George Bush, Barack Obama, and the CIA Torture Cover-Up

Daniel J. Jones, former Senate investigator on the CIA torture program, and Iraqi activist Raed Jarrar are this week's guests.

Photo Illustration: Elise Swain/The Intercept; Images: Getty (2), Photo Illustration: Elise Swain/The Intercept; Images: AP (2), Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program

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No story in recent U.S. history illustrates the brutal fallacy of American exceptionalism than the CIA torture program and its cover-up. This week on Intercepted: As Washington D.C. remains focused on the Trump impeachment, Daniel Jones, the former top Senate Intelligence Committee investigator into the CIA torture program discusses the years-long battle with the Bush and Obama administrations to make public the findings of his still-classified 7,000 page report. Jones is the subject of the new feature film, The Report, starring Adam Driver and Annette Bening, and the host of its companion podcast, The Report Podcast, with Kelly McEvers, where they unpack the story of the CIA’s torture program, the Senate’s investigation, and ensuing cover-up. He tells the story of how the CIA, under John Brennan, spied on the Senate investigators and accessed their classified computers. As a rebellion in Iraq forces the resignation of the country’s prime minister, Iraqi activist Raed Jarrar describes the roots of the protests, the impact of foreign intervention by numerous countries, and the history of the U.S. encouraging sectarianism in Iraq. Plus, “Bigger Than Baghdad” — we hear new music from Iraqi-Canadian hip-hop artist Narcy about the protests in Iraq.

Announcer: This is CNN Breaking News.

Newscaster: Adam Schiff, on an investigation that the committee’s involved in. He just came to the podium.

Reporter: Just to be clear, it sure sounds like you support impeaching the president. Do you support impeaching and then removing him from office?

John Schnatter: I’ve had over 40 pizzas in the last 30 days. He has no pizza experience. He’s never been in the pizza category.

Reporter: Do you or your staff plan to present this report to the Judiciary Committee in person?

JSc: I would just say, stay tuned. The day of reckoning will come. The record will be straight. Stay tuned.

Newscaster: And there you have it, Chairman Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee who led this impeachment investigation.

Donald J. Trump: I learned nothing from Adam Schiff. I think he’s a maniac —

Reporter: What would you want to if learn he testified?

DJT: I think Adam Schiff is a deranged human being. I think he’s a very sick man.

[Music interlude.]

Jeremy Scahill: I’m Jeremy Scahill, coming to you from the offices of The Intercept in New York City. And this is episode 110 of Intercepted. 

DJT: The Democrats have gone crazy. And you know what? They have to be careful because when the shoe’s on the other foot and some day hopefully in the very long distant future, you’ll have a Democratic president, you’ll have a Republican House and they’ll do the same thing because somebody picked an orange out of a refrigerator and you don’t like it, so let’s go and impeach him. It’s no good. That’s not the way our country is supposed to be run.

JS: As the impeachment hearings investigating Donald Trump are continuing with the House Judiciary Committee picking up from the Intelligence Committee, it’s pretty clear that Trump did what he keeps screaming that he didn’t do. He abused the powers of office. It is clear that Trump has done all sorts of stuff that justify impeaching him and criminally prosecuting him. At the same time it’s really hard to get passionately worked up about the specific facts of the Democrats impeachment efforts when you look at the vast array of presidential crimes that go completely unpunished and are actually often are celebrated. I’m talking about war crimes, crimes of economic terror. Like all of his predecessors, Donald Trump is authorizing operations regularly that knowingly kill civilians. Just look at the most recent drone strike in Afghanistan.

Amy Goodman: A U.S. drone strike killed five people after it struck a car that was rushing a mother to the hospital after she experienced complications from a home birth. The strike killed the 25-year-old mother Malana, three of her relative’s and the car’s driver in southeastern Afghanistan.

JS: While Barack Obama, who presided over the massive expansion of U.S. drone strikes, would publicly express remorse for the killing of civilians while also continuing to kill civilians, Trump has taken a different approach. He celebrates war criminals. He pardons them or restores their ranks over the objections of senior career military officers. Just look at the recent cases of Navy SEALs who did heinous acts while in U.S. uniform. The whole Trump-Ukraine affair, in its technical and mundane details, has had this unintended impact of unmasking the hypocrisy and overwhelming power of the state and its minions to define what real crimes actually look like. Trump is using the office of the presidency to wage a dirty war against a political opponent. That’s a real crime. Trump using the office of the presidency to kill, maim or starve civilians? Well, that’s just foreign policy.

There is absolutely no story in recent U.S. history that better illustrates this brutal reality of what American exceptionalism really means than the post-9/11 CIA torture program and the ways in which both the Bush and Obama administrations did everything possible to ensure that no one would ever be held accountable and that the full truth of what was done under this program would not see the light of day.

The new feature film from Amazon Studios, The Report, tells this story through the experiences of Daniel Jones. He was the lead investigator for the Senate Intelligence Committee tasked with producing a report that would tell the story of the torture program. 

Annette Bening as Diane Feinstein: Morning, Dan.

Adam Driver as Daniel Jones: Morning, Senator.

AB: Have you seen the story today in the New York Times?

AD: No, Senator, I had a —

Linda Powell as Marcy Morris: Evidently, the CIA destroyed tapes of interrogations of Al Qaeda detainees.

AD: Did the Intel Committee know there were tapes?

AB: No, this is the first I’ve heard of it. So, I want to find out what was on the tapes and why they were destroyed.

LP: We want you to lead the investigation, Dan.

AD: But if the tapes were destroyed, how do we —

AB: They’re saying they have written records. Thousands of pages. Let’s see about that. I want you to find out exactly what they have and read every word of it.

JS: This new film tackles the origins of the CIA program, graphically portraying the heinous acts of torture committed by the agency and its contractors.

Douglas Hodge as James Mitchell: Got to humiliate him, right off the bat. Same reason we took away his clothes.

Maura Tierney as Bernadette: Why the loud music?

Douglas Hodge as James Mitchell: Sleep deprivation. We stop the music when he starts talking. Then he can sleep.

Tim Blake Nelson as Raymond Nathan: Tired people tell the truth?

Douglas Hodge as James Mitchell: Learned helplessness. 

JS: It highlights some of the most vile characters in this story, such as CIA officials Cofer Black.

Ian Blackman as Cofer Black: As I said to the president: two weeks, we’ll have flies walking across Al Qaeda eyeballs.

JS: Jose Rodriquez.

Carlos Gomez as Jose Rodriguez: What’s the point of moving forward without the waterboard? It’s like trying to play baseball without the bats.

JS: And in a more subtle way the current CIA director Gina Haspel. 

Maura Tierney as Bernadette: You have to make this work. It’s only legal if it works.

JS: What is really remarkable, in my view, about this film is how it portrays the Obama administration and its atrocious actions during the course of the Senate investigation. Barack Obama had come into office promising to end the dark days of Bush and Cheney and torture.

Barack Obama: We have to be clear and unequivocal. We do not torture. Period. We don’t torture. Our government does not torture.  That should be our position. That will be my position as president.

JS: What is so well documented in this film is how, at every turn, senior Obama administration officials actively hindered the Senate investigation. It portrays how Obama’s Chief of Staff Denis McDonough served as effectively, a bodyguard for the CIA and actively supported the agency in its campaign to deceive and block efforts to document exactly what happened and who was responsible. 

Jon Hamm as Denis McDonough: You told me once you wanted to make a difference. I hope you still get that chance.

AD: What does that mean?

JH: What does that mean? It means, Dan, get out of the senator’s head about the CIA. You’re not doing yourself any favors.

AD: Have you read the report?

JH: It’s 7,000 pages, Dan. The Bible tells the history of mankind in less than that. Look, buddy, we’re gonna get the CIA to sit down with you, tell you their side of the story. It would help if you would listen.

JS: What I believe is the most important aspect of this film is the story of Obama’s second CIA director John Brennan. Brennan was a senior official at the CIA at the height of the torture program. And it was under Brennan’s leadership at the CIA during the Obama administration that the agency broke into the computers of the Senate investigators, accessed their files and communications and then attempted to get Senate investigators criminally charged. This was Barack Obama’s CIA director.

We’re not talking about Dick Cheney. We’re not talking about George Bush. It was the CIA director put in power by the constitutional law scholar Barack Obama. For all of Trump’s constant harping about the deep state, here we have an incredible historical fact: Barack Obama’s CIA director presided over the CIA spying on U.S. citizens, on U.S. soil working for the Senate Intelligence Committee which was established to oversee the CIA which had been spying on U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. John Brennan has paid no price for any of this. In fact, you can find him on cable TV on any given day talking about the lawlessness of the Trump presidency.

Newscaster: For a national security and intelligence perspective on today’s testimony, we turn now to former CIA Director John Brennan. He is a Senior National and Intelligence Analyst for MSNBC. And I want to get your reaction to that phone call in that restaurant, which sounds like a very, very high level security risk.

John Brennan: Well, it’s just a number of things. One is that I think as Neal mentioned, Ambassador Sondland has a fair amount of explaining to do.

JS: We are going to dig very deep into the story of the CIA torture program and the investigation that Democratic and Republican administrations wanted to kill. I am joined now by the real life subject of the new film, The Report, Daniel Jones. He was a staff member for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and he led the investigation into the CIA’s interrogation methods, that culminated in a report called the Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program. That report was more than 6,700 pages long, but only a 500 page executive summary has ever been released.

Daniel J. Jones, Subject of New Movie “The Report,” Tells the Story of the CIA’s Torture Program, the Senate’s Investigation, and the CIA’s Ensuing Cover-Up

JS: Daniel Jones, welcome to Intercepted.

Daniel Jones: Thank you.

JS: Who were some of the key figures in coming up with the concept for what would become what we all refer to kind of, you know, in shorthand as the torture program?

DJ: CIA lawyers after 9/11, within days, began discussing among themselves torture. In one email with the subject “torture update,” the CIA lawyers discussed if our CIA personnel engage in torture against suspected terrorists, foreign states will be less likely to seek prosecution of them if the torture resulted in lives saved. And that found its way eventually into legal memos at the Department of Justice.

JS: Somebody had to say like, can you look into this for us, no?

DJ: The CIA records that we reviewed and again, this is 6.3 million pages of classified documents which is the equivalent of two urban libraries of documents. We had interview reports done by about 100 senior CIA officers that were done at the time — Tenet, Pavitt, others — and then we have these 6.3 million pages. Those documents indicate that the beginnings of the discussion of torture started with mid-level attorneys and not operators, not analysts, and not Bush and Cheney.

JS: Who were some of those lawyers?

DJ: That’s all classified.

JS: All of it?

DJ: All of it.

JS: So this discussion is happening with the agency lawyers. At what point does it hit the administration’s lawyers or figures like Cheney or David Addington, you know, his henchmen?

DJ: It wasn’t until February until the decision was made that the United States would not apply the Geneva Conventions.

JS: February of 2002.

DJ: Yes, exactly right. So, you know, September 11, 2001, September 17, is when the memorandum of notification comes up. And that memorandum of notification gives the CIA special covert authorities. It’s a very sensitive document. It’s saying the president of the United States has authorized the CIA to engage in these activities. And one of those activities in that MON, memorandum of notification from September 17, 2001 was the ability to detain suspected terrorists who were involved in active plotting against the United States. That definition CIA expanded themselves, I would say unlawfully, but that was the special authority.

And it’s really important to note, in that memorandum of notification from 2001, there was no mention of interrogation and certainly no mention of torture or coercive interrogation tactics. That’s something, that’s a step the CIA took on their own in 2002, actually brought it to the Department of Justice. And then some of that information was briefed to the White House. And as we document in the actual Senate report, President Bush did not know the details of the CIA program until April of 2006.

JS: At what point specifically, does Dick Cheney get a briefing about this and come to understand what exactly the CIA lawyers were talking about?

DJ: The documents that we have indicate that the CIA first went to the Department of Justice, and they also went to Condoleezza Rice.

JS: Who was the National Security Advisor at the time.

DJ: Under Bush, right, exactly. And their argument was, we need these interrogation tactics. We need these torture tactics in order to save American lives. And because of these torture tactics, it leads us to information we could not obtain anywhere else, what they would call otherwise unavailable intelligence which means they can’t get that intelligence from going through emails. They can’t get it from grabbing phones out of the sky, or cooperative sources, right? This is something without torture, we won’t stop this plot or capture these terrorists. And that’s the argument. And there’s a memo, which we talk about from July of 2003, where the CIA is looking for reaffirmation from the White House that this program is OK. And this is because the White House had gone out and said that it treats detainees humanely.

George W. Bush: They’re being well treated. There is no allegation. Well, there may be an allegation. There’s no, there’s no evidence that we’re treating them outside the spirit of the Geneva Convention. For those who say we are, they just don’t know what they’re talking about.

DJ: When the White House said that people the CIA were frantic. They were frantic that the White House was saying one thing publicly, but then privately telling them they could run off and do this program and they were worried they would be in trouble for this. The CIA’s representations about the application of those techniques, about the effectiveness of those techniques and the impact of those techniques on its detainees was grossly inaccurate, even from the very beginning, starting in 2002, all the way up through through President Obama.

JS: Describe the way that the White House lawyers worked on this program and tried to clear the legal path for acceptance by the administration that this was okay and lawful to do.

DJ: The path that is detailed in the records is really one from the CIA to the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, right? So, if you can get the Office of Legal Counsel to say yes, this is legal, it makes it an easy policy sell or an easier policy sell.

JS: For people that don’t know the Office of Legal Counsel, the OLC, these are the lawyers that are responsible for advising the president on whether or not policies that an administration wants to implement are lawful and to raise any potential legal problems and to game out scenarios, if this ever ended up in any kind of a court, what would happen.

DJ: Absolutely, absolutely. So, the CIA knew that they couldn’t go to the White House and say we want to use these interrogation tactics, and the Department of Justice thinks they’re illegal. So their way through this was to go to the Department of Justice first, and say, these are the tactics we want to use and these are our legal arguments for why that’s OK. And they found a sympathetic ear in John Yoo.

JS: He was a top person in the Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel, this body that is responsible for making sure that what the president does is legal.

DJ: Right, exactly, so some of those memos that John Yoo constructed were released by the Obama administration early in his tenure, but the CIA lawyers came up with these arguments and then brought them to John Yoo and John Yoo expanded upon the arguments.

John Yoo: We’re fighting a network of religious extremists. They don’t have a territory to surveil. They don’t have armed forces to watch. So, that means information is paramount to stop a future attack like 9/11. The only way to get that information aside from the lucky electronic intercept is through interrogation of people we actually capture.

JS: Did you come across evidence that the CIA already began implementing some of these tactics prior to the OLC being briefed on this and coming up with their own opinion?

DJ: Well, the first detainee to be taken into custody is a man named Abu Zubaydah, and that’s at the end of March of 2002. It’s important to talk about, to go back to that September 17 memorandum of notification. The CIA is given special authorities to detain suspected terrorists around the world indefinitely. And the CIA says, OK, well, we’re going to do this program. Let’s look into it. Where are we going to hold these detainees? How are we going to question them? What do we do? Should they be on a military base? Should it be on foreign soil? They eventually decide that this isn’t a good idea, period, that they’re not going to do this because there are other authorities in that memorandum of notification. And they basically decide that it’s not worth it and they don’t want to do that.

But then Abu Zubaydah gets captured. And there’s a great line in the Senate report quoting again, a CIA document where they say, you know, “we’re going to take him into custody, not because we think we can do a better job than anybody else. But if we fail, we’ll be able to describe up the chain of command, why we failed, versus if he’s in Jordan, where there’s criminal charges against him or somewhere else we’ll have to say, I don’t know. We’re not in the room. We don’t know what’s going on.” 

There was also this misunderstanding of who Abu Zubaydah was within the CIA, at the very senior levels. At the junior levels, there was no misunderstanding. So if you look at the public narrative, it’s Abu Zubaydah was number three or four in Al Qaeda, right, and he was involved in every major Al Qaeda terrorist plot in the past and would have knowledge of operatives in the United States and of the next attack. And after Abu Zubaydah is captured, he is interrogated. They set up a CIA detention site. So, he’s been shot on his capture. So he eventually goes to a hospital. He’s being interrogated by two FBI officers who speak Arabic. He is providing a lot of information to them.

JS: One of whom was Ali Soufan.

DJ: Ali Soufan is taking care of Abu Zubaydah, taking him to the bathroom, putting ice on his lips, helping him through this period of time where he may actually die. There’s a point in time where Abu Zubaydah is incubated. He can’t talk. But Ali has a alphabet chart in front of him. And he has Abu Zubaydah point to the letters. So think about this, the framework is that Abu Zubaydah is this massive terrorist who will never cooperate. And here he is in a hospital, unable to speak and providing intelligence to two FBI officers by pointing at letters and going through photo books.

And it’s there that Abu Zubaydah confirms that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is the person in the video tape of Osama bin Laden discussing the towers falling, right? This is where I think Osama bin Laden says he didn’t think they’d actually fall but they did. 

Osama bin Laden: [speaking] 

DJ: And he talks about this person Mukhtar, who’s off camera. And Mukhtar, the CIA knew at the time — it’s in the CIA’s records — was a pseudonym for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who had been indicted in the United States for terrorism charges, right?

JS: At this point in these first few months after 9/11, what kind of briefing happened in the Senate? Who was briefed and what were they told at this point about this emerging program?

DJ: This is a real lesson for legislative oversight. So any information on this program was limited to the chair and vice chair of the committee. So just two members.

JS: Of the Senate Intelligence Committee?

DJ: Same for the House. Yeah, House Intelligence and Senate Intelligence Committee, just their two senior members were briefed. When I say brief, I want to caveat it right away, because they weren’t allowed to take notes. And there were very few records at the CIA of what was said at these meetings. But what we did find is the records that did exist shows that they were — to say they were briefed is a bit of a joke. I mean, we are engaged in an aggressive campaign against Al Qaeda which allows us to render and detain suspected terrorists for a period of time, right? There’s your briefing. Senator Graham from Florida was on the committee at the time, and he was being briefed as the chair and he had all these questions, but his term was up.

So, CIA’s internally discussing the fact that all right, we went in, and we talked to Graham about this program, very sanitized, right? It didn’t really go into the details. But Graham nonetheless had this spidey sense, for lack of a better term that something else was going on here and he was asking really difficult questions. And the CIA’s internal discussion wasn’t like, OK, let’s pull together a more detailed briefing for Graham. It was let’s figure out a way to wait him out. Right, he’s almost out of office. We can do this. Let’s figure this out. And that’s what we see throughout this entire program.

Senator Rockefeller at one point wanted many more details on this program. He was denied details on it. So the committees were never briefed. And you know, the CIA weaponizes this to say, the committee’s were fully briefed on what was going on. First of all, it wasn’t the full committee. It was chair and vice chair and even the chair and vice chair was grossly misled. In the report itself, we have Dick Cheney’s legal advisor David Addington being misled by the CIA on details. So if David Addington is being misled by the CIA, they’re certainly going to mislead the chair and vice chair of the intelligence committees on both sides.

JS: On the issue of when did Bush know and you know, when did Cheney know, and now you’re talking about Addington being misled, do you know that it’s not that they’re just smarter than you, that they didn’t put this stuff on paper? Look, these guys were masters at their craft in a lot of ways. Is it possible that Cheney was actually very deeply involved and was like, listen, none of this goes on any paper?

DJ: While we were doing this investigation, one of the stories from the agents was, “Hey, we’re just following orders, right? This isn’t our program.” And we asked the agency, if this is the case, find us the record somewhere. Where’s the email? There’s not even an email discussion among people saying we were with Cheney today and he told us we have to do this. It does not exist. We asked for it. It was in the CIA’s interest to produce it because that was part of their narrative which is we’re just following orders. What the records indicate is that this was a CIA program foisted upon the Bush-Cheney White House, not the other way around.

JS: Name the figures who were running this program.

DJ: Yeah, all of that is largely redacted.

JS: What is the role of Jose Rodriguez for instance?

DJ: Jose Rodriguez was the head of the Counterterrorism Center. He is in the report. He played a major role. His chief of staff was now the current CIA Director Gina Haspel. In November of 2005, the Senate voted to basically look at all detainee treatment across the U.S. government. There had been rumors of abuse, right? And of the Abu Ghraib photos, of course, and that vote failed. It was led by Senator Carl Levin from Michigan. He thought it was really important to understand what DOD was doing and what the CIA was doing with detainees. The very next day, Jose Rodriguez and his chief of staff send a cable to an offsite location to destroy the interrogation video tapes of Abu Zubaydah which were done, and a man named Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri which were done in 2002.

And what’s really important to know is after 2002, the CIA was actively seeking to destroy those tapes. And they went to the CIA director at the time, this was Tenet, and then it was Porter Goss. And they said, “we want to get rid of these tapes,” both Tenet and Goss says, “no, you can’t do it.” John Rizzo, who was acting General Counsel at the CIA said, “You cannot destroy these tapes. But I’ll go to the White House and I’ll ask them. I’ll go to the Department of Justice and ask them.” And the message always came back, you cannot destroy these tapes. So after that vote in the Senate, Jose Rodriguez asks his chief of staff to write the cable and just screw it, we’re going to do what we want.

And they send a cable to this offsite for the destruction of those tapes. And what was unique about this cable is typically, I mean, if you’re in the office environment, and you’re announcing a policy decision, you have a two-line to four or five people. And then your cc line is all the lawyers, all the policy people. There’s 40 people in the email, same thing with CIA cables. In this case, it was just to that detention site. And it wasn’t until a cable came back from this site that said, “The 90 plus videotapes of torture have been destroyed.” Now those people cc’d everyone appropriate, all the lawyers, all the higher ups, and that’s when the general counsel of the CIA learns that they’re destroyed. And they go crazy because they know the Bush White House and the Department of Justice said you cannot destroy these tapes. So, what did they do? They cover it up until Mark Mazzetti at the New York Times writes a front page article in December of 2007 which says the CIA destroyed torture tapes.

It launches our investigation at the Senate. It launches a criminal investigation by Michael Mukasey at the Department of Justice. This is the Bush Department of Justice. They launch a criminal probe of the CIA’s destruction of tapes. Eventually they put a guy named John Durham in charge of that. Durham’s investigation goes all the way to August of 2012, right, just months before we submit largely our final draft of the report, and they don’t bring any criminal charges. They say they looked at 99 detainees, of course, we found there was at least 119. And what we are going to do is we’re going to recommend that the CIA hold two individuals accountable. There’s two people the CIA hold most culpable for destruction of these tapes and those people are Jose Rodriguez and Gina Haspel.

At the time, there’s a man at the CIA named Mike Morell, who becomes acting CIA director at one point. He was also in charge of the CIA’s response to the Senate. He is tasked by the CIA director to create an accountability board for Gina Haspel and Jose Rodriguez. And Mike Morell says, you know what, I’m not going to set up an accountability board for Gina Haspel and Jose Rodriguez. I’m going to do this myself. And he takes Jose Rodriguez out for a beer and describes how this is going to go down. Jose Rodriguez gets a letter in his file, continues to work for the agency and Gina Haspel is let off absolutely free.

JS: When according to the documents that you reviewed, when did the program end?

DJ: The last detainee we have records for was a detainee named Muhammad Rahim in 2007. Muhammad Rahim is captured and brought to CIA custody. His entire time in CIA custody, Muhammad Rahim produced zero intelligence reports, not one. It’s hard to imagine not getting one piece of intelligence and Muhammad Rahim went through multiple rounds of these enhanced interrogation techniques. So, two weeks on nothing, and then additional two weeks, and they kept trying to theorize on ways they could get Muhammad Rahim to talk using these torture tactics. And eventually Muhammad Rahim says, you know, you can kill me. I’m just not going to talk to you, right? In fact, I want you to kill me.

At this point, it’s 2007, the agency says, you know, we should probably take a look at this program. This is the first time the CIA conducted a real internal review of the program. And they decide that basically, there’s no evidence that these torture techniques worked, and that there’s a lot of evidence that they produced false answers, and are basically ineffective. And they make a recommendation to the CIA — by the way, these are CIA officers, senior CIA officers — and they say, we should use rapport building techniques because that seems like the most effective in our review of records. And we should ask other U.S. government agencies how they interrogate people, and we should go to our allies and friends and ask them what do you find most effective when you detained someone? This is the end of the program. The very last detainee and this is still under the Bush administration.

JS: Do you actually find it plausible that Bush didn’t know about this until September of 2006?

DJ: Well it was April of 2006.

JS: I’m sorry, April of 2006.

DJ: And when he got a briefing, he expressed discomfort of a detainee chained to the ceiling, going to the bathroom on himself. That’s the quote, and it freaks CIA out because they know, chained to the ceiling, going to the bathroom on himself. That’s like the least we do. But what we know is what the CIA knows, right? This is 6.3 million records of the CIA’s own records. Regardless of what Bush knows, the CIA themselves thought Bush did not know.

A couple of data points: We have memos that were written for Bush that was going to talk about waterboarding and techniques. We see all the drafts of the memo. First, waterboarding is taken out by the lawyers saying let’s not talk about that. And then we see the other interrogation techniques taken out of the next draft of the memo. And then we see another memo written which is: “We do really tough techniques. We’re harder than law enforcement. But they’re legal, don’t worry.” And then the next decision is, there’ll be no briefing of the president. None of those drafts get to the president. Condoleezza Rice is told there will be no briefing. George Tenet is interviewed by his own inspector general, and Tenet says he has never spoken to the president about this program. Porter Goss says, I have never spoken to the president about this program.

Now, of course, President Bush’s book says that he did know about the interrogation tactics and that he personally approved them. What’s really interesting is John Rizzo, who was the acting CIA director then later wrote a book himself and he calls President Bush a real stand up guy — and this tells you everything you need to know about the CIA, by the way —and he says President Bush is a real stand up guy because he didn’t know anything about what we were doing in that program and yet he took responsibility for it and he defended the agency.

JS: Barack Obama wins the election in 2008 and he names Leon Panetta as his first CIA director. What are the first moves Leon Panetta makes?

DJ: Well, it’s clear at this point that there is going to be an expansive investigation of the CIA’s detention interrogation program. We at the Senate Intelligence Committee had launched an investigation, 2007, into the destruction of tapes. Leon Panetta does what I think any director would do. He’s new to this. He wasn’t at the agency during the interrogation program. President Obama ends the program within days of coming into office. And this Senate Intelligence investigation is gearing up to be one of the largest investigations in the CIA ever. And Leon Panetta doesn’t want to be surprised.

So, he sets up his own internal study group, right. He does a parallel investigation into the documents that the Senate is receiving, the 6.3 million pages of records. He sets up a parallel group of CIA officers, of highly decorated CIA officers to go through the same records and to write a report for him on what the Senate might find. And what’s important about the Panetta review, which we call this, is it came largely to the same conclusions as the Senate investigation. In some ways, it’s far more harsh. As I mentioned, the Senate was very conservative with what we included in that report. If we couldn’t find multiple documents, if we weren’t 100% sure the facts, it did not go in that 7,000 page report.

But I always thought, you know, if Panetta and the agency was smart, they would have put out that review ahead of the Senate and said, this program happened. We’ve learned lessons. This is what we’re going to do to make sure it never happens again, and I don’t know what the Senate’s doing over there, but we’ve got a control of our own ship. Instead, they bury their internal report and they attack ours as being factually inaccurate.

JS: Describe the way that the Obama administration treated you, viewed your investigation. Did they help it? Did they hinder it?

DJ: First of all, let’s talk about the August 2014 speech by President Obama. August 2014 is when a redacted version of our report was provided back to the Senate for release. And the White House believed that the Senate was just going to accept whatever they redacted and release. It was that day, with the anticipation that the Senate would release ridiculously blacked out report that Obama said we tortured some folks.

BO: We tortured some folks.

DJ: And a lot of people remember that speech largely for that statement. But what people don’t remember is the next few lines, which is —

BO: It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect, about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.

DJ: And to me that was this the biggest gut punch not only to the Senate who was on a bipartisan basis working to get the truth out of this program. It was a punch in the gut to all the CIA officers who left the CIA, who left this program, who went through appropriate channels who went to the CIA’s own inspector general and said the CIA is engaged in war crimes. And of course, the White House was always, basically standing in front of us on the last two years of trying to complete that report and get it out. They let the agency go out there and make false claims about the report itself. And then they fought the Senate tooth and nail — again on a bipartisan basis — to fight the release of this report.

JS: What relationship did John Brennan have to the torture program and the CIA during that era?

DJ: John Brennan held some very senior leadership roles during the program. He was executive director of the agency during the program and certainly was aware of it.

JD: That’s the number three guy at the CIA?

DJ: Yeah, and Brennan maintains that he objected to the program, but we had 6.3 million pages of records and we looked for that, right? We looked for some sign. It could be a text message of people saying, hey, John Brennan said today he’s against this program. It could be an email John Brennan sent. We couldn’t find any evidence. And we really wanted to find it, right? We just wanted to confirm that.

JS: And in fact, he was slated to be Obama’s CIA director right off the bat in that first term, but his nomination was effectively killed by Democrats in the Senate, not the Republicans, but by Democrats in the Senate. And the central concern was Brennan and the question of torture and the CIA.

DJ: Absolutely. That time the Senate thought it would be a terrible idea to reward somebody who has knowledge of this torture program and elevate them to be CIA director and for Obama to nominate them. It just seemed crazy. But of course, John Brennan stays in the White House —

JS: In a non-Senate confirmed position where he becomes the drone overlord and is the guy who is shepherding in the new era of expanded drone strikes. So he does his time there in a non-Senate confirmed position. And then things settle down a bit and the next time around Obama puts him up. And he largely just sails through his confirmation and becomes CIA director.

DJ: At that point, a draft of the Senate report had been provided to the CIA. And John Brennan was asked very pointedly, “Have you read the report and what do you think?” And he said, “I’ve read it and now I don’t know what the facts are. It’s very disturbing.” You know, it sounds as if he’s echoing “I’m with you. Your report meant something.” And I’m guessing senators were thinking maybe John Brennan’s the guy who can make CIA reckon with the use of torture? Of course, he wasn’t.

JS: I think it bears repeating what happened as you were investigating this for the Senate, what the CIA did on domestic soil to the investigator from the very body setup to oversee the CIA.

DJ: Under a Democratic administration, with the Democratic nominee of CIA director. So, Caroline Krass is nominated to be the general counsel of the CIA. During that nomination hearing, a real hero mine, Mark Udall, a senator from Colorado acknowledges for the first time publicly about this internal CIA review called the Panetta Review. Senator Udall opened up his statement this way, saying the CIA’s leaking information in newspapers saying that the Senate report is factually inaccurate. It’s never going to be released because of all the factual errors. And he says, I don’t think that’s true because a, I’ve gone through the records, I’ve gone through the documents, but also I have seen your internal review.

Mark Udall: And it appears that this review which was initiated by former director Panetta is consistent with the intelligence committees report but amazingly, it conflicts with the official CIA response to the committee’s report. And if this is true, it raises fundamental questions about why a review the CIA conducted internally years ago and never provided to the committee is so different from the CIA’s formal written response to the committee study. I think you can see the disconnect there.

DJ: And it sent shockwaves to the agency that we had this internal review that the CIA had conducted, and we knew what they had found. The CIA freaks out. And they decide to go through the Senate’s computers to find out how many versions of this document existed. They went through our emails. There’s evidence that they entered the room. This is spying on Americans. And the CIA’s argument is, well, we had to protect our computer system. Well, this was the Senate’s computer system. Eventually, the Inspector General finds out about this, the CIA’s own internal watchdog finds out about it. And within, I want to say it’s within 24 hours, they make a criminal referral to the Department of Justice saying we believe the CIA has violated the law by searching these computers and going into these computers unlawfully.

The CIA’s response is to make a criminal referral against the Senate staff saying, “Oh, no, it’s not us who broke the law. It’s the Senate staff.” And basically accused us of hacking into the CIA’s computers to obtain this Panetta Review. And they maintain and this is perhaps the most laughable argument — John Brennan maintains that we were never authorized to have that document. It was a draft document. We requested every document in the CIA’s possession related to the CIA’s detention interrogation program, what could be more relevant to a Senate investigation than the CIA’s own internal investigation into the same program?

Second argument is that it’s a draft document, so therefore, we shouldn’t have it. You may have remember, we were talking earlier about the briefings that were scheduled for the president. One of the most effective tools for understanding what was going on was to see one document, to see a hundred drafts of that document, how it changed, right? Bush was once going to be told about the waterboard, they eliminated that. I mean, of those 6.3 million pages, maybe half or more, were draft documents. And let’s not forget what the Panetta Review is. It’s a damning argument against the CIA’s torture program that identifies it as ineffective, that identifies CIA officers misleading the Bush administration. That’s what they’re trying to suppress.

JS: What’s it like for you when you see John Brennan on TV as a commentator about the lawlessness of the Trump administration?

DJ: You know, people are both good and bad, and they make good decisions and bad decisions. So that’s one there. But I’m appalled at John Brennan, Mike Morell, Porter Goss, any of these individuals, Phil Mudd are on television talking about the intelligence community, and people view them — Michael Hayden, right — people view them as upstanding citizens who we can trust. There’s an entire appendix to the executive summary of the report of Michael Hayden, of his testimony to the committee. On the left hand side is what he says on the right hand side is the truth.

When Michael Hayden is told — this is a really important part of the Senate report — when he is told, “We’ve got a problem. We’ve told the Department of Justice, the White House and Congress that we’ve never had more than 100 detainees.” Somebody comes to Michael Hayden says, “Listen, we found more, there’s at least 112, probably a ton more than that. What should we do?” Michael Hayden says, “We’ve always had less than 100 detainees. Pick a date when this program began, we’ve always had less.” Michael Hayden’s on television as an anti-Trumper or whatever. He’s a darling of these television stations as if he is a guy with integrity. I do believe integrity is a scarce resource. And when you fail to show integrity, there is some accountability and that accountability is sorry, you can’t be commentator on television anymore as someone who provides truthful answers to the American people, unless you explain what was happening back then. And none of them have confronted the lies that they’ve told the American people or the president, the Department of Justice, or Congress.

JS: Is it your sense that the best way to prevent this from happening again would have been to hold those who were directing it and carrying it out accountable, including through criminal prosecution under threat of imprisonment?

DJ: I think people should have lost their jobs, at the very least, maybe you’re not nominated to be CIA director. But maybe you’re now in charge of the parking garage at the CIA, right? There needs to be some form of accountability. And let me be clear, this is a massive CIA problem, but I think it’s also a massive societal program. The same Senate Intelligence Committee that produced this report that fought tooth and nail to get it released and said this must never happen again. The same Senate Intelligence Committee that did that confirmed Gina Haspel to be CIA director. Who knows better about this program than that committee. And they went ahead and confirmed Gina Haspel.

To me, that’s inexcusable. I’m no longer in the Senate so I can say that, but the fact that you’d have members who voted for that report, who knew the details and then years later, say, okay, you’ve said you’ll never do it again. What do you mean you’ll never do it? It was found to be ineffective, unlawful, and that you lied to the White House, Department of Justice, and Congress about it. Of course, you’re never going to do it again.

JS: Daniel Jones, I want to just as a person in this country, I want to thank you for not giving up and for everything that you did. And I hope one day that we all can read those 7,000 pages that you and your colleagues work so hard to produce so that the truth would be known. Thank you.

DJ: Thank you.

JS: Daniel Jones was the lead investigator for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and its probe into the CIA’s torture program. His work on this still classified 7,000 page report is the subject of the new feature film The Report, directed by Scott Z. Burns. That film is now on Amazon and was produced in part by TOPIC Studios, which is part of The Intercept’s parent company First Look Media. Daniel Jones is now the president of the Penn Quarter Group. Be on the lookout for an extended version of this interview with Daniel Jones on an upcoming special bonus episode of Intercepted.

[Music interlude.]

Iraqi Activist Raed Jarrar Explains the Ongoing Protests in Iraq and the History of the U.S. Encouraging Sectarianism

JS: While the CIA torture program began in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, much of the U.S. public learned nothing about the tactics being used until images began to leak to the media portraying the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. The CIA tactics that had been developed and implemented through the use of two crooked psychologists for use by Agency interrogators at black sites around the world quickly found their way to the torture chambers at the Abu Ghraib prison. The images of the torture remain some of the most enduring from the U.S. occupation even to this day. Now, nearly 17 years after the invasion of Iraq began, the country and its U.S.-created system of governance is facing its most serious political uprising.

Since October 1, Iraq has seen sustained protests against the political elite and the system. These protests forced the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and have called into question whether this system created after the invasion will even survive. What is perhaps most significant is that these protests cut across the sectarian divides that the United States openly and actively encouraged in Iraq. They’ve also targeted all foreign interveners in Iraq, including Iran, which has become increasingly powerful in Iraq over the past 17 years. Hundreds of Iraqis have been killed since early October and many thousands have been wounded. It seems clear that these protesters are determined to fight until the system is overhauled.

In watching the events out of Iraq, it is essential that we understand the role that foreign powers, including the U.S., have played in creating the conditions that sparked these uprisings. I am joined now by Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi born human rights activist and writer. Raed, welcome to Intercepted.

Raed Jarrar: Thank you for having me.

JS: Walk us through what these protests are about and the political context.

RJ: So, a couple of months ago in early October, this youth uprising started in Iraq of Iraqis from different backgrounds — Sunnis and Shias, Kurds and Christians — who in a way are revolting against the foundation of the political regime that was installed in Iraq in 2003.

Paul Bremer III: The coalition forces did not come to colonize Iraq. We came to overthrow a despotic regime. That we’ve done. Now, our job is to turn and help the Iraqi people regain control of their own destiny, to help the Iraqi society rebuild on the basis of individual liberties, respect for the rule of law, and respect for each other.

RJ: The protests actually came as a surprise to the political elite in Iraq. Most of the protesters are Iraqi youth. They are mostly kids who came to age after 2003.

[Protesters chanting.]

RJ: There were not really on the political map, no one really saw them. No one cared about them, and no one understood what they want. So they’re revolting against sectarianism. The ruling system that was installed in 2003 is based on sectarian affiliations. Politicians are picked based on their sectarian affiliation and they’re also revolting against foreign intervention. And the most interesting thing about this wave of protests is that there are Shia Iraqis who are protesting mostly against Iran. There are Sunni Iraqis who are protesting mostly against the U.S. But all of them are protesting against all interventions coming into the country. So it’s actually a new political movement. It is cross-sectarian, criticizing the interventions that are coming from anywhere, whether those interventions came from Iran, the U.S. or other neighboring countries.

They’re not only asking for one person to step down. They’re not asking for a few tweaks in this regime to make it more sustainable. They’re really asking for a political revolution. They want to change the fundamental concept of governance in Iraq to go to a place where Iraq is not governed based on sectarianism, not governed based on parties affiliations with foreign powers, but rather governed by an Iraqi government that prioritizes Iraqis and what they want.

Protester [translated to English]: Our protests are peaceful. We are taking to the streets to take our rights back. We will never surrender. Neither today, tomorrow, not even after one year.

Protester [translated to English]: When we are protesting, we don’t aim to dirty or destroy streets. Our goal is to achieve our demands and to live in a homeland with peace and security. God willing, and with the determination of our brothers, the protesters, we will achieve our aspirations. We are university students. We left college and join the protesters. God willing, we will have success.

JS: The system that was created while the U.S. was still very intensely occupying Iraq necessitated that the president of Iraq, the head of the Parliament, that there had to be this sectarian division of who would hold what post and as you point out, this truly cuts across all sectarian lines as far as we can tell.

RJ: If you actually go through what’s happened since 2003, there has been a division in Iraq that is more political than sectarian. But the U.S. media and other regional powers have exaggerated and focused on the sectarian divisions. But if you actually go back to 2003, the exact same divisions that are happening today, inside the Shia community existed. You have nationalists Shias followers of Muqtada al Sadr who mostly are not affiliated with Iran. And then you have Iraqi Shia who are affiliated with Iran. So the division existed all along from 2003. And the exact same division existed within the Sunni communities as well. The same division exists also within the Kurdish community in Iraq and Christians and others.

Many analysis from the early 2003 pointed to these divisions, and pointed to the fact that the U.S. and Iran were only working with Sunnis, and Shias, and Kurds, and others who were closer to the sectarian side, closer to the pro-foreign intervention end of the spectrum. And they were not working with Sunnis, and Shias, and Kurds who were more on the nationalist, anti-interventionist side.

JS: You mentioned in passing Muqtada al Sadr, but I think it’s worth it to just kind of pause for a second and remind people of who Muqtada al Sadr is and just by way of a little bit of brief background, Muqtada al Sadr is a very important Shiite religious figure in Iraq. He was in exile in Iran, but has a very complicated, tense relationship at times with Iran. His father and two of his brothers in the late 1990s were assassinated by henchman of Saddam Hussein. And when the U.S, invaded Iraq, Muqtada al Sadr and his mighty army stepped in and built social programs. They took control of a huge slum where the overwhelming majority of the residents were Shiites, and it was called Saddam City under Saddam Hussein. And it was sort of meant as a collective punishment of Shia, and then later it became known as Sadr City, but explain who Sadr is in the current context of these protests.

RJ: There is Sadr, the individual and then there is the Sadrist movement. Millions of Iraqis belong to this social and religious and cultural movement. They tend to be more poor Iraqis who are disadvantaged and they also tend to be very nationalistic Iraqis. They are very critical of Iran, especially that Iran’s intervention has been supporting elitist, pro-Iranian Shia in the south. So, the criticisms back in 2003 and 2004 turned into violent clashes a few years after, and now we’re living the highest tensions of this internal Shia conflict that is exactly the conflict that existed in 2003 when the U.S. and Iran supported some very limited groups of sectarian, elitist Shia, who are tolerant or reliant on the U.S. and Iran for their existence.

Many people see the Sadrists as a leading fraction in Iraq that is moving forward with this uprising and they’re working very closely with Sunnis and Christians and others from other parts of the country to set this new tone of a cross-sectarian or non-sectarian movement that would pressure the current government to completely change the foundations of its governance. And we’re talking about the constitution or electoral law in Iraq. So not only changing, you know, one prime minister and getting another one from the same small selection of corrupt political elite in the green zone.

JS: When the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq, the mentality of the people that were sent to run that occupation.

GWB: Today, it’s my honor to announce that Jerry Bremer has agreed to become the presidential envoy to Iraq. Selecting Jerry Bremer, our country will be sending one of our best citizens. He’s a man with enormous experience.

JS: People like L. Paul Bremer, and others who set up the Coalition Provisional Authority was to see Iraq entirely through a oversimplified lens of sectarian divide that Shia, Sunni and Kurds are three distinct groups, and that they must be separated and that the United States needs to view them as specific entities when in reality, Iraq had a very strong secular tradition. There was a great deal of intermarriage. But the point I’m getting at is once they hit the ground, the United States hit the ground there, they have the CIA, and veterans of U.S. dirty wars in Central America from the 1980s, setting up militias that were organized around sectarian lines, and you essentially had a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign in Baghdad and elsewhere where the United States was openly actively at times, covertly, but generally out in the open, supporting murderous death squads who had the goal of cleansing Baghdad of non-Shia.

RJ: That is exactly what happened. In 2003, when the U.S. and U.S. allies invaded Iraq and came up with this sectarian vision for the future of Iraq, they overlooked the fact that Iraq was a very mixed country. You mentioned intermarriages. You know, I personally I am the product of one of these intermarriages. I’m half Sunni. I’m half Shia. The majority of my family is also half and half. Sunnis and Shias lived in the same neighborhoods. They have the same last names. They have the same accents. They eat the same food, and Iraq was not divided along sectarian lines. So when the U.S. came in with this divide and conquer theory of cutting Iraq into sectarian and ethnic enclaves, the sectarian militias affiliated with the ruling parties, whether they were Sunni or Shia or Christian or Kurdish, they did the dirty job of moving Iraq from a country that was demographically mixed to a new Iraq that is indeed, separated.

Millions of Iraqis were kicked out of their homes by sectarian militias. Sunnis kicked out Shias. Shias kicked out Sunnis and we ended up with newly formed Sunni neighborhoods, and Shia neighborhoods in Iraq. I lived in Iraq in the 1990s. It was indeed a bloody dictatorship but it was not sectarian. And now that changed dramatically after 2003. This new regime sees Iraq almost exclusively, from a sectarian lens and an ethnic lens. And that’s what one of the main things that Iraqis have been revolting against is this foundational concept of sectarian divisions. I think the majority of Iraqis according to public opinion polls, still to this day, oppose sectarian divisions, oppose the concept of sectarian quotas or allocations in government, oppose the idea of sectarian enclaves and sectarian federation in Iraq that is based on people’s ethnic and sectarian backgrounds.

JS: Well it’s classic colonialism 101. I mean, you know, it’s divide and conquer. It’s in the interest of the U.S., Britain, and other world powers to have a divided Iraq, not a unified Iraq that has control over a significant amount of oil and has a geographically very significant position in the world if you are a major world power.

RJ: You’re right. One of the main narratives for the ruling parties in the last 15 or 16 years since 2003 was that this regime is not Saddam and Saddam was a bad guy, and we are not Saddam and whoever criticized them was accused of being a Saddamist and a Baathist. Now, for this generation that is revolting in the last couple months, Iraqi kids who never lived under Saddam, that narrative does not cut it anymore. You can’t just be not Saddam to survive in Iraq in 2019. And that’s why they’re revolting to say you are not good enough. And we deserve better. We deserve to live in a country that is not run by a political elite reliant on the U.S. and Iran. One of the top three corrupt countries in the entire world. Iraqis sell $100 billion of oil every year. They have no basic services in the country. So I think that this revolution, the age divide is important because of that comparison with the former dictatorship.

JS: Another significant figure that has played a role in this situation and that has played an increasingly powerful role in the post-American invasion period that we’re still living in now is the Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani. Explain just briefly why he’s important particularly to Shia in Iraq, and what his position has been throughout the years following the U.S. invasion.

RJ: Sistani has a lot of influence. He’s the most influential Shia clerk, the number one Shiite Ayatollah with the number of followers around the world.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani [translated to English]:  We confirm again that attacks against peaceful protesters are forbidden, as well as them being prevented from having the right to demand reforms. We also confirmed that attacking private and public property is forbidden and that property should not be left to be attacked by infiltrators and their allies.

RJ: So, one of the things that has been going on in the last couple months is that there are unprecedented criticisms to Sistani that I have actually never heard in my entire life coming from Iraqi Shia youth who are saying this Shia leadership in Najaf is not representing the best of Iraq’s interest. And the Shia leadership in Najaf should not be running the country politically. We need a divide between the clergy and the state. And whether or not we like Sistani, he shouldn’t be calling the shots. So this is something that is also a critical point of what Iraq youth want to say and what they want to see in their country.

They do not want to see a country that is run by clergy, a country where an Ayatollah decides whether the Prime Minister should resign or not. They do want to live in a country where there is a healthy separation between the mosque and the state. I heard in the news in the last couple weeks that there were protests around Sistani’s house in Najaf that, you know, there are armed forces surrounding the house to protect it from Iraqi youth from getting there. You know, we all know that the Iranian consulates in Karbala and Najaf were attacked multiple times and burned.

[Protesters chanting.]

RJ: Militias that are pro-Iran and political parties that are pro-Iran were under attack. So I think that the physical surrounding now of Sistani’s house is another sign of what the Iraqi Shia, what their mood is. I don’t think they’re big fans of Sistani or any other religious leadership in Najaf nowadays.

JS: Right and just for people who maybe don’t follow this closely or aren’t aware of this history, Najaf and Karbala are two of the most important religious sites in Shia Islam on the planet. And you had even under Saddam’s government, you had a steady stream of pilgrims coming from Iran. Iran in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion really came in and took over huge parts of the economy. took over huge political factions in Iraq, began promoting individuals that they thought would be good for Iranian interests in the country and for Iran’s consulate in Najaf to be torched and burnt to the ground is an incredible political moment, especially given that we know it was burned down by Iraqi Shia.

RJ: Yes, I think it’s an incredible moment because it signifies an Iraqi uprising against foreign interventions. And if someone in the U.S. administration wants to use that to absolve the U.S. from responsibility or try to blame Iran for more of the violence that’s going on in Iraq, that is not accurate. The same people who are criticizing Iran and torching Iranian consulates in Najaf and Karbala, and shutting down Iranian border crossings are also criticizing the U.S. to the same level, if not more. They’re criticizing Israel to the same level if not more. They’re criticizing Saudi Arabia and Turkey and other regional powers who have been messing with their country to the same level if not more.

I wouldn’t see what happened in the south as an anti-Iran revolution. It is truly an anti-intervention revolution and it is a spectacular moment because what Iraqis are saying is that this corrupt regime that is 100% reliant on foreign powers — it’s reliant on Iran telling them what to do, it’s reliant on the U.S. giving them money and weapons and telling them what to do, and other regional powers telling them what to do — that this regime does not belong in Iraq. And what Iraqis want is a regime that is reliant and accountable to the streets and to the masses, a regime that wants to please Iraqis and provide them with basic services such as water, electricity, and education, and health care, rather than taking billions of dollars to their private bank accounts in Switzerland and whatever they spend the rest of the year outside of Iraq.

JS: Raed Jarrar, we’re going to leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us.

RJ: Thank you. I appreciate it.

JS: Raed Jarrar is an Iraqi born human rights activist and writer. To end today’s show, we wanted to share a new song from a friend of the podcast, the Iraqi-Canadian rapper, educator, and director Yassin Alsalman, better known as “Narcy.” 

Amid the protests in Iraq, Narcy composed this song from the perspective of Iraqis on the ground and he says that his “English lyrics speak directly to the international media and governments about their silence.” Here is “Bigger Than Baghdad.”

[“Bigger Than Baghdad” by Narcy plays.]

JS: That was Yassin Alsalman better known as Narcy. His new song and music video is simply called, “Bigger Than Baghdad.”

[Music interlude.]

JS: And that does it for this week’s show. You can follow us on Twitter @intercepted. You can also follow us on Instagram @interceptedpodcast. If you like what we do on this program, you can support our show by going to and pick up a brand new Intercepted t-shirt. You can do that for  a contribution of $10 a month. You can also become a sustaining member and keep this show going.

Intercepted is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our lead producer is Jack D’Isidoro. Our producer is Laura Flynn. Elise Swain is our associate producer and graphic designer. Betsy Reed is editor in chief of The Intercept. Rick Kwan mixed the show. Transcription for this program is done by Nuria Marquez Martinez. Our music, as always, was composed by DJ Spooky. Until next time, I’m Jeremy Scahill.

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