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Gina Haspel Torture Cable Newly Released in NSArchive FOIA Suit Shows Mistaken Belief Detainee Had Imminent Attack Information: FRINFORMSUM 10/18/2018

October 18, 2018

The CIA’s latest release (right side) shows the base officers were “guardedly optimistic that the aggressive procedures may already be having an impact on subject’s resistance posture.”

Gina Haspel CIA Torture Cables’ Dates and Times Declassified

The National Security Archive’s FOIA lawsuit for cables authored and authorized by CIA director Gina Haspel during her tenure as chief of base at a CIA black site prison in Thailand in 2002 has won additional information that provides a detailed chronology of the CIA torture, which began on “Day One” of the suspect’s (Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri) confinement at the site, November 15, 2002. The torture included being slammed against walls, forced nudity, confinement in coffin-sized boxes, shackles and hoods such as seen in the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs, and waterboarding – which U.S. prosecutors established as a war crime in proceedings against Japanese soldiers after World War II.

Of special note, one of the newly released cable portions documents Haspel’s own intelligence failure in believing the al-Qaeda suspect had imminent attack information. Cable 11258 sent on November 16, 2002 admitted that the second torture session “produced little actionable threat information” but “left base officers guardedly optimistic that the aggressive procedures may already be having an impact on subject’s resistance posture.” Haspel wrote, “Although base has little doubt that subject is withholding actionable information, the shock of his first hours at [black site] appears to have focused him on our interests and on the severity of his predicament.” The Senate Intelligence Committee report declassified in 2014 documents that the suspect in fact did not have imminent threat information, and had already confessed any useful intelligence during his prior captivity in Dubai.

Fish and Wildlife Service Moves to Limit Information Released under FOIA

The Guardian’s Jimmy Tobias obtained a confidential internal email authored by the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Bridget Fahey urging employees at the agency (which administers the Endangered Species Act) to be less transparent when responding to FOIA requests. Our Nate Jones told the Guardian that the FWS guidance “is “the first time under the Trump administration that I have seen a paper trail from the government suggesting its employees release less under Foia.” Jones added the guidance was a disturbing “departure from the previous administration’s official stance that ‘when in doubt, release information.’”

Interior IG’s Replacement Comes as Surprise to Interior IG

Last week Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson informed staff that HUD’s Suzanne Israel Tufts would be moving to the Interior Department to serve as its acting inspector general. The announcement came as a surprise to Interior’s current deputy IG, Mary Kendall, who has overseen the agency’s IG for 10 years and whose office has yet to receive any official communication about the change. The replacement also comes as the Interior IG has two ongoing investigations into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, one concerning “a real estate arrangement in Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Montana, involving his wife, a charitable foundation he started and the executive chairman of Halliburton,” and the other regarding an decision to block a request from a Connecticut Native American Tribe to open a casino and claims that MGM successfully lobbied the Interior Dept. to block the casino’s approval. A FOIA request from American Oversight won Tufts’ resume, showing previous work experience “for the Trump campaign recruiting and training lawyers deployed by the Republican National Lawyers Association to watch the polls on Election Day 2016.”

DOE Belatedly Declassifies Decision Announcing Declassification

The Energy Department last year decided to “declassify the fact it intended to make 25 metric tons of Highly Enriched Uranium available from ‘the national security inventory’ for downblending into Low Enriched Uranium for use in the production of tritium.” Steve Aftergood notes, amazingly, that the declassification decision itself was initially classified as Secret. This year however, thanks to a FOIA request, the department has declassified the downblending decision. Aftergood points out, “There were 160 MT of US HEU downblended by the end of FY 2018, according to the FY 2019 DOE budget request (volume 1, at page 474), and a total of 162 MT was anticipated by the end of FY 2019, as noted recently by the International Panel on Fissile Materials.”

PCLOB Releases PPD-28 Surveillance Report in Response to FOIA Request

A FOIA request from New York Times’ reporter Charlie Savage has won the release of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s Top Secret report on the implementation of President Obama’s presidential policy directive to “impose various surveillance reforms in response to the Snowden disclosures.” Savage notes that the partly redacted document confirms earlier assessments that “the NSA, FBI, and CIA were largely already doing what Obama instructed them to do in such respects. One exception is that the CIA apparently applied its limits (like a requirement to delete raw data after five years) to mixed-source collections — those that contained information gathered both through electronic surveillance and human-source intelligence — even though the directive on its face applied only to signals intelligence, not humint.”

FOIA Suit Challenges Definition of a ‘Record’

Cause of Action Institute has filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Justice Department “challenging the definition of a ‘record’ to prevent federal agencies from unnecessarily redacting public information.” The suit challenges the common practice, sanctioned by DOJ guidance, of agencies redacting information from a document as “nonresponsive,” making “nonresponsive” material the FOIA’s de facto tenth exemption. COA takes specific issue with DOJ guidance that allows agencies “to break a single record into multiple smaller records, redacting information that would otherwise be public and not meet allowable exemptions under the FOIA statute (e.g. releasing a single paragraph while redacting the rest of an email as a ‘nonresponsive record’).” The complaint can be read here.

US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma base in Ginowan, Okinawa prefecture. (AFP2018/Toshifumi Kitamura)

Okinawa: Perennial Flashpoint in the U.S.-Japan Alliance

Recent news reports out of Okinawa underscore the extent to which the long-standing U.S. military presence on the island is a perennial source of political friction that complicates the U.S.-Japanese military alliance. During the Cold War and after, domestic politics on the island has repeatedly focused on the desire of Okinawa’s residents to reduce or eliminate this U.S. military presence. This tension creates a political challenge for Japan, which needs to find a way to address these domestic pressures while supporting the military relationship with Washington.

This week the National Security Archive posted a selection of documents from its Digital National Security Archive collections highlighting the relevance of these materials – and recent history – to current policy and political issues. The Archive’s three document sets on U.S.-Japan relations contain 654 documents on the subject of Okinawa, providing extensive coverage of U.S. policies regarding its administration of the island in the 1960s, Okinawa’s reversion to Japan in 1972, and subsequent political and economic issues created by the U.S. military bases on the island.

#TBT Pick – U.S. Propaganda in the Middle East – The Early Cold War Version

This week’s #TBT pick is a 2002 posting from our Iraq Documentation Project director, Joyce Battle, which examines US propaganda campaigns in the Middle East during the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. Most of the nearly 150 documents analyzed by Battle come from the State Department and focus on Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran. The overall objective of the propaganda campaign was to “expose the fallacies of communism” and to warn of its dangers, but the documents delve into a variety of issues, including but not limited to Palestine, the Kurds, anticolonialism, and atomic energy.

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