Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, has a new piece out in the The Washington Note where he describes Cheney as the director of the Bush torture program — and describes him as authorizing the use of waterboarding in specific interrogations — and the end-game of such torture: To establish a link between al-Qa’ida and Iraq.
We have long known that al-Shaykh al-Libi was tortured into providing false intelligence. But what Wilkerson alleges here for the first time is that Cheney made the call to torture the already cooperative captive into making a false confession about Saddam and al-Qa’ida:
What I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002–well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion–its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa’ida.
So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney’s office that their detainee “was compliant” (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP’s office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa’ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, “revealed” such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.
There in fact were no such contacts. (Incidentally, al-Libi just “committed suicide” in Libya. Interestingly, several U.S. lawyers working with tortured detainees were attempting to get the Libyan government to allow them to interview al-Libi….)
UPDATE: HuffPo’s Sam Stein flags a 2004 Armed Services Committee Report indicating that a top objective of the questioning of 9/11 mastermind KSM was to ferret out links to Saddam and Iraq:
“CTC [Counter Terrorist Center] noted that the questions regarding al-Qaida’s ties to the Iraqi regime were among the first presented to senior al-Qaida operational planner Khalid Shaikh Muhammad following his capture.”