Why Do Good People Become Silent—or Worse—About 9/11? Part 13: Prior Knowledge of State Crimes Against Democracy and Deep Politics


Editor’s Note: Frances Shure, M.A., L.P.C., has performed an in-depth analysis addressing a key issue of our time: “Why Do Good People Become Silent — or Worse — About 9/11?” The resulting essay, being presented here as a series, is a synthesis of both academic research and clinical observations.

In answering the question in the title of this essay, the November segment — Signal Detection Theory — examined how the “signal” of 9/11 Truth can be drowned out by excessive “noise” that comes from our information-overloaded world, our prior beliefs, and our psychological state of being.

Here, in the December installment, we continue Ms. Shure’s analysis with Part 13: Prior Knowledge of State Crimes Against Democracy and Deep Politics, which explores how our prior knowledge of state crimes by governments, as well as our knowledge of the deep state — as opposed to the visible public state in which we participate as citizens — affects our reception of evidence that indicates we have been lied to about 9/11.

People with prior knowledge of corporate and governmental malfeasance, but especially of State Crimes Against Democracy (SCADs), have an increased capacity to accept evidence that contradicts the official 9/11 conspiracy theory.

Lance deHaven-Smith Lance deHaven-Smith What are SCADs, and how do they differ from other political crimes? Lance deHaven-Smith, a professor of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University, coined the term “state crimes against democracy” to distinguish them as the illegal or extralegal actions of public officials or elites who manipulate or subvert democratic processes and undermine popular sovereignty. In other words, State Crimes Against Democracy are high crimes that attack not only people, but democracy itself.1

Therefore, according to deHaven-Smith, “election tampering, political assassinations, voter fraud, government graft, non-governmental rogue operations, state counter-democratic actions, and corporate collusion with extralegal initiatives can be classified as SCADs.”2

Before September 11, 2001, each of us had varying degrees of knowledge about political intrigue. If, for example, we had already read professor Peter Dale Scott’s Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, or if we already had a solid understanding of known SCADs, such as Iran-Contra,3 the Gulf of Tonkin,4 and especially Operation Northwoods,5 then we likely had minimal resistance to the evidence pointing to 9/11 as a false-flag operation. On the other hand, those of us who possessed none of this knowledge before 9/11 would have been challenged by a huge paradigm shift when we awoke to the facts that contradicted the official storyline regarding that terrible day.

Peter Dale Scott Peter Dale Scott Like State Crimes Against Democracy, the term “deep politics” is invaluable in that it helps us wrap our minds around the concept that there is a “public state” and a “deep state.” The public state consists of the democratic republic that we are taught is our system of government and in which we dutifully participate as citizens. The deep state, on the other hand, is composed of the realpolitik powers and behind-the-scenes decisions about which ordinary citizens are unaware.6

Scott defines “deep state” more specifically:

Those parts of the government responding to . . . [the top 1% of wealth holders] influence I call the “deep state” (if covert) or “security state” (if military). Both represent top-down or closed power, as opposed to the open power of the public state . . . that represents the people as a whole. . . . The deep state’s secret top-down powers have become a major threat to democracy.7

Unless we have had a prior understanding of the deep state, we will likely dismiss the evidence presented by 9/11 skeptics. Peter Dale Scott’s invaluable book, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America, offers us this sorely needed historical context. In it, he writes:

In one sense, 9/11 is an event without precedent, and one that threatens to move America beyond the age of public politics to a new era in which power, more than ever before, is administered downward from above. But at the same time, 9/11 must be seen as a culmination of trends developing through a half century: toward secret top-down decision making by small cabals, toward the militarization of law enforcement, toward plans for the sequestering of those who dissent, toward government off-the-books operations, transactions, and assets, and toward governance by those [the 1%] who pay for political parties rather than those who participate in them.8 [Emphasis added]

Without some knowledge of this historical context, our deepest beliefs about our government and our democratic republic will be profoundly challenged when we first encounter evidence that refutes the official account of 9/11. The same is true when we encounter reports of past governmental treacheries, such as the deception that led to the Pearl Harbor attacks;9 Operation Northwoods — the 1962 false-flag plot designed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to commit acts of terrorism in American cities and elsewhere to justify an invasion of Cuba, which was rejected by President Kennedy;10 Operation Mockingbird, a CIA plot to control the media, instigated after World War II;11 the atrocities of Project MK-ULTRA experiments on unaware citizens;12 and the 1933 plot by wealthy businessmen to overthrow the U.S. government and create a fascist state, as Major General Smedley Butler testified to in a 1934 congressional hearing.13

“The deep state’s secret top-down powers have become a major threat to democracy.

~ Peter Dale Scott

With rare exception, our educational system avoids the history of these and other betrayals by our government and/or elite interests, thus creating a naïve and credulous population, willing to accept passively the “reality” portrayed by the CIA-and-corporate-controlled media.

In fact, as Florida professor Lance deHaven-Smith informs us in his groundbreaking book, Conspiracy Theory in America, we have been conditioned to recoil psychologically from such “conspiracy theories,” even when these theories are documented and credible.

Our current inability to look unselfconsciously at the evidence pointing to an official conspiracy behind 9/11 can be traced to a highly successful CIA operation. In 1967, four years after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the CIA became concerned with the growing number of newspaper articles and books reporting on evidence in the Warren Commission report itself that contradicted the lone-gunman and single-bullet theories. Public opinion polls were beginning to indicate that a plurality of Americans did not fully accept the Commission’s report, and the integrity of democracy in the U.S. was coming into question.14

The CIA responded to this growing crisis by sending a secret dispatch — memo 1035-960 — to CIA agents worldwide. This directive instructed these agents to contact journalists and opinion leaders in their locales and ask for their assistance in countering the influence of “conspiracy theorists” who were publishing “conspiracy theories” that blamed top leaders in the U.S. for Kennedy’s death.15

Skeptics of the official 9/11 account have heard ad nauseam the retort, “I cannot believe that a conspiracy of this magnitude could be true because people can’t keep secrets — someone would have talked!”

This belief comes directly from one of the talking points of the memo: “Conspiracy on the large scale often suggested [by “conspiracy theorists”] would be impossible to conceal in the United States. . . .”

This now-ingrained belief in our society has successfully deterred many people from seriously considering the 9/11 evidence that contradicts the official story.16 As explained in Part 8 on brain research, it is these strong beliefs that may keep us from even considering the compelling evidence that 9/11 skeptics present.

Fortunately, memo 1035-960 was declassified through a Freedom of Information Act in 1976 and was released in full in 1998.17 Since 1967, the derogatory nature of the conspiracy meme skyrocketed in the press, so that anyone who had the audacity to question the official story-line of a significant event was viewed by most Americans as deranged or unstable. These CIA talking points are used to this day by ill-informed journalists and citizens to avoid seriously looking at facts and evidence that contradict any official story, including the story we were told about 9/11.18

I was one who was thoroughly conditioned. A few years before 9/11, I responded, as if on cue, to a friend who was suspicious of the government’s unlikely account of an event (it may have been the Oklahoma City bombing) with a glib “Oh! I don’t believe in conspiracy theories!” But just weeks after 9/11, I began to open my eyes to the crystal-clear evidence of a conspiracy, which was presented to me by the then-nascent 9/11 Truth Movement. After reading a book on the subject in the summer of 2002, I was completely cured of my old conditioning!19

One would ideally expect academics to do research and think critically — and to encourage students to do the same — in order to determine whether the government’s theory or an alternative theory is the more substantiated and correct one. Sadly, most professors disdain and even censor information that points to as-yet-unproven conspiracies.20

Fortunately, though, social psychologists have taken the lead in reversing this censoring trend. They recognize that the term “state crimes against democracy” encourages inquiry, unlike the meme “conspiracy theory,” which, because of our knee-jerk conditioning, encourages censorship.

Once social psychologists begin inquiring into suspected SCADs, they then will be able to identify “patterns in SCAD victims, tactics, timing, those who benefit, and other SCAD characteristics,”21 writes deHaven-Smith. The social psychologists who systematically examine suspected SCADs — as they would examine any other social phenomena — will better understand deep politics. This scholarly examination will then lead them to identify our system’s institutional vulnerabilities. Armed with such studies, they will be able to recommend that protections be established or strengthened.22

Without scientific inquiry by scholars and other concerned citizens into State Crimes Against Democracy, we are left floundering in a sea of competing theories, believing that we will never know the truth, so why even try. As deHaven-Smith observes:

When suspicious incidents occur that alter the nation’s objectives, disrupt presidential elections, provoke military action, or otherwise affect the national agenda, Americans tend to accept the self-serving accounts of public officials, seldom considering the possibility that such incidents might have been initiated or facilitated by the officials themselves. The role and function of the universally understood concept of “agent provocateur” is grossly neglected in the idiom of American political discourse. This mass gullibility, which itself invites SCADs, is unlikely to change until SCAD detection and prosecution are improved.23 [Emphasis added]

The word “corruption” is far too weak to describe the condition in which we find ourselves in the U.S. today. For example, there has been a merger of corporate interests within segments of our government—such as the revolving door of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and other federal agencies designed to protect citizens. As a result, officials no longer even bother to adhere to the ethical standard of recusing themselves from a position of power or influence when faced with a conflict of interest.

Moreover, our government representatives have accepted a system of legalized bribery in the form of massive corporate campaign contributions. Thus we have, as investigative journalist Greg Palast satirically puts it, “the best democracy money can buy.”24

Add this to the stunning fact that, to date, we have yet to witness a real criminal investigation into the attacks of 9/11, and we clearly see that the United States of America has become a culture of unaccountability. More precisely, there is wholesale impunity for the elite operatives of the deep state, but not for the rest of us.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind’s report of a conversation with a former George W. Bush senior advisor gives us an idea of the relative invulnerability of these deep-state operatives. In his New York Times article, “Faith, Certainty, and the Presidency of George W. Bush,” Suskind wrote:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”25 [Emphasis added]

With blatant arrogance and remarkable clarity, this senior advisor was outlining his participation in the deep state. In fact, the operatives of the deep state, whether they are government officials or the business and banking elite of our country or their proxies, are the ones who would necessarily be the perpetrators of State Crimes Against Democracy — the aforementioned historical SCADs as well as 9/11 and the accompanying anthrax attacks in 2001.26 Hand in hand, piece by piece, they destroy the representative democracy that we inherited from our forefathers, who, by the way, predicted and adamantly warned us against such treachery.27

“This mass gullibility, which itself invites SCADs, is unlikely to change until SCAD detection and prosecution are improved.”

~ Lance DeHaven-Smith

Another aspect contributing to the destruction of our republic is the common citizen’s ignorance (willful or not) and/or acquiescence (witting or not). This is where the importance of the 9/11 Truth Movement and other movements working toward transparency and democracy can make a significant impact. There are numerous active groups around the world whose members have become informed on various issues. They work diligently to educate and transform societies so that all peoples may have health, prosperity, sovereignty, a sustainable environment, and accurate information for making informed decisions.

How does our knowledge of SCADs and of deep politics influence how we approach individuals with the evidence that indicates our government is lying to us about 9/11?

Well, this essay has established that a person’s prior knowledge of high political crimes is key to whether or not they remain silent — or worse — about 9/11. Thus, we 9/11 Truth activists will be more successful in convincing people to accept our information if we first ascertain what our listeners already know. Then we can start a dialogue with them, based on how much knowledge they currently possess, rather than where we want their level of knowledge to be.

Clearly, prior knowledge of State Crimes Against Democracy and an understanding of deep politics are empowering assets that help us detect signals warning us that we are, once again, being deceived. However, as we shall see in the following section, detecting such signals may weaken some people, not empower them. This may be because they are the victims of “learned helplessness.”

Editor’s note: To be continued in the next issue with Part 14: Learned Helplessness. Electronic sources in the footnotes have all been archived. If they can no longer be found by a search on the Internet, readers desiring a copy may contact Frances Shure for a copy [ here ].

[1] Lance deHaven-Smith, “Beyond Conspiracy Theory: Patterns of High Crime in American Government,” American Behavioral Scientist 53, no. 6 (February 2010): 795–825; this entire issue is devoted to research on State Crimes Against Democracy.

Lance deHaven-Smith, “When Political Crimes Are Inside Jobs: Detecting State Crimes Against Democracy,” Administrative Theory & Praxis, 28, no. 3 (2006): 330–355.

Lance deHaven-Smith, Conspiracy Theory in America (University of Texas Press, 2013).

[2] Daniel K. Sage, “An Overview of State Crimes Against Democracy,” 2013. See this article for other SCAD-like operations not mentioned by deHaven-Smith.

[3] http://globalresearch.ca/…/LOB308A.html.

[4] http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-tonkin-gulf-war-pretext…/5341718.

[5] http://whatreallyhappened.com/…/northwoods.html.

[6] Mike Lofgren, “Anatomy of the Deep State.”

[7] Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America (University of California Press, 2007), 4.

[8] Ibid. 2.

[9] Robert B. Stinnett, Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor (Free Press; Touchstone edition, 2001).

[10] http://whatreallyhappened.com/…/northwoods.html.

[11] Alex Constantine, Virtual Government: CIA Mind Control Operations in America (Feral House, 1997), 35–66.

Carl Bernstein, “The CIA and the Media: How America’s Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why the Church Committee Covered It Up.”

William Casey, CIA Director, 1981–1987, candidly said, “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”

[12] Constantine, Virtual Government.

[13] http://en.wikipedia.org/…/Business_Plot

An excellent article on proven conspiracies: http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/…/rethinking-conspiracy.

[14] deHaven-Smith, Conspiracy Theory in America, 108.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid. 200.

[17] Ibid. 107.

See full dispatch here.

[18] An article depicting the continued use of several of these talking points here.

[19] Michael Ruppert’s talk on VHS, Truth and Lies About 9/11 became available as early as the fall of 2001, and Nafeez Mosaddeq Amhed’s book, The War on Freedom, was published in July 2002.

[20] Adnan Zuberi, 9/11 in the Academic Community. This excellent film details the taboo nature of 9/11 in institutions of higher learning.

[21] deHaven-Smith, Beyond Conspiracy Theory, 799.

[22] Ibid. 796.

[23] Ibid. 811.

[24] Greg Palast, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, (First Plume Printing, 2003), 25.

[25] Ron Suskind, “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush,” New York Times Magazine, October 17, 2004.

[26] Graeme MacQueen, The 2001 Anthrax Deception: The Case for a Domestic Conspiracy (Clarity Press, 2014).

[27] deHaven-Smith, Conspiracy Theory in America.

Continued with Part 14: Learned Helplessness

Torturing the Truth: Why the CIA Report Won’t Change Anything

By Russ Baker

Did you see this analysis of the Senate report on the CIA and torture? It’s from CNN:

The CIA’s harsh interrogations of detainees during the Bush era didn’t work, were more brutal than previously revealed and delivered no “ticking time bomb” information that prevented a terrorist attack, according to a new Senate report.

The majority report issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee is a damning condemnation of the “enhanced interrogation techniques”—branded as torture by critics—that the George W. Bush administration deployed in the fear-laden days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States. The techniques, according to the report, were “deeply flawed” and often resulted in “fabricated” information.

Anyone routinely watching that network or consuming news from most other sources would have found this shocking. Because the media in this country perpetuates a fiction about how things really work, on a daily basis. And then, once in a blue moon, they toss out this kind of summary of other people’s findings. No wonder Americans routinely suffer from “cognitive dissonance.”

The White House certainly tried its best to divert attention from the harsh reality of the report, with a classic tactic: warning of looming danger. USA Today played right along, blaring the headline “Torture Report Raises Fears” across the front page.

 As for the Senate report, key findings in the blistering document include:

-Torture did not “deliver” as promised. Many of those tortured, hideously, in ways that made even the torturers choke up, knew little or nothing of real use. The brutality carried out by our representatives did not produce tangible results. But the bosses at CIA headquarters told them to keep it up, and demanded they use bureaucratic tricks to hide what was really going on.

-The president and other top officials, busy promoting the rightness of the course, were largely kept out of the loop. President Bush was upset when he finally learned what was going on.

That second point, of course, means that our elected leaders gain the refuge of all rogues: deniability. But if, in truth, they do not know what is going on, then who is creating and implementing hideous policies and practices that make the world hate us and – far from protecting us—put us all in danger, physically and morally?


Don’t hold your breath expecting an answer to that key question. It is almost a certainty that this will all blow over in a matter of days, and that no real change will come.

Why not? Because the whole structure including, significantly, the media, is incapable of the substantive analysis and bold action required to actually fix things.

That’s why we started WhoWhatWhy. To dig deep for answers, share uncomfortable truths with the public—and provide the knowledge that leads, in time, to transformation. To study the “deep politics” that allows unaccountable persons and networks of permanent influence to continue doing whatever they want in our names and with our money. From the FBI executing uncontrollable witnesses, to muckraking journalists dying in strange car crashes, to wars effectively sold to nearly all of America under false pretenses.

Where else do you read about these things?

We are practically alone in our approach to journalism. We pull the camera back further and frame a bigger picture than even some very decent, “alternative” news sources. But we can do much more—now. With your help.

Our budget is extremely small. We squeeze a lot out of every dollar, so that we may serve no master but the truth. But there’s a lot of truth to uncover, and the truth is never free. It takes skilled journalists who share your passion for finding out what’s really happening and why.

Here’s some of the important work we do with your donations:

• Vigilantly follow the trail of unanswered questions about the Boston Bombing—something we are alone in doing

• Get the facts behind the America’s addiction to invasions and wars

• Monitor developments in the security state that threaten our liberties

• Chase the important facts behind the ongoing Climate Chaos


Will you please help us grow? People ask why we don’t produce more stories, more often. It’s simple: every penny we have comes from readers like you. But there’s a problem: very few of our growing and loyal readership actually donate. All too often, it is “readers like you”…. but not you.

So we need your help to build a more accountable government, to get your leaders to tackle the issues that you care about – from striking the proper balance between security and liberty to saving the environment to averting expensive and counter-productive military adventures.

Time is short. Things get worse day by day on a host of fronts. The most important tool to turn things around is information – reliable, unbiased, actionable information. That’s our job.  To help us do it, we need everyone who cares to dig deep, to sacrifice just a bit, to make an investment in a better future.

Please take a moment and do it now. Thanks.

Cheney: ‘The report’s full of crap’

Cheney: ‘The report’s full of crap’

By Eric Bradner, CNN
December 11, 2014
Watch this video

Cheney: We did what needed to be done

Bush’s Republican vice president insisted that the Central Intelligence Agency’s rough tactics — which the report said included mock executions, beatings, “rectal rehydration” and feeding, sleep deprivation and more — helped the United States “catch the bastards who killed 3,000 of us on 9/11.”

“It did in fact produce actionable intelligence that was vital in the success of keeping the country safe from further attacks,” he said.

Asked specifically about the rectal rehydration instance detailed in the report, Cheney said: “I don’t know anything about that specific instance — I can’t speak to that.”

He also said he hadn’t actually read the report. Its full 6,000 pages haven’t been released, but a lengthy summary was issued Tuesday. Cheney said he’d “seen parts of it. I read summaries of it.”

Contrary to the report’s conclusion that Bush didn’t know the extent of the CIA’s efforts, Cheney said the President was involved in discussions about the interrogation techniques, and that Bush even pointed out some of those conversations in a book he wrote after leaving office.

He said he has no regrets about the tactics used after the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks.

“I think what needed to be done was done,” Cheney said. “I think we were perfectly justified in doing it. And I’d do it again in a minute.”

How 9/11 Looms with Obama Nominee

So Ashton Carter is up for SecDef? Hows about that. That good old Aspen Strategy, they are tenacious.

“I expect he will face tough questions at his confirmation hearing about President Obama’s failing national security policy, but I expect he will be confirmed,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

Maybe someone will ask Carter about his co-authoring 9/11 preconditioning “Catastrophic Terrorism : Tackling the New Danger”. Maybe Frank Sinatra will tour this spring.


Ashton Carter Nominated


Senate Report Finds CIA Torture Produced Fabricated Intel and Thwarted No Plots

After days of brutal interrogations, in which he was slammed against walls, slapped in the gut, and repeatedly waterboarded — “near drownings” that caused him to vomit — 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told his CIA interrogators he was “ready to talk.”

The story he told in March 2003: He had sent an al-Qaida operative to Montana to recruit African-Americans for terrorist attacks inside the U.S. The alarming new claim sent FBI agents scrambling to find evidence of the plot, but they came up with nothing.

And for good reason: KSM later admitted he had fabricated the story — that because he was being subjected to such rough measures, he “simply told his interrogators what he thought they wanted to hear,” according to an internal agency cable quoted in the mammoth Senate Intelligence Committee report released on Tuesday by the panel’s chair, Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The invented Montana plot is only one example of multiple wild-goose chases and other false leads that were produced by the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” — what President Barack Obama himself has labeled “torture” — in the years after 9/11, according to the 489-page Senate report.

“The methods in question … regularly resulted in fabricated information,” the report states in its key findings. And the CIA itself at times was hoodwinked: “During the brutal interrogations, the CIA was often unaware the information was fabricated, leading CIA officers or contractors to falsely conclude that they were acquiring unique or actionable intelligence when they were not.”
This is a copy of the cover of the CIA torture report released by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein D-Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. U.S. Senate investigators delivered a damning indictment of CIA interrogations Tuesday, accusing the spy agency of inflicting suffering on prisoners beyond its legal limits and peddling unsubstantiated stories that the harsh questioning saved American lives.

This is a copy of the cover of the CIA torture report released by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne … For years, the CIA has said its resort to aggressive interrogations had “saved lives” — an assertion that was repeated today by six former top CIA officials in a joint op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal.

Noting the panicked atmosphere in the country after 9/11, with intelligence reports pouring in about a “second wave” of attacks and nuclear weapons supposedly being smuggled into the streets of New York City (“It felt like the classic ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario — every single day”), the former officials — including ex-directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden — wrote that their approval of “enhanced interrogation techniques” had “led to the disruptions of terrorist plots and prevented mass casualty attacks, saving American and Allied lives.”

But the Senate report paints a very different picture: of a chaotic, poorly run program that was far more brutal than was previously known and whose details were concealed from some of the most senior members of the U.S. government.

U.S. ambassadors in some of the countries where CIA black sites were built were never told about what was taking place on their own turf. Then FBI Director Robert Mueller was denied access when he tried to get his own agents to question KSM.

Among those also initially kept out of the loop: Secretary of State Colin Powell. “The WH (White House) is extremely concerned that (Secretary) Powell would blow his stack if he were to be briefed on what’s been going on,” a CIA lawyer wrote in July 2003.

Many of the techniques laid out in the report have been publicly known for years — forced nudity, sleep deprivation, dietary and temperature manipulation, wall slamming and, of course, waterboarding, a practice dating back to the Spanish Inquisition in which subjects are strapped down and doused with water to simulate the experience of drowning.

But the committee uncovered new details about how these techniques were actually applied in practice.
This undated file photo provided by U.S. Central Command, shows Abu Zubaydah, date and location unknown. Zubaydah was the CIA’s guinea pig. He was the first high-profile al Qaida terror suspect captured after the Sept. 11 attacks and the first to vanish into the spy agency’s secret prisons, the first subjected to grinding white noise and sleep deprivation tactics and the first to gasp under the simulated drowning of waterboarding. Zubaydah’s stark ordeal became the CIA’s blueprint for the brutal treatment of terror suspects, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report released Tuesday.

This undated file photo provided by U.S. Central Command, shows Abu Zubaydah, date and location unknown. Zubaydah …
The first “high-value detainee” taken to a black-site prison was waterboarded so many times that he lost consciousness at one point and “became completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.”

At least five detainees in CIA custody experienced disturbing hallucinations during prolonged sleep deprivation — which in some cases went on for up to 180 hours. A CIA prison in Afghanistan (known as the Salt Pit but referred to as COBALT in the report) was described in CIA cables as a “dungeon” where hooded prisoners were kept in complete darkness and shackled in isolated cells with loud noise or music — and only a bucket to use for human waste. One of the detainees died from hypothermia after being left naked from the waist down.

But the report’s most controversial — and intensely disputed — finding is that the CIA program produced often unreliable intelligence and that agency officials repeatedly misrepresented its value to top policymakers inside the Bush White House, Congress and the American public. One of the high-value detainees who were supposedly providing vital intelligence, an Indonesian terrorist known as Hambali, later recanted most of what he had told his interrogators. Hambali “said he merely gave answers that were similar to what was being asked and inferred the interrogator or de-briefer wanted,” according to a CIA cable cited in the report.

Another supposed CIA success was the interrogation of Abd al-Rahim Nashiri, the suspected bomber of the USS Cole, who was waterboarded and had an electric drill threateningly waved by his skull by a guard. He was credited by the agency with coughing up intelligence about plots against foreign ships in the Persian Gulf. In fact, the committee found from internal cables that Nashiri had already provided that information to another country’s interrogators while he was in foreign custody.

The committee report examined 20 “case studies” in which agency officials had claimed they had thwarted plots or rounded up suspects based on aggressive interrogations. These assertions, the panel found, were “inaccurate and contradicted by the CIA’s own records.” For instance, the trail that led to the capture of KSM in Pakistan began not with the harsh tactics of the CIA but rather with FBI agents who used traditional “rapport building” techniques to get information from Abu Zubaydah before the rough stuff began. So too did the information that led to the arrest of Jose Padilla on charges that he had been dispatched to set off a nuclear “dirty bomb” inside the U.S. — another frightening claim the CIA made to justify its program and which some of the agency’s own officials soon concluded were wildly inflated, if not false.

In this Jan. 5, 2006 file photo, Jose Padilla, center, is escorted to a waiting police vehicle by federal marshals near downtown Miami.

“We’ll never be able to successfully expunge Padilla and the ‘dirty bomb’ plot from the lore of disruption,” one senior CIA official wrote in an October 2005 cable. “Even KSM says Padilla had a screw loose.”

Still, the CIA is standing its ground on one of the most contentious issues of the post-9/11 era. “It remains CIA’s position that detainees in the detention and interrogation program, including those subjected to EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques) did provide valuable and unique intelligence,” a CIA spokesman said on Tuesday.

Why then did the committee find differently? According to the agency, the Senate probe reached its conclusion “by working backwards from the known outcome in each example to show how it might have been achieved without the intelligence derived from interrogations involving EITs.” Added the spokesman: “That’s like doing a crossword puzzle on Tuesday with Wednesday’s answers key.”

Who Really Used Chemical Weapons in Syria?

by Reese Erlich

Screenshot 2014-12-03 11.18.32The videos shocked the world. Hundreds of bodies lay on the floor of makeshift morgues in and around the town of Al Ghouta on the southeastern outskirts of Damascus.

Early in the morning of August 21, 2013, Sarin gas killed hundreds of men, women, and children. Victims suffered horrible deaths, going into spasms and gasping for air. The videos, produced by the rebels, blamed the Syrian army.

The following article is adapted from journalist Reese Erlich’s new book, “Inside Syria: the Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect”.


The Obama administration strongly condemned the Assad regime and over the next few weeks prepared to bomb Syria in retaliation. The rebels hoped the American bombing raids would destroy Assad’s air force and lead to an opposition victory.

The Assad regime argued that the rebels, not the government, had fired the chemical weapons in order to provoke a US assault on Damascus. UN weapons inspectors eventually issued two reports on the use of chemical weapons. Investigative reporters cast doubts on some of the Obama administration’s claims. The controversy deepened over time.

So the question remains: Who used chemical weapons and why? First, the official US government version.

The US Government Account:

On August 30, the White House issued a “government assessment” about the Al Ghouta attack. It stated that the Sarin gas killed 1,429 people, including 426 children. The White House stated that the Syrian military had used chemical weapons previously. The assessment said, “We assess that the opposition has not used chemical weapons. We assess that the regime’s frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21.”

The US position seemed to gather strength when Human Rights Watch and the New York Times indicated they had independently analyzed information that calculated the trajectory of the rockets that landed in the Al Ghouta area.

Rick Gladstone and C.J. Chivers of the Times wrote that rockets were fired from a military complex solidly under government control, some nine kilometers from the Al Ghouta sites. Chivers wrote that the rockets were fired from Mount Qasioun, which he described as “Damascus’s most prominent military position. . . . It is also a complex inseparably linked to the Assad family’s rule.” The article held the top forces of the regime responsible for the attack and discounted the possibility that a rogue officer or a rebel mole carried it out.


Within weeks, the U.S. version of events began to fall apart. First was the matter of civilian deaths. The White House figure of 1,429, a strangely precise number for estimating mass deaths, was nearly three times the size of the highest estimates of other reliable sources. Doctors Without Borders, which had medical personnel on the ground in Al Ghouta, estimated 355 deaths. British intelligence indicated 350, and the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights counted 502. Only the Syrian National Coalition, the opposition group backed by Western powers, agreed with the U.S. estimate. But when pressed by the Associated Press for a list of names, it could come up with only 395.

Ake Sellstrom, head of the UN chemical-weapons inspection team, said the rebels significantly exaggerated the number of dead and injured treated in Al Ghouta hospitals. “We saw the capability of those hospitals, and it is impossible that they could have turned over the amount of people that they claim they did.” The discrepancy was explained when The Wall Street Journal revealed that U.S. intelligence had scanned the rebel videos with face recognition software to count the number of dead. They made no on-scene investigation.

Second, serious questions arose about the White House claim that the Sarin rockets were fired from the heart of Assad-controlled Damascus. The New York Times and Human Rights Watch analyses assumed that the rockets were fired from over nine kilometers away.


But a report published by missile experts showed otherwise. Richard Lloyd is a former UN weapons inspector and currently works at Tesla Labs in Arlington, Virginia. Theodore A. Postol is a professor of science, technology, and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.

They analyzed the data presented by the UN inspectors concerning the Sarin-laden rockets. They concluded that the rockets would have a maximum range of two kilometers. When asked about this issue at a press conference, Sellstrom concurred that the two kilometer range would be a “fair guess.” He later indicated the rockets could have been fired as close as one kilometer.

Lloyd and Postol superimposed the two kilometer rocket range onto the White House maps. Their report said, “These munitions could not possibly have been fired at east Ghouta from the ‘heart,’ or from the eastern edge, of the Syrian government-controlled area shown in the intelligence map published by the White House on Aug. 30, 2013.”

The report noted that these “improvised artillery rockets” could have been constructed by the army or the rebels. “The indigenous chemical munition could be manufactured by anyone who has access to a machine shop with modest capabilities, that is, the claim is incorrect that only the Syrian government could manufacture the munition.” The New York Times wrote about the report and noted the much shorter range but never retracted its erroneous reports that the rockets must have been fired from the Mount Qasioun military complex.

Poking holes in the U.S. government’s case doesn’t automatically mean the rebels were responsible, however. Were the rebels militarily capable and politically willing to carry out a massive war crime against their own supporters?

The Syrian Version

As a liquid, Sarin is quite volatile and can’t be stored for very long because it can corrode storage containers and warheads. So Sarin precursor chemicals are stored separately and then mixed prior to use. They can be mixed in a lab by trained technicians. Mixing in the battlefield can be very dangerous to both the technician and anyone nearby. The Syrian army has admitted having Sarin precursors in large quantities. Some extremist rebel groups may have had some as well.

I spent some time in Damascus interviewing government officials and experts about the chemical-weapons issue. The Syrians presented a version of events sharply at odds with the U.S. government narrative.

On March 19, 2013, rebels used Sarin against a pro-government neighborhood in the village of Khan Al Asal near Aleppo, according to Dr. Bassam Barakat, a medical doctor and pro-government political consultant. He told me that blood samples and other physical evidence were sent to Russia for analysis. Officials there wrote a 100-page report indicating rebel use of Sarin and delivered it to the United Nations, but neither party ever made it public.  According to Barakat, the Russians confirmed that the Sarin had originally come from the chemical stockpiles of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who had been supplied by the old Soviet Union. Extremists in Libya shipped the Sarin chemical precursors to Turkey, where they were then smuggled across the border into Syria, according to Barakat. Assad officials were so confident that they could prove the rebels had used the poison chemicals, they allowed UN inspectors into Syria to investigate, but only after months of delay.

The final UN chemical-weapons report confirmed a number of points in the Syrian government version. Rebels were shelling Khan Al Asal prior to the chemical attack. At about 7:00 a.m., a munition hit the area some 300 meters from a government checkpoint. The UN report indicated, “The air stood still and witnesses described a yellowish-green mist in the air and a pungent and strong sulfur-like smell. . . . The witnesses reported seeing people scratching their faces and bodies. They also observed people lying in the streets, some unconscious, some having convulsions and foaming from the mouth.”

The UN inspectors concluded that Khan Al Asal had been attacked with Sarin. The UN inspection team was unable to visit the town due to security concerns but was able to interview eyewitnesses and take medical samples of residents who had come to Damascus. A Syrian government report indicated that twenty people died from the Sarin attack and 124 were injured.

Interpreting the Facts

Those are the facts. Now the interpretation. It’s been my experience that if something doesn’t make sense politically, it doesn’t make sense militarily. In this case, why would the Syrian army attack its own village? If it was seeking to discredit the rebels, why kill and injure so many of its own soldiers and civilians? On the other hand, the rebels—particularly extremists of al-Nusra and the Islamic State—would gain a lot from the use of chemical weapons. They would both kill the enemy, which included pro-Assad civilians, and discredit the Assad regime by blaming it for the attack.

One high UN official admitted that the Syrian government was not responsible for Khan Al Asal. Carla del Ponte told a Swiss TV interviewer, referring to the Asal incident, “This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.” Del Ponte was a member of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria and a former war-crimes prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. After her initial statement, she and other members of the commission of inquiry stopped commenting.

Then, in late May, Turkish newspapers reported that suspected members of al-Nusra were arrested carrying two kilograms of Sarin with plans to attack the US Air Force base at Adana, Turkey. By the time the case came to trial, however, the Turkish government did not prosecute the men for possessing Sarin. There’s no public record on why prosecutors didn’t pursue the chemical-weapons issue.

In another incident in late May, Iraqi authorities arrested five alleged members of the Islamic State for building two labs to manufacture Sarin and mustard gas. At a press conference, the police displayed lab equipment and weapons. At the time the Islamic State was part of al-Nusra and was also carrying out its own activities inside Syria.

Al-Qaeda Rebels Had Chemical Weapons Expertise

So it appears that al-Qaeda-affiliated rebels had the expertise and capability to carry out small-scale chemical attacks. In Khan Al Asal they may well have deployed Sarin against the Syrian army and its supporters.

The Syrians charge there was another, virtually unknown chemical-weapons attack in May 2013. Dr. Bassam Barakat described a Sarin attack on an army checkpoint near the Scientific Studies and Research Center in Damascus, an area near Hamish Hospital. Barakat said a rebel mortar shell packed with Sarin hit dozens of Syrian soldiers. Twenty died and one hundred were injured, according to Barakat.

Syrian Justice Minister Najm al Ahmad describing chemical weapon attack against Syrian troops. (c) Reese Erlich 2014.

Syrian Minister of Justice Najm al-Ahmad confirmed the attack. “The soldiers died of suffocation,” he told me. He and Barakat argued that the Syrian army wouldn’t use chemical gas against its own soldiers, and therefore the rebels had to be responsible. The incident was briefly reported on Syrian TV at the time but not mentioned further. I asked both men why such a horrific attack was not more widely publicized by the Syrian government. After all, an attack of such magnitude against government soldiers would point suspicion directly at the rebels. As far as I can tell, the incident was never reported to the United Nations and certainly wasn’t included in the inspector’s reports.

The United Nations reported a total of seven alleged chemical weapons incidents. Inspectors were unable to collect enough data in some cases. Incidents included attacks on both rebel and pro-government areas. So what does this mixed record of likely responsibility mean for the massive attack on Al Ghouta?


The Al Ghouta victims lived in rebel-controlled areas in towns to the southeast of Damascus. Virtually all the victims were treated in rebel-controlled medical facilities, not government hospitals. The UN inspectors were able to examine the Al Ghouta area in a timely manner. They collected contaminated soil, took medical samples from victims, and located at least some of the munitions used.

The United Nations concluded that without doubt victims had been exposed to Sarin. The gas was delivered by guided rockets and artillery-fired rockets. The guided rockets, a modified version of an old Soviet Grad, were launched independently. The other munitions, which have tail fins, are fired from artillery but have no independent guidance system.

UN inspectors found five munitions carrying Sarin that hit the Al Ghouta area. Each of the two Grads were capable of carrying thirteen gallons of Sarin, and three artillery-launched rockets could carry eleven to sixteen gallons each. If those figures are correct, and the munitions were filled to capacity, whomever fired the rockets had to either transport the Sarin from a sophisticated lab or mix and load fifty-seven to seventy gallons of liquid Sarin in battlefield conditions, which is no small task.

London-based chemical-weapons expert Dan Kaszeta told me that such a batch of Sarin would require a huge amount of “precursor chemicals and produce a significant waste stream.” An organized army with proper facilities and trained technicians seemed to be the likely culprit. On the other hand, if UN inspector Sellstrom, as well as professors from MIT and Tesla Labs, are correct on the rocket trajectory, the rockets were fired from areas very near to or under rebel control.

Assad Stupid Enough to Attack?

And the political question remains: Why would Assad be stupid enough to launch a major chemical attack just days after UN inspectors entered Damascus? He may be evil, but he’s not stupid. Justice Minister Ahmad told me, “When the Syrian army was making progress in Al Ghouta, the terrorists wanted the world to look at another issue, so they used chemicals again.”

Joshua Landis, director of the Center of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oklahoma, offered a possible answer as to why the Syrian army used weapons of mass destruction. He told me that the regime was fighting a desperate battle in the suburbs against rebels who had considerable popular support among Sunni residents. Assad didn’t have the troops to retake all the towns, so the army used Sarin. “It’s like sending the U.S. Marines into Japan in 1945. But the United States used atomic weapons.”

He noted that “Syria doesn’t operate its military efforts around weapons inspectors. As long as the United States wouldn’t invade, he [Assad] could get away with anything.”

Investigative reporter Gareth Porter offered another explanation. He argued that much less Sarin was used than commonly thought. The rebels could have diluted Sarin with water. So they would only have had to manufacture as little as fifteen gallons of Sarin. Some victims showed symptoms inconsistent with Sarin poisoning, possibly caused by tear gas or smoke grenades. Under Porter’s theory, extremist rebels didn’t have to transport dozens of gallons of Sarin from Turkey to Al Ghouta.

“The new information suggests a much less lethal attack with munitions that were less effective and perhaps even using much less Sarin than was initially assumed,” he wrote.

So what conclusions can we draw? Both sides quite possibly used Sarin. Both sides lied and manipulated evidence. At a minimum, the Obama administration exaggerated its case to justify a military attack on Syria. At worst, the White House fabricated intelligence. Bottom line: no one has yet presented convincing evidence of who perpetrated the horrific Al Ghouta attack.