Archives For John Brennan Is Still Lying


[Re-posted from earlier today]

The CIA director made one small concession yesterday. Here is his Rumsfeldian rumination on whether torture gave the US any actionable intelligence that “saved lives”:

I have already stated that our reviews indicate that the detention and interrogation program produced useful intelligence that helped the United States thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives. But let me be clear: We have not concluded that it was the use of EITs within that program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them. The cause and effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable.

The key word there is “subsequently.” He’s arguing that some useful intelligence was later acquired from prisoners who had been tortured. What’s he’s conceding is that torture gave us no real intelligence – against the claims of his predecessors and Cheney. But he wants the broader question of whether torture played a role in prepping prisoners to give information in traditional, humane and legal interrogations to remain an open one. Well, let’s go through the report to see if he has a leg to stand on.

The Senate’s report lists the plots the CIA has relied most heavily on when making the case for the efficacy of torture:

CIA Plots

The report goes on to debunk torture’s role in each of these cases. Here are the key points:

Tall Buildings

So in this case, all the intelligence necessary to thwart a barely existent plot by utterly unserious criminals was discovered before torture was instigated at all.

Karachi Plots

Another claim eviscerated by the CIA’s own evidence.

Second Wave Combined

Again: torture was utterly irrelevant to this amorphous plot far from being operational.

UK Plot Four

Another phantasm of a plot revealed by sources independent of the torture program.


So this canary sang without any torture at all.


And so it goes. Notice that all of this evidence is taken from the CIA’s own internal documents. This is not the Senate Committee’s conclusion; it is the CIA’s.

Heathrow Combined

Yet another dud. And therefore yet another lie.

Hambali Capture

Look: if every single one of the CIA’s own purported successes evaporates upon inspecting the CIA’s own records, what’s left?

Does Brennan know of other cases of alleged plots disrupted by intelligence procured through torture? You’d think in all its strenuous efforts to prove that its program worked, the CIA would have mentioned other plots. But if they don’t exist, Brennan’s claim of “unknowability” evaporates into thin air. It’s total bullshit. As for the need to interview the torturers, why? When the CIA’s own documents show that these mainly unserious plots were foiled by other means entirely, what is left for the torturers to say? That some things discovered by legal means were also blurted out – among countless untrue things – after torture sessions? As for the details of all these cases, I recommend reading all the footnotes. They flesh out the summaries above.

This seems to me to be a crucial issue of truth and falsehood.

What Brennan said yesterday was, in contrast, spin: some kind of sad attempt to square a circle that is adamantly circular. There is no evidence in the entire CIA archive that shows that any prisoner provided truthful information “subsequently” to being tortured. None. All the information necessary to foil every single plot cited by the CIA was recovered by legal, moral and humane means. All of it. This is not an opinion, a judgment … but a fact.

And that means that on this critical, foundational question, one that gets to the heart of Western civilization, John Brennan is a liar. And his lies and deceptions matter. That a CIA chief can get up and tell us that something is unknowable when it is already fully known is someone who has forfeited the public trust in a profound way. He’s lying to protect what’s left of the reputation of the CIA. He refuses to discipline any war criminal in his ranks, and defends the bulk of them. And let us be perfectly clear: all of this is criminal activity. Committing war crimes and then refusing to acknowledge them as such violates the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention of Torture and domestic law.

I want to move past this as much as Brennan does. But you cannot move past it without reckoning with it, without facing up the the facts, and bringing accountability to government. Obama and Brennan refuse to do it. And by refusing to come to terms with the facts, they have left this as some kind of open debate, when it is, in fact, closed. And that opening is all we need to see torture return.

On this one, the war criminals meep-meeped the president. And he didn’t even seriously try to stop them.

(Photo: CIA Director John Brennan takes questions from reporters during a press conference at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia on December 11, 2014.  By Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.)

John Brennan Is Still Lying

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 11 2014 @ 6:58pm


I watched the CIA Director’s speech today, in which he actually described the CIA as an agency “speaking truth to power.” He got that the wrong way round. There is no organization in the US government that exercises the kind of power the CIA does – over the presidency, and the Congress, and the media. It is unimaginable that any other agency in government could commit war crimes, torture innocents, murder people, wreck this country’s moral standing … and yet escape any consequences for their actions. There is no other government agency that launches elaborate public relations campaigns to discredit and undermine its Senate oversight committee. There is no other organization whose head can tell blatant lies about spying on its overseers and receive the president’s wholehearted support. There is no other agency where you can murder someone already in your captivity and get away with it. That is incredible power – and there is no greater power than the power to torture.

As for the truth part, Brennan has to concede what the CIA has already conceded: that they lied to the president and to the Congress many, many times on the efficacy of torture. But Brennan describes these lies, as the CIA did in its formal response to the report, as “imprecision”. It was therefore merely “imprecise” that, to take one of many examples, the “Second Wave” attack was discovered thanks to torture. But either something was procured through torture, or it wasn’t. That’s not imprecise; it’s an either/or. And it was presented by the CIA as a categorical product of torture – which played a part in devising the legal memos that gave these crimes a patina of temporary formal legality. That is not imprecision; it is misrepresentation.

Here’s the most we’ll ever get from our dark side overlord:

CIA officers’ actions that did comport with the law and policy should neither be criticized nor conflated with the actions of the few who did not follow the guidance issued. At the same time, none of these lapses should be excused, downplayed or denied. In some instances, we simply failed to live up to the standards that we set for ourselves, that the American people expect of us.

Translation: the bulk of the torture was perfectly acceptable; a small part of it wasn’t. Have there been any consequences for those who committed the war crimes outside those allowed for by the spurious legal memos? Nope. Has anyone been fired? Not that we know. Are most of the people involved in these war crimes still walking the halls at Langley? You bet they are. And Brennan admitted today that he knew full well what was going on as the torture program was constructed.

Now this weird circumlocution on a central question:

I have already stated that our reviews indicate that the detention and interrogation program produced useful intelligence that helped the United States thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives. But let me be clear: We have not concluded that it was the use of EITs within that program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them. The cause and effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable.

So we are now in Rumsfeld’s post-modern universe. What Brennan has repeatedly said was that we got intelligence from those in the program, but now he is saying that the intelligence was not provably a result of the torture. What he is trying to insinuate is that long after being tortured, some suspects may have given intelligence under legal and humane interrogation that helped. All I can say is that the report meticulously demonstrates that this is not the case. Or let me allow Dianne Feinstein to put it succinctly:

This is a simple matter: before or after? In the coming days, the Dish is going to go through critical cases in the report to show that Brennan is still lying about this, seeking refuge in bullshit notions of “unknowability” because what we do know from the CIA’s own documents absolutely refutes his case.

And notice the only reason Brennan objects to torture:

I believe effective, non-coercive methods are available to elicit such information; methods that do not have a counterproductive impact on our national security and on our international standing.

Brennan goes on to lie again that torture helped us find Osama bin Laden. This is disproved – not challenged or questioned, but disproved – in the report. And continuing to suggest – against the evidence – that torture may have helped get that monster is an invitation for such an evil to be imported back into the the US in the future. And, indeed, Brennan concedes that it is perfectly possible that torture will return:

I defer to the policymakers in future times when there is going to be the need to be able to ensure that this country stays safe if we face a similar type of crisis.

We have a CIA whose head believes in the efficacy of torture, and that the only reason to refrain from it is that it hurts our national security and international standing. We have a CIA head who will not rule out the use of torture in the future. We have a CIA head who believes that much of the torture conducted in the Bush-Cheney years was legal. And we have a CIA head prepared to argue in public that the facts and documented evidence in a summary of the CIA’s own documents are untrue. Because he says so.

And he wants us to end this debate and move. He has to be kidding.

(Photo: Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan talks with the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper  before US President Barack Obama spoke about the National Security Agency and intelligence agencies surveillance techniques at the US Department of Justice on January 17, 2014. By Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.)