Post-9/11 torture sparked internal dissent, rift between FBI and CIA

Abu Zubaida

Abu Zubaida

Citing interviews with almost “two dozen [anonymous] current and former US officials” The Washington Post has revealed crucial new background information on the CIA’s torture methodology after 9/11. The exposé, by reporters Joby Warrick and Peter Finn, helps piece together some of the complex puzzle of internal decisions that led US interrogators to resort to waterboarding and other forms of torture against “war on terrorism” detainees. The article focuses on Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two psychologists who were hired by the CIA to design an elaborate ten-stage harsh interrogation program (see previous intelNews report). According to The Washington Post, Mitchell, who was the program’s mastermind, told associates he had modeled it on the theory of “learned helplessness”, used by professional psychologists “to describe people or animals reduced to a state of complete helplessness by some form of coercion or pain, such as electric shock”. The program was first implemented during the interrogation of Abu Zubaida (also known as Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn), who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002, and is said to be a key al-Qaeda figure. But the interrogation of Zubaida led to dissention by some FBI and some CIA officials, and caused frequent rifts between the two agencies, due to their different interrogation approaches. In one instance, according to the article, CIA interrogators barred their FBI counterparts from having access to the prisoner, and only allowed them back into the loop “on the condition that forced nudity and sleep deprivation be allowed to continue”. As Zubaida’s interrogators increased the severity of their practices, Several FBI agents quit from the case, and were later followed by a dissenting CIA debriefer. Warrick and Finn also claim that, as Zubaida’s interrogators began to use waterboarding on him daily, even Mitchell and Jessen raised questions about the practice and “threatened to quit if the waterboarding continued”, according to one insider.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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