'Friendly Intel Services' and Torture Trail

By Margie Burns

Several years after the promulgation of those torture memos and the use of torture on detainees, there are few public signs that investigators of these abuses are following up leads involving foreign intelligence services.

Newsweek reported in January 2008 that the CIA has been conducting an internal search for any more of the torture videotapes. In response to investigations by the Justice Department and Congress as well as by the inspector general in the CIA regarding the 2005 destruction of the CIA videotapes, “Current and former officials said they doubt the agency itself recorded any other interrogations, but added that the CIA might have received recordings made by friendly intelligence services that questioned Qaeda suspects.”

The torture memos and the use of torture on detainees figure as two of the worst abuses of government during the Bush years, along with the invasion of Iraq. Interestingly, as Progressive Populist has already reported, the Justice Department torture memos track chronologically with key events and major disasters in counter- and anti-terrorism, including the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl. The chronology suggests that the administration kept friendly intelligence services informed of key internal decisions. After all, public statements from the White House often stress that the president is working with ‘our allies’ on various matters too secret to be discussed.

It would be illuminating to know what elements in those torture memos of late 2002 and early 2003, and what elements in the secretive electronic surveillance of Americans, were shared with our allies in the Saudi and Pakistani governments before they were shared with the American public. In case anyone has not noticed, if the aim of torture and indefinite detention, holding detainees without designating them as enemy combatants and often without even charging them was to eliminate terrorism, it has not worked.

Not only counterterrorism, not only investigations of administration abuses, but also some constructive prevention of a bigger and more disastrous war would benefit from better information from and about friendly foreign intelligence sources. As many people are uneasily aware, the Bush-Cheney White House is intent on mobilizing some kind of assault against Iran, whether directly or—more probably—through Israel. Efforts against Iran have been intermittent but have been launched in more or less feeble ways since at least 2002. Even the ‘Able Danger’ misinformation was used to support a false contention that Iranians were linked to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Foreign intelligence sources could be a useful resource for the American public in staving off war or any other undue action against Iran. The intelligence services of Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy should be at least as uneasy about Bush’s bellicosity toward Iran as the general public in this country. Even repressive regimes in the Middle East have little long-range interest in going along with hostile action against Iran, whether by the US government—special forces—or via allies in the region. Prominent reporter Seymour Hersh’s most recent account, in The New Yorker, of the administration’s overt designs against Iran should heighten the alarm.

As former Attorney General Ramsey Clark points out, the White House has several objectives, to put it nicely, that could be served by aggression against Iran. One is extended control over oil reserves in the Middle East—already consolidated by the heavy presence of US oil companies as recipients of huge and noncompetitive contracts from the Oil Ministry in the new Iraqi government. Oil is also important, furthermore, large though it looms in itself in the economies of Iraq and Iran, as a large component in control of all maritime commerce from and to the Middle East.

Clark also points out that heightened tensions, or further escalation of total war, in the Middle East, would help the current administration in its drive to establish a ring of permanent—and enormous—military bases in the region. Notwithstanding the longstanding and often unwholesome links between Bush-Cheney interests and those of the Saudi regime, an accurate mapping of burgeoning US bases in the region shows that Saudi Arabia is being rapidly encircled by an immense US military presence.

Ramsey Clark also points out the political benefit to the GOP, in the upcoming presidential election, from heightened hostilities and a bigger war in the Middle East. A top advisor to Sen. John McCain has already referred openly to another terrorist attack as a plus for McCain politically, voicing the thought less directly conveyed by television pundits who talk about McCain as the national security candidate.

No reasonable people should reward deliriously bellicose actions in the Middle East with political office, and the general public is showing little appetite for a bigger war. But if the White House manages to find a way to control enough opinion makers, by hook or by crook, it might even at this late date still feel emboldened enough to take some disastrous course of action.

Margie Burns is a Texas native who now writes from Washington, D.C. Email margie.burns@verizon.net. See her blog at www.margieburns.com

From The Progressive Populist, August 15, 2008

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