by Jane Mayer
Doubleday / 2008
Mayer argues that the "radical decisions about how to combat terrorists and strengthen national security were made in a state of utter chaos and fear, but the key players, Vice President Dick Cheney and his powerful, secretive adviser David Addington, used the crisis to further a long held agenda to enhance Presidential powers to a degree never known in U.S. history, and obliterate Constitutional protections that define the very essence of the American experiment."
Twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize during her twelve years with the Wall Street Journal, Jane Mayer is now a staff writer for the New Yorker. Bill Moyers interviewed her on the July 25 broadcast of Bill Moyers' Journal. Excerpts:
On the first lines of dissent against the administration's "enhanced interrogation" policies: The first line of dissent came from the United States military leaders and particularly the military lawyers who are experts in the laws of war. And they said this is dishonorable. This is not how we fight wars. And if you do this to these people, they're, it's going to enflame them and it's going to endanger our own men and women when they get taken captive. And another very early line of dissent came from the FBI,...a couple of the FBI agents who were there said, "These people, the CIA, should be arrested for criminal behavior. What they're doing is, the quote was, "borderline torture."... So...we've had a war on terror where the FBI has pretty much taken a backseat or no seat because they don't want to have any part in this thing because they know that they think that some of it's criminal.
On the argument that in exceptional cases "torture works" in protecting Americans against terrorist attacks, with information obtained from al-Qaeda "logistics chief" Abu Zubaydah cited as a major example of success: The convention against torture, which the United States Senate ratified, has no exceptions. It's a major felony. There's no excuse for doing it for war. There's no excuse for national security. It doesn't have exceptions. So this is a serious legal problem....
Secondly,...What led them to Abu Zubaydah? Was it torture? It wasn't actually. It was a bribe that they gave to the Pakistanis that got them to Abu Zubaydah. Bribing people does work, and that's, you can see again and again in the war on terror. Then, what did they get out of Abu Zubaydah when they brutalized him?... Dan Coleman, who's an FBI agent who knows a lot about Abu Zubaydah and this interrogation...thinks they got nothing out of him. First of all, he was mentally unstable.... He later said that he made up half of the things that he told them.
...And, according to a very top CIA officer I spoke to who was very close with [former director George] Tenet, he said 90 percent of what we got was crap. And he said and that was true of every method we used: Torture, non-torture.
On the most horrific thing she found in researching "the dark side:" I just think the worst thing for me is reading and finding out about innocent people who were taken by mistake and put through this program. And there's...a German citizen, Khalid el-Masri, who was locked up for months. And the CIA actually had doubts that he was a terrorist from the start, and they wouldn't do anything about it, which I think is unconscionable. They just kept him in there to the point where he lost 70 pounds. Everybody, you, who was around him, was banging their heads in, against the wall, trying to commit suicide. It's, it's really awful to see the psychic destruction of people for no reason. It just doesn't seem American to me.