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Declassified CIA Cables Recount “A Poignant Moment” With KSM, Legal Group’s Commitment to Lawfully Employ Methods “Even the Israelis May Not”: FRINFORMSUM 9/12/2019

September 12, 2019

“A Poignant Moment” With KSM Between Interrogation Sessions

The CIA cable’s author called the incident with accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed “a poignant moment;” in it, a frog jumped out of a drain in KSM’s cell during the course of an interrogation, and KSM asked that the frog be allowed to stay and not be taken outside. The cable is one of several obtained from a FOIA lawsuit concerning the actions of Drs. James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who the agency paid over $80 million to develop and run its torture program, and that were recently published by The Intercept on the anniversary of 9/11. The cables catalog the alternating horror and banality of KSM’s 25-day enhanced interrogation session and show the CIA’s Legal Group, Counterterrorist Center, telling the interrogators to “rule out nothing whatsoever that you believe may be effective; rather, come on back and we will get you the approvals. CTC/LGL officers remain available 24/7 to ensure immediate assistance and documentation on any proposals. … We lawfully may employ methods that even the Israelis may not.” The cables collectively confirm many of the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s torture program – namely that the CIA’s “committed belief that enhanced measures always move detainees closer to an imagined breaking point that, once met, force them to produce more accurate information” – was wrong.

National Security Archive litigation has also contributed to significant declassifications concerning the CIA’s torture program. The Archive’s 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 helped build a detailed chronology of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri confinement and treatment at the site. The torture chronicled in the cables 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.

ICE’s Inhumane Use of Solitary Confinement

A Department of Homeland Security review – obtained by the Project on Government Oversight through FOIA – reports that an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in California “has kept an ‘alarming’ number of detainees with serious mental illness confined in solitary, and many have been isolated for ‘shockingly’ long periods.” In one instance at the Adelanto, CA detention center, ICE kept a mentally ill detainee in solitary confinement for a cumulative 904 days, a move DHS called inhumane and a violation of its policies (DHS also called the medical leadership at the facility incompetent). The Adelanto facility is the second-largest of ICE’s adult detention centers and is privately run by the GEO Group. ICE publicly disagreed with DHS’ findings, responding with a separate inspection performed by a “company on contract with the agency” that found the facility met all of ICE’s standards.

90 New Army Posts Added to Growing List of Bases with Contaminated Water  

The names of 90 Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard posts have been added to a growing list of bases with contaminated drinking water, thanks to a FOIA request from the Environmental Working Group. The Army responded to the FOIA release by saying that despite the presence of contaminants linked to cancer and other medical issues, nobody at the posts is exposed to unsafe levels of the chemicals because the Army is taking steps to filter the water in accordance with Environmental Protection Agency regulations. The Military Times notes that the recent disclosure brings the total number of military facilities with contaminated water to 297, nearly a third of which are Army posts.

Is Your DMV Selling Your Data? Probably.

A series of public records requests filed by Motherboard have revealed that DMVs across the country are selling drivers’ personal information to businesses, including private investigators, credit reporting companies, and tow companies, with DMVs sometimes netting tens of millions of dollars in the sales. The state of Virginia, for example, has sold data to over 100 private investigative firms. Motherboard reports that “multiple DMVs stressed” that they were not selling social security numbers or drivers license photos, but the sale of personally identifying information to third parties remains a significant privacy concern – particularly in states that do not require private investigators to be licensed. Motherboard notes that while the sales are legal, they are based on a privacy law, the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which was written in the 1990s before the rapid expanse of technology and associated privacy concerns.

Detection of the First Soviet Nuclear Test, September 1949

Seventy years ago, Director of Central Intelligence Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter handed President Harry Truman a carefully worded report of “an abnormal radio-active contamination” in the Northern Pacific that greatly exceeded normal levels in the atmosphere. While uncertain as to the cause, the DCI’s first hypothesis was “An atomic explosion on the continent of Asia.”  This proved to be accurate – it was the first Soviet test of a nuclear device. The National Security Archive commemorated the anniversary of the beginnings of the superpower nuclear arms race by publishing newly declassified documents and context surrounding the U.S. discovery of the landmark Soviet test. Get the rest of the story – and the accompanying 29 declassified documents – here.

Targeting in Cyber Operations: FOIA release discusses considerations of US military targeting doctrine

Recently declassified materials from U.S. Cyber Command provide new details about an important component of cyber operations – the targeting process – as well as clues to considerations regarding the potential linkage between cyber and traditional military force in U.S. planning. The Archive’s Cyber Vault has published a presentation, obtained through FOIA, by the USCYBERCOM Joint Intelligence Operations Center (JIOC), Combat Targets Division entitled “Improving Targeting Support to Cyber Operations.” The presentation, among other things, confirms that the joint targeting cycle has been used for cyber operations, and suggests that Operation Glowing Symphony (the counter-ISIL operation undertaken by USCYBERCOM JTF-ARES) provided significant lessons for cyber targeting. Get the rest here.

Interested in the work of the Archive’s Cyber Vault? Then join our Cyber Fellow Michael Martelle on September 16 at the Atlantic Council for a conversation about recent declassifications concerning the counter-ISIL efforts of JTF Ares and Operation Glowing Symphony. Martelle will be speaking with the Atlantic Council’s Dr. Trey Herr and Pete Cooper, the U.S. Military Academy’s Audrey Alexander, the Naval War College’s Dr. Nina Collars, and the Marine Corps Forces Cyperspace’s Command’s Riley Jennifer.

Register for the event here, or watch the livestream here.

Archive Fellow Barbara Elias on America’s Longest War

National Security Archive fellow – and former director of the Archive’s Afghanistan/Taliban project – Professor Barbara Elias recently spoke with Maine Public Radio about the US’s current negotiations with the Taliban, and a possible end to America’s longest war. Elias is joined by Wilson Center scholar and CNN analyst Aaron David Miller, former Ambassador to Chad and Charge d’Affaires in Tripoli, Libya Larry Miller, and senior fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress James Kitfield, for a discussion on the origins of the war, why it has lasted as long as it has, and what might come next.

TBT Pick – The September 11 Sourcebooks

This week’s #TBT pick commemorates the 18th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, and is our September 11 Sourcebooks. This unique resource is a collection of 15 primary source collections covering topics including U.S. terrorism policy, the declassified U.S. government record on the Taliban, released Federal Aviation Administration 9/11 hijacking reports on the confused U.S. response to the terrorist attacks, and more.

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