The U.S. Senate recently released a 600 page Executive Summary of its investigation of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) use of torture. A particularly controversial aspect of the War on Terror, the redacted document paints a picture of an agency that not only lied about its conduct, but also deliberately and continuously misled politicians about the scope and nature of its “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” program over an extended period of time.
In its zeal to capture terrorists, the CIA abused terror suspects all over the world using techniques reminiscent of the gulags in many totalitarian regimes. The timing of the report’s release is also significant, considering the International Criminal Court (ICC) recently indicated it would continue its investigations of alleged crimes committed by American forces in Afghanistan. The report’s revelations will undoubtedly complicate U.S. efforts to shield its citizens from prosecution for war crimes; in this vein, there is increasing discussion on how those linked with these human rights violations might be arrested abroad, in accordance with international law.
The report mentions Pakistan’s role in the torture program multiple times. For example, it shows how Pakistan unilaterally acted to arrest terrorists who were plotting to blow up the American Embassy in Karachi – the so called “Karachi Plots.” The CIA claimed credit for this action and often cited torture techniques as having provided key intelligence that disrupted the plot.
Pakistani authorities are also credited with pursuing criminal leads to help disrupt other terror plots known to the suspected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Muhammad (“KSM”), currently detained at Guantanamo Bay. Ironically, although KSM was subjected to CIA torture, this did not yield information that helped the CIA identify or dismantle these plots.
Pakistan’s involvement in these development are a significant revelation, since some commentators and analysts have promoted the narrative that Pakistan has been secretly aiding Al Qaeda. In this way, the report does much to dispel the popular depiction of Pakistan as a double dealing, agent, solely interested in fomenting mayhem.
Unfortunately, however, there appears to be no appetite in Pakistan to scrutinize the country’s own conduct during the War on Terror, particularly the dictatorial regime of General Pervez Musharraf.
Musharraf, it must be remembered, was instrumental in perverting not only the Pakistani constitution and laws, but also entering into agreements with the United States to help facilitate some of the abuses recorded in the report.
Most significantly, the report may be a sign of things to come, and create a precedent for investigating Western conduct in international affairs. While the Obama administration has breezily shrugged its shoulders and urged the world to “look forward” and view the damning report as an unfortunate ‘blip’ from the past, the use of drones in undeclared war zones and the global assassination program favored by the current U.S. regime may themselves be rich subjects for future scrutiny.
For the CIA, these revelations, while embarrassing, are only the latest in a long list of scandalous exposes. For instance, the Church Committee investigations in the 1970s condemned the agency’s abuse of the law, and gratuitous use of assassinations and other illegal techniques to achieve its objectives.
While it is difficult to understand why the CIA has such little respect for the law, an indication may be found in its own in-house journal, the Studies in Intelligence. Harper’s magazine recently reproduced a declassified article from the winter 1986 issue, in which an unnamed author ruefully muses about why seemingly intelligent “young people” think that, “We are assassins, blackmailers, exploiters of sex and illicit drugs, as well as the creators of our own foreign policy.”
After reviewing some “outrageous” questions the agency has been asked in the past (for instance, “Has there been an increase in CIA-sponsored terrorism in the past five years?”), the author reassuringly concludes that the CIA’s bad reputation is due to Soviet propaganda. He summarizes that:
It is, I believe, pertinent that one of the Soviet propaganda objectives over the past two decades has been to turn “CIA” into a dirty word. The Soviets have had considerable help from the persistently prurient (and sometimes misinformed) U.S. media. The leaks, accurate or inaccurate, together with some of our acknowledged missteps, have made the job of the KGB propagandist easier. Even so, it is safe to say that the Soviet propaganda machine has been tireless in carrying out its self-appointed role as our principal public-relations outlet.
With the Soviet Union dead for over two decades, one wonders who is operating the propaganda machine these days.