There has been a surge in media interest regarding the origins of 9/11 because of the release of the report "Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program," by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. This report was approved two years ago on December 13, 2012, and only released in the last week.
We now have an opportunity to help set the record straight about the events of 9/11 by looking at what it spawned. In the days since the report was released, supporters of "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as Dick Cheney have been engaged in a full court press to insinuate that if we had used torture before 9/11 we could have uncovered the masterminds behind the attacks, and that torture has helped keep America safe since 9/11.
As will be shown below, this is not true. Torture—a/k/a "enhanced interrogation techniques"—is unacceptable on many levels.
- Torture is simply "bad" from a moral perspective.
- Torture is even more reprehensible given that it produces unreliable information.
- Torture is truly evil when the torture program is designed to produce false confessions and propaganda.
Much of the discussion following the Senate report's release focuses—we believe myopically—on the ineffectiveness of torture to obtain good intelligence and how torture's moral reprehensableness undercuts civil society. Yes, that is true, but the primary issue the public needs to be made aware of is the fact that torture was used to amplify the false narrative of 9/11.
Bush, Cheney and other top government officials lied about the events of 9/11. Experts note that the entire purpose of the U.S. torture program was to use techniques specifically designed to produce confessions—regardless of whether they were true or not. By propagating the "torture helped us uncover important info" meme, they intentionally reinforced the false narrative of 9/11 and created a false linkage between Iraq and 9/11, thereby leading the United States into war with a country that had zero connection with Al Qaeda.
As reported in the Washington Post's White House Watch, "Torturing for Propaganda Purposes",
"So as shocking as the latest revelation in a new Senate Armed Services Committee report may be, it actually makes sense—in a nauseating way. The White House started pushing the use of torture not when faced with a 'ticking time bomb' scenario from terrorists, but when officials in 2002 were desperately casting about for ways to tie Iraq to the 9/11 attacks—in order to strengthen their public case for invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 at all."
For example, Sam Husseini's article in Counterpunch, What "Both Sides"are Ignoring; Torture Did Work—to Produce War (See Footnote 857), provides this account:
"Ibn Shaykh al-Libi reported while in [redacted] custody that Iraq was supporting al-Qa'ida and providing assistance with chemical and biological weapons. Some of this information was cited by Secretary Powell in his speech at the United Nations, and was used as a justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Ibn Shaykh al-Libi recanted the claim after he was rendered to CIA custody on February [redacted], 2003, claiming that he had been tortured by the [redacted], and only told them what he assessed they wanted to hear. For more details, see Volume III." (Note: Volume III has not been made public.)
Senator Carl Levin, in commenting on a Senate Armed Services Committee report on torture in 2009, documented that misleading information would result from enhanced interrogation techniques:
"On October 2, 2002, Lieutenant Colonel Morgan Banks, the senior Army SERE psychologist, warned against using SERE training techniques during interrogations in an email to personnel at GTMO, writing that:
[T]he use of physical pressures brings with it a large number of potential negative side effects. When individuals are gradually exposed to increasing levels of discomfort, it is more common for them to resist harder. If individuals are put under enough discomfort, i.e. pain, they will eventually do whatever it takes to stop the pain. This will increase the amount of information they tell the interrogator, but it does not mean the information is accurate. In fact, it usually decreases the reliability of the information because the person will say whatever he believes will stop the pain [...]"
Khaled Shaik Mohammed (KSM) described his mistreatment and torture in detention, including the waterboarding, as detailed in a February, 2007 report published by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
"During the harshest period of my interrogation I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear in order to make the ill-treatment stop. I later told the interrogators that their methods were stupid and counterproductive. I'm sure that the false information I was forced to invent in order to make the ill-treatment stop wasted a lot of their time and led to several false red-alerts being placed in the US."
Khaled Shaik Mohammed's statements made under extreme coercion reinforced the perception that Islamic extremists were responsible for the events of 9/11. Using the false "confessions" obtained in this manner can be viewed as using torture to create propaganda events for the media.
Adding to the heinous dissemination of false information, KSM was the reported source of information, of a "second wave" attack attained under enhanced interrogation techniques. Obtaining this information and then breaking up a non-existent plot allowed the Bush Administration to claim vindication of its enhanced interrogation program. The false confession further cemented the false story about the events of 9/11 by again implicating and directing attention on Islamic extremists, all the while shifting the media focus away from critical examination of the physical crime scene evidence.
According to a partial transcript of the closed-door hearings at Guantanamo, KSM admitted his role as the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks and 30 other terror plots around the world.
- The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City that killed six people and injured more than 1,000.
- The 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington using four hijacked commercial airliners. Nearly 3,000 people were killed.
- A failed "shoe bomber" operation to bring down two US commercial airliners.
- The October 2002 attack in Kuwait that killed two US soldiers.
- The nightclub bombing in Bali, Indonesia that killed 202 people.
- A plan for a "second wave" of attacks on major US landmarks after 9/11 attacks. Alleged targets included the Library Tower in Los Angeles, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Plaza Bank building in Seattle and the Empire State Building in New York.
- Plots to attack oil tankers and US naval ships in the Straits of Hormuz, the Straits of Gibraltar and in Singapore.
- A plan to blow up the Panama Canal.
- Plans to assassinate former US presidents including Jimmy Carter.
- A plot to blow up suspension bridges in New York.
- A plan to destroy the Sears Tower in Chicago by burning fuel trucks beneath or around it.
- Plans to "destroy" Heathrow Airport, Canary Wharf and Big Ben in London.
- A planned attack on "many" nightclubs in Thailand targeting US and British citizens.
- A plot targeting the New York Stock Exchange and other US financial targets after 9/11.
- A plan to destroy buildings in Elat, Israel, by using planes flying from Saudi Arabia.
- Plans to destroy US embassies in Indonesia, Australia and Japan.
- Plots to destroy Israeli embassies in India, Azerbaijan, the Philippines and Australia.
- Surveying and financing an attack on an Israeli El-Al flight from Bangkok.
- Sending several "mujahedeen" into Israel to survey "strategic targets" with the intention of attacking them.
- The November 2002 suicide bombing of a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, frequented by Israelis. At least 14 people were killed.
- The failed attempt to shoot down an Israeli passenger jet leaving Mombasa airport with a surface-to-air missile on the same day as the hotel bombing.
- Plans to attack US targets in South Korea, such as US military bases and nightclubs frequented by US soldiers.
- Providing financial support for a plan to attack US, British and Jewish targets in Turkey.
- Surveillance of US nuclear power plants in order to attack them.
- A plot to attack NATO's headquarters in Europe.
- Planning and surveillance in a 1995 plan (the "Bojinka Operation") to bomb 12 American passenger jets, most on trans-Pacific Ocean routes.
- The planned assassination attempt against then-US President Bill Clinton during a mid-1990s trip to the Philippines.
- "Shared responsibility" for a plot to kill Pope John Paul II while he visited the Philippines.
- Plans to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
- An attempt to attack a US oil company in Sumatra, Indonesia, "owned by the Jewish former [US] Secretary of State Henry Kissinger".
- The beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped in Pakistan in January 2002 while researching Islamist militancy.
With the destruction of the recordings of KSM's enhanced interrogations, we will never know if they also contained admissions of his involvement in the plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln, the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor, the Reichstag fire in Berlin and every other infamous event in recorded history.
We encourage people to write letters to the editor of their local newspapers and post on blogs that the premise used by supporters of "enhanced interrogation" in the media is misleading because it omits key information, especially about the events of 9/11.
For suggestions on letters, please see our page, "Writing the Media about the Torture Report"