Former top CIA officials planning a major public-relations campaign to rebut the Senate torture report’s damning revelations have found themselves undermined by one of their own.
Eight former top officials wrangled by Bill Harlow — the former CIA flak who brought us the CIASavedLives.com website after the Senate report was issued last December — are publishing a book in the coming weeks titled Rebuttal: The CIA Responds to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Study of Its Detention and Interrogation Program.
Meanwhile, however, Alvin Bernard “Buzzy” Krongard, who was the CIA’s executive director from 2001 to 2004 — the No. 3 position at the agency — was asked on a BBC news program if he thought waterboarding and putting a detainee in painful stress positions amounted to torture.
“Well, let’s put it this way, it is meant to make him as uncomfortable as possible,” he said. “So I assume for, without getting into semantics, that’s torture. I’m comfortable with saying that.”
He added, “We were told by legal authorities that we could torture people.”
The book’s contributors include former CIA directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael V. Hayden; former deputy directors John McLaughlin and Michael Morrell; former counterterrorist center deputy director J. Philip Mudd; former chief legal counsel John Rizzo; and former head of the clandestine service Jose A. Rodriguez Jr.
All of them were complicit in the Bush administration torture regime and/or its cover-up.
The book is intended to present the “rest of the story,” according to its promotional material. If past protestations from its authors are any guide, the book will also include many spurious examples intended to prove that the program “saved lives.”
As I wrote in December after the Senate Intelligence Committee released a redacted version of the executive summary of its report, the fact that torture accomplished nothing is an existential threat to the CIA, because officials there knew from early on that showing it had saved lives was vital to public acceptance, and to avoiding prosecution.
The book will also likely focus on the legal authorizations, which CIA officials have said made them comfortable that what they were doing was not technically torture.
And that’s where Krongard’s confession will be so damaging: It makes it clear that CIA officials knew what torture was, knew they had been given legal cover to torture, and knew they were engaged in torture.
Caption: Screen capture of Alvin Bernard “Buzzy” Krongard from the BBC news program video.