Patrick M. Skinner writes: As a former CIA case officer, it’s particularly maddening to read the report. Throughout the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, the reader can see where CIA Headquarters overruled the assessments of its own staff personnel that were at the various “black sites,” conducting—or, more often, witnessing—interrogations done by contractors. At numerous times throughout the interrogations of Abu Zubayda, Abd al-Rahman al-Nashiri, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, agency officers communicated back to headquarters their assessment that the subject was cooperating or had no more information of value that warranted additional pressure. And virtually every time, headquarters came back with a more definitive assessment that they knew the subject was withholding more vital information.
Where did this certainty come from?
Part of the answer is that it wasn’t CIA personnel actually running the program, even if they were ultimately responsible for it. As noted in the Senate report, the overwhelming majority (80%) of the people directly involved in the disastrous program were contractors, with the initial and primary responsibility resting on two contractors who had zero relevant experience, as well as those in the Agency who vouched for them. While the most shameful details of the report involve the indefensible tactics, another shame is that the Agency — at great effort and expense — hired and trained some of the most capable people in the country to collect needed intelligence; and after the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history, the agency outsourced one of its most important tasks.
Of course, no CIA personnel had the “relevant experience” in running detention programs because the agency wasn’t, and shouldn’t be, in that business. Once the decision was made for indefinite detention and interrogation, the agency decided to contract out this new mission to people who had even less experience, but who weren’t as bound to the agency code of ethics. This doesn’t excuse the agency from what happened; it actually makes it much more inexcusable, even allowing for the understandable fear and chaos after 9/11. [Continue reading…]