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Fact-Checking Haspel’s Nomination Hearing Against the Declassified Record: FRINFORMSUM 5/10/2018

May 10, 2018

The 1963 Kubark manual.

Fact-Checking Haspel’s Nomination Hearing Against the Declassified Record

PolitiFact reached out to the National Security Archive’s CIA expert John Prados to help fact-check key claims Gina Haspel made during her contentious nomination hearing to lead the agency.

Among the claims Prados debunked was Haspel’s assertion that the “CIA has historically not done interrogations.”

The executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s study on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program contradicts this when it specifically cites a 1963 CIA manual called the Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual. Kubark “included the ‘principal coercive techniques of interrogation: arrest, detention, deprivation of sensory stimuli through solitary confinement or similar methods, threats and fear, debility, pain, heightened suggestibility and hypnosis, narcosis and induced regression.'” Prados argues “It is poor history to say that the CIA never did interrogations. The manual cited in the Senate report was created for that purpose.”

Prados also highlights the case of “Soviet defector Yuri Nosenko, who was interrogated for several years at the hands of the CIA. Nosenko was handled ‘abusively enough’ that the agency would later give him a cash payment.”

PolitiFact also cites the Archive regarding Haspel’s exceedingly dubious claim that the 92 video recordings showing CIA personnel waterboarding detainees were destroyed to avoid a “security risk” to agents’ safety. But safety was not mentioned by the CIA at the time of the destruction. A declassified 2005 CIA email released to the National Security Archive shows the CIA thought “The heat from destoying [sic] is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes ever got into the public domain.” There is no mention of security risks.

“the heat from destoying [sic] is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes ever got into the public domain.”

Classification and redactions still cover key questions of Gina Haspel’s torture story. Among them are: whether she was still the chief of base when the Green site closed on December 4, 2002; did she supervise the November 27, 2002, waterboarding sessions of Al Nashiri; and did she ever object to the torture, or express any qualms?

An excellent collection and analysis of what is available can be found in a recent Archive posting.

More resources from the National Security Archive on the history of the CIA’s torture program and other activities can be found here:

CIA Email Accounts Designated for Permanent Preservation 

The U.S. National Archives recently approved the CIA’s Capstone email preservation schedule that will capture and preserve more than 426 CIA email accounts as permanent. The plan is a welcome change of pace from the agency’s more recent attempt to only preserve the emails of 22 senior agency officials. Public outcry eventually forced the CIA to withdraw the plan in 2016.

Of note for curious researchers: the agency’s NARA-approved plan states, “Traditional records management with a print-and-file policy was in place prior to the Capstone adoption. The Central Intelligence Agency has legacy classified and unclassified email for Capstone and Non-Capstone officials that will be dispositioned with this schedule. The Agency has classified email dating back to approximately 1995. The archive for email sent and received on the Agency’s unclassified network was deployed in December 2014. Searches of the unclassified archive have returned emails dating as far back as 2007.” (emphasis added)

EPA Political Aides take Aggressive Role in FOIA Reviews

A FOIA release from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Natural Resources Defense Council reveals an agency whose political aides are interceding in the FOIA review process for requests concerning EPA head Scott Pruitt beyond the norm. The released emails show “Pruitt’s aides chastising career employees who released documents about the administrator without letting them screen the records first. Meanwhile, several environmental groups say the agency has told them that political staffers’ document reviews have delayed releases past legal deadlines.” The Archive’s Nate Jones says the EPA’s current process “does look like the most burdensome review process that I’ve seen documented.”

The documents also show Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, created a pilot program that was nominally intended to “centralize” FOIA requests that are processed by the Office of the Administrator’s sub-offices, but is practically intended to alert the political staff “about any requests anywhere at EPA that involved Pruitt.”

NRDC obtained the emails after filing a FOIA lawsuit.

Other EPA/Scott Pruitt FOIA news from the past few months that is worth highlighting:

The Guatemala Genocide Ruling, Five Years Later

Five years ago today, one of the most celebrated human rights trials in Latin America came to a stunning conclusion when Guatemalan dictator, retired army general, and self-proclaimed “president” Efraín Ríos Montt was convicted for genocide and crimes against humanity by a panel of three Guatemalan judges.

To commemorate that milestone, the National Security Archive is posting the groundbreaking ruling by the court that found Ríos Montt guilty. The Archive is also making a collection of declassified documents available that chronicle Washington’s unabashed support for the dictator at the height of his powers.

Get the story and read the documents here.

Cyber Brief: ODNI Statistical Transparency Reports

The National Security Archive’s Cyber Vault is highlighting the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s report on the use of FISA orders and national security letters during CY 2017 this week. The posting includes the 2017 report as well as all previous reports back to statistics on calendar year 2013. These statistics are valuable in understanding the scope of and trends in government surveillance under national security authorities.

From United States v. Oliver L. North, Office of the Independent Counsel (OIC) Papers, National Archives & Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

TBT Pick – The Oliver North File

This week’s #TBT pick is chosen with Oliver North’s recent ascension to the presidency of the NRA in mind. This week’s pick is a 2004 posting, which contains North’s Iran-Contra diaries, showing knowledge of Contra drug operations and readiness to collaborate with likes of Manuel Noriega. Documents include:

  • Mr. North’s diary entries, from the reporter’s notebooks he kept in those years, noting multiple reports of drug smuggling among the contras. A Washington Post investigation published on 22 October 1994 found no evidence he had relayed these reports to the DEA or other law enforcement authorities.
  • Memos from North aide Robert Owen to Mr. North recounting drug-running “indiscretions” among the contras, warning that a known drug-smuggling airplane was delivering taxpayer-funded “humanitarian aid” overseen by Mr. North.
  • Mr. North’s White House e-mails recounting his efforts to spring from prison a Honduran general who could “spill the beans” on the secret contra war, even though the Justice Department termed the Honduran a “narcoterrorist” for his involvement in cocaine smuggling and an assassination plot.

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