joining the rat pack.
    HAng in there, the fight continues.

    A lot on this subject here as well https://thegrayzone.com/category/bolivia/

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the update, Anna. I watched some of Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony as well – including Trump tweeting against her while she was actually speaking. The extent to which he undermines the protocol of government is sometimes so shocking.
    There’s a good Washington Post editorial here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/yovanovitch-makes-it-clear-trump-put-his-personal-interests-above-the-us/2019/11/15/dce3b09a-07bf-11ea-8ac0-0810ed197c7e_story.html
    I’m also very sad too to hear about Bolivia – yet another demonstration that, it seems, there is no end in sight to US meddling in central and south America. It was only after 9/11, when the US became so obsessed with central Asia and the Middle East, that it appeared, in general, to be too preoccupied to fully maintain its typically malignant pressure on the unfortunate countries to its south.

  18. arcticredriver says...

    Andy, if I can suggest a partial answer to Anna…

    In 1974 I heard a phrase that I often reminded of, “they think he is insane, yet he outranks them”

    When I was a teenager a group of comedians, the Firesign Theatre, started releasing a series of comedy albums, tinged by politics. My favourite was “Everything you know is Wrong”, which had skits mocking guys like Yuri Geller, Carlos Castenada, and also included a skit about a secret stolen government training film about what to do in case of Alien Attack. In it the General and his staff are having breakfast, when he announces “Aliens have just landed on my plate” His wife, and his staff, try to humour him, and cajole him, but he orders an Atomic attack, at which point the narrator says “they think he is insane, yet he outranks them”

    When Thomas Hartmann took advantage of Chief Prosecutor’s 2 month leave, to lay charges against obviously innocent men, like Foaud al Rabia, I think this is what happened. Colonel Davis took the rare step of challenging a superior officer. Let’s honour him for that. FWIW I think Hartmann was in the first stages of a mental breakdown, and yet senior officers rallied around him, to preserve the sanctity of the chain of command. Davis’s principled challenge capped his career with a cloud only other principled people see through. As I followed the press reports of Hartmann’s career, after this confrontation, I thought I saw signs that he did, in fact, well, crack. His subordinate was promoted to replace him, and he was given a face-saving “sideways promotion” to a newly created position that may not have given him any staff, or any genuine authority, but at least preserved those senior officers who rallied around him, to support him, facing the embarrassment of having to fire him.

    You covered how Darrel Vandeveld, another really principled honourable prosecutor had his superiors order him to undergo a mental health assessment, when he decided to try to get the charges against Mohammed Jawad dropped. It was Hartmann who really needed a mental health assessment.

    So, in answer to Anna’s question, I think some members of various Armed Services, after seeing incidents where senior officers supported corrupt, incompetent, or plain crazy superior officers, in order to preserve the chain of command, and saw how poorly those who challenged those officers fared, choose not to make any challenges at all.

    I think other officers do make challenges, they go around the crazy superiors, write memos to the officers above them – and then wait. I am afraid those memos generally go no-where. The person who wrote them gets to say, “Well, that decision was above my pay grade”

    Whistleblowers may fare more poorly in the rigidly structured military than in most other fields.

    Oh, there was a recent article on Matthew Diaz published in the last month or so, that correctly described him as a hero.

    Cheers!

    P.S. The skit I referred to starts at about the 6 minute and 30 second point in this youtube recording Everything you know is wrong – side b

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver, for your thoughts on mental breakdowns and the chain of command, and your particular reference to Thomas Hartmann, who was the legal adviser to the convening authority of the military commission trial system in 2007-08, and who, I’m pretty sure, is only remembered by a handful of people who have paid very close attention to Guantanamo over the years.
    I’m pretty sure you’re right about deluded individuals – generally old white men – in positions of power being fundamentally unchallenged even when they become demonstrably unhinged. I think it’s time to say enough is enough, and to hand power to young people!

  20. Anna says...

    Thanks Arcticredriver for the suggestion, indeed to the point.
    As for ‘power to the young’ Andy, I last night watched most of the Dem debate (the first more or less interesting one) and during a break they (MSNBC) showed poll results: over 65 yrs of age prefer Biden (shame on them, says this 70 yrs old one), but among the youngest voters Bernie clearly headed the poll. So there’s hope :-). And he was the only one who had the guts to powerfully tackle the plight of the Palestinians.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m glad to hear those results from the US, Anna, although any support for the Palestinians can be pretty much seen as a guarantee that that person won’t be selected as the candidate, as leaders in the West are required to be pro-Israeli. As we’ve seen in the UK, when a major party leader slips through the net (Corbyn), there is then a concerted effort by the Israeli government-controlled mainstream media to vilify them, and, in the British example, to undertake a virulent smear campaign, involving pro-Israeli Labour MPs, in which criticism of the actions of the Israeli government is equated with anti-semitism.
    Despite all this, I hope the young prevail. It’s so obvious that they should really be in power. Shouldn’t Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez be the Democratic candidate? And on Israel she’s spot-on too. As she said in August “The Right wants to advance this notion that if you engage and critique an Israeli policy you are anti-Semitic. But it’s the furthest thing from the truth.” As she added, “Criticizing the occupation doesn’t make you anti-Israel, frankly. It doesn’t mean that you are against the existence of a nation. It means that you believe in human rights, and it’s about making sure that Palestinian human rights are equal to Israeli human rights.”
    See: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/ocasio-cortez-on-israel-criticizing-the-occupation-doesn-t-make-you-anti-israel-1.7608869

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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