Let’s also not forget her moral perfidy in the Kavanaugh SCOTUS nomination. That was abominable.

Expand full comment

Not the same to me.

Expand full comment

Your post is perfidious.

Expand full comment

I trained at Fort Holabird in 1965 and our interrogation instructors included those from WWII. The best teachers were from the Pacific battles, and they told us exactly how to get the information we might need without torture or even unnecessary stress. "A good interrogation is a discussion about the future." I used it in Vietnam with the First Infantry division. My training was "counterintelligence special agent" and with the First Infantry Division we had trained interrogators. I learned from them. They introduced me to my first captured VC and the first thing we did was shake hands. That was how we operated.

And it worked.

I do not know where all that waterboarding nonsense came from. I never learned it at CIA in the early 70's. Had I stayed after Vietnam, I would have refused to do it. What were they thinking? Who did that stuff?

Expand full comment

And let's not forget the late John McCain.

It would be an exaggeration to say that I knew the late Senator Feinstein personally, but I did interact with her on the occasion of the debate that preceded the voting in Hune 2015 of the bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to ban the use of torture as an interrogation technique. The amendment, authored by Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI), as well as senior members of the Intelligence Committee, Vice-Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), helped ensure torture could not be part of U.S. national security policy and would unequivocally barred as an interrogation technique.

The amendment strengthened the legal prohibition against torture and codified certain aspects of a 2009 executive order signed by President Obama, effectively barring all U.S. government officials from using interrogation techniques that are not authorized by and listed in the U.S. Army Field Manual.

Chairman McCain spoke out out, reminding us that we must adhere to our highest ideals and that the safety and lives of our own soldiers are at stake here.

The amendment strengthened the legal prohibition against torture and codified certain aspects of a 2009 executive order signed by President Obama, effectively barring all U.S. government officials from using interrogation techniques that are not authorized by and listed in the U.S. Army Field Manual.

Chairman McCain spoke out out, reminding us that we must adhere to our highest ideals and that the safety and lives of our own soldiers are at stake here.

Expand full comment

We have to be careful when one administration (that of GHW Bush) approves the use of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, which we now call torture. Then the Obama Administration takes over and threatens to prosecute CIA officers who were only acting on the orders of the previous administration. Fortunately Leon Panetta, President Obama's newly appointed CIA Director, stood solidly behind his troops and no one was prosecuted.

Declaring what they did in retrospect to have been torture sets a dangerous precedent. During General Hayden's tenure as CIA Director, he stated that while he wanted his people to operate within the lines, he also didn't want them to be afraid to get chalk on their cleats. If we punish CIA officers for doing what they were told was legal to do when there's a change of administration, we end up with a very risk averse CIA. And I don't think that's what we want.

Executive Order 12333, under which the Intelligence Community operates, makes it clear that assassination is out of bounds. Except once the war on terror started, it became clear that it was perfectly legal in the case of those who were designated a threat to our nation (and therefore a legitimate target for assassination.) And how many people have we killed under how many different administrations following those guidelines?

After the Al Qaeda attacks on our embassies in Africa, Bin Laden was placed in that category. Yet because of the longstanding prohibition on assassination, the CIA wasn't about to go after him without clearing it with President Clinton. And in those days prior to 9/11, several of Clinton's advisers still looked at terrorism as a law enforcement issue, seeking to bring the guilty to justice. We likely missed occasions when we might have assassinated Bin Laden before 9/11 if Clinton hadn't waffled on his approval of those plans. And CIA wasn't about to do it without a very clear green light from the White House. That's where risk aversion got us.

And it would appear that Senator Feinstein herself was thinking extra-legal action after 9/11:

Quoted in the New York Times on May 26, 2002 she said: "It took that real attack, I think, to kind of shiver our timbers enough to let us know that the threat is profound, that we have to do some things that historically we have not wanted to do to protect ourselves."

Perhaps things like the EITs?

When it's suggested that readers should read what's been declassified from the Feinstein Report, they should first understand that the Senate staffers who wrote the report based it entirely on documentary evidence. They never interviewed anyone who actually participated in the use of EITs, nor anyone who oversaw the program. Not future CIA Director Gina Haspel, who ran one of the "black sites" where terrorist detainees were held and interrogated using the EITs, nor her then boss, Jose Rodriguez, who was the CIA Director of Operations. And using only documentary evidence allows those compiling a "comprehensive" report to do significant cherry picking.

And in order to see both sides of this discussion, readers should also go to the response from the CIA and comments in support of what the CIA did. They can go to www.ciasavedlives.com for the other side of the story. 

Larry Brown

CIA Career Trainee and Case officer, 1968-73

COL (retired), Military Intelligence, US Army Reserve

Expand full comment

Torture is torture no matter what you call it. We should never have done it and excuses now don't change a thing.

Expand full comment

Something I did not mention in my comment: Before we ever used the EITs on terrorists we captured, they had been developed and used on our own military personnel undergoing SERE training. (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape.) Up to and including waterboarding.

Does that justify the decision to use them on terrorists? Not necessarily. But it does provide a different perspective. Versus incorrectly assuming they were something we developed in response to 9/11. They weren't.

Expand full comment

The first thing I remember learning at the start (1958) of my career in intelligence was that torture does not work. And that it is immoral, Courtesy of the USAF Office of Special Investigations. I agreed then, as I do now.

Soon after 9/11, an old friend of mine, Terry, was called back from retirement and sent to Guantanamo to help process information obtained from prisoners and others. Rumors were already circulating that the CIA was using torture on prisoners. The reporting from the CIA being reviewed by Terry contained none of the usual sourcing data; who, what, when, where. Just a bunch of words. How was he supposed to evaluate it? He might as well have been asked to assess an unsourced report that the sky would fall the next day.

What was the CIA up to? Surely even George Tenet knew this approach was wrong. But he was busily covering up that prisoners were being held at "black" sites around the world, often under inhuman conditions, that they were being tortured, injured, even killed. All in the belief that a prisoner being beaten over the head with a hammer will tell the truth when he says he will once the hammering stops. A mistaken belief, of course, but there are plenty of Americans who continue to disagree.

Expand full comment

Her stance was honorable, unfortunately to this day no one was punished for this gross violation of human rights, something the US likes to harp about concerning other countries. In fact it appears that those who did it had their careers advanced and those that protested were cancelled.

Expand full comment

Torture is wrong! You can come up with as many justifications as you want, but we should never have sunk to the level of our adversaries that that SERE training was based on. Plus, it doesn't work. The FBI got more out of the people it interrogated than all the waterboarding that came later. Problem was we didn't know enough to realize when people were telling us the truth, so back to waterboarding we would go. Shame on us.

Expand full comment

New to SPY Talk,

Good article but I really would like to know WHO in

US Intelligence is still around that was part of the CIA Torture

and are they still operating today. Looking for some current

SPY-ING articles.

Expand full comment

Thanks for writing, Howard, and welcome to SpyTalk. All the key players in the black sites and interrogation program, from DCIAs George Tenet and Gina Haspel down through DDO José Rodrigues, are long retired now. They've defended themselves in articles and books and congressional testimony. I've written several articles on them through the years, here on Substack or at my previous incarnations at Newsweek, The Washington Post and Congressional Quarterly.

Expand full comment

Hello Jeff Stein,

You are basically correct that almost ALL of the KEY players are retired accept for one man.

This one man was on both sides of the equation back in the day. I will use his first name

MIKE. I came across MIKE purly by happen chance. If you know alot about the CIA Torture

program who was involved and the investigation then you or some one on this site will

know who MIKE is. Howard Walther, Santa Babrara California.

Expand full comment