The McClatchy news service, which was the only paper to properly question the build-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003, reports on the release of the Senate Armed Services Committee report on abusive tactics:
The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.
Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime.
The article goes on to quote an unnamed source:
"There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used," the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.
"The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."
Who is this unnamed source and why won't he go on record? A former U.S. army psychiatrist had no problem going on record:
A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under "pressure" to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq.
"While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq," Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. "The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results."
Excerpts from Burney's interview appeared in a full, declassified report on a two-year investigation into detainee abuse released on Tuesday by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Furthermore, the McClatchy article quotes others involved as saying they knew of no pressure:
Others in the interrogation operation "agreed there was pressure to produce intelligence, but did not recall pressure to identify links between Iraq and al Qaida," the report said.
So, who were those others? And who's correct? The first unnamed source, the former psychatrist, or these "others" named in the report?
Perhaps, like most truths, the reality lies in the middle. It could be a mixture of paranoia that another attack was coming down the pike in 2003 and 2004 that led to these abusive tactics, or that Cheney et. al. had to prove a connection between Iraq and al-Qaida by any means necessary.
What we do know is that we need more reporting on this, for sure.
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