Obama

Obama’s DOJ: Gina Haspel’s CIA and Enhanced Interrogation Program ‘Saved Lives’

“I was crushed by the South Tower — my chest was caved in. I was buried, almost suffocated and drowned in my own blood. Then the ambulance that I was in was nearly crushed by the collapsing North Tower. Once in the hospital, my chest was cut open while I was wide awake and I watched the burn victim on the next gurney screaming as the doctors attempted to treat her horrifying injuries. I thought 9/11 might be a cure for American amnesia. I was mistaken.” — Robert Reeg, former FDNY, Engine 44

Gina Haspel’s nomination to lead the Central Intelligence Agency as its first female director has hit a stumbling block because of reports that she played some role in the Rendition, Detention, Interrogation (RDI) program at a so-called CIA black site. After news that some members of the Senate are unhappy that she might have been involved in the harsh but then legal interrogation program, Robert Reeg expressed his anger on Facebook, noting that he was about to undergo his sixth surgery for the injuries he sustained 16 years ago responding to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Those most personally affected by 9/11 have maintained the perspective and moral clarity that the entire country once shared. The permanence of their losses, the vivid memories of the horrors they witnessed, prevent them from forgetting the ultimate cause of our government’s inability to protect its citizens from the most deadly attack on America in our nation’s history. The 9/11 Commission declared it a “failure of imagination.” But that was a gloss over of the real problem — the refusal of vast government bureaucracies to put aside turf wars, careerism, and more attention to partisan politics than the real threats that face us.

Now we are seeing it again. Politicians are attacking the very people who have done the most to keep America safe for some of the same reasons, and this is a grave danger.

The RDI program has been unfairly branded a rogue operation and Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs) “torture.” Real torture can be seen in videos made by Al Qaeda and ISIS — Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg, humanitarian aid workers and Christian martyrs lined up for beheading, a caged Jordanian pilot burned alive — which testify to the savage inhumanity of the enemy we, and our troops, continue to face. Worse, contradicting hard evidence, critics of the program are advancing the narrative that it didn’t work.

A succession of CIA directors has declared that the RDI program have netted more actionable intelligence than every other source combined. We don’t have to take their word for it, we can turn to the sworn statement of former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for verification. Appointed by President Barack Obama to head the New York Southern District, he was the lead prosecutor in the 2009 trial of Al Qaeda bomb maker Ahmed Ghailani, captured in Pakistan after a 14-hour gun battle, and charged in a 286 count indictment for his role in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya that killed 224 people and injured 4,000.

In a 132-page legal brief explaining why holding Ghailani for two years in the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation program hadn’t violated his right to a speedy trial, Bharara described how Ghailani’s status as a senior member of Al Qaeda with knowledge of the organization made him suitable for the program. “[T]he defendant was believed to have, and did have, actionable intelligence about al-Qaeda, by virtue of his longstanding position in al-Qaeda; his assistance to known al-Qaeda terrorists; and his close relationship to long-standing al-Qaeda leaders, including Usama Bin Laden.”

The brief continues, “[T]he United States justifiably treated the defendant as an intelligence asset — to obtain from him whatever information it could concerning terrorists and terrorist plots. This was done, simply put, to save lives. And when significant intelligence had been collected from the defendant, the U.S. made the decision to continue holding him as an alien enemy combatant pursuant to the laws of war….” [Emphasis added.]

The brief added a citation to a 4th Circuit Court ruling in the 2004 Zacarias Moussaoui case (charged for his role in the Al Qaeda plan for a “2nd wave” of aviation attacks) which stated that “the value of the detainees in the CIA’s interrogation program ‘can hardly be overstated.’” This was followed by pages of classified information elicited from Ghailani, further stating that “the results of the CIA’s efforts show that the defendant’s value as an intelligence source was not just speculative.” [Emphasis added.]

Ruling in the government’s favor, presiding judge Lewis A. Kaplan, stated that the government had offered credible evidence not only that it was reasonable to believe Ghailani had valuable information essential to combating al-Qaeda and protecting national security, but that this valuable information “could not have been obtained except by putting him in that program….” [Emphasis added.]

It is important to note that all four Office of Legal Counsel memos describing the Rendition, Detention (RDI), and Interrogation program, detailing EIT methods, as well as two Inspector General reports were part of discovery in the case. Thus, the defense was unable to make the kind of egregious accusations and outright falsehoods which have characterized much of the media’s reporting about the program over the last ten years.

Judge Kaplan further said that the government provided credible evidence that Ghailani continued to provide valuable evidence which didn’t diminish over time. This suggests that the CIA repeatedly went back to him after he began cooperating, as new intelligence was acquired. Indeed, to reduce his sentence, Ghailani’s lead defense attorney actually described his client as a “hero” for providing so much valuable intelligence.

Here we have the Obama Justice Department and two federal courts crediting the work done at CIA black sites and the life-saving intelligence gained in the process. Now we have United States Senators condemning Gina Haspel because she was a part of that process.

The record in the Ghailani case is an important rebuttal to the shameful slander of the men and women of the CIA as they scrambled to defend our county after the devastating attack of September 11. At great personal cost, they did everything asked of them by their government. They repeatedly sought legal confirmation that the RDI/EIT program conformed to policy and law. They repeatedly fulfilled their obligation to inform the legislative branch of government as to the details of the program, even inviting members of Congress to help them shape it. Those members stood silent.

How can Congress ask dedicated CIA officers to fulfill their responsibility to protect the country from future attacks knowing that their careers might be in jeopardy or that they might be subject to prosecution, depending on shifting political winds? Gina Haspel has accumulated an exemplary record of achievement in her 33 years with the agency. The rank and file of the agency and 53 former CIA senior officials who cumulatively served seven presidents endorse her. Senators must show that they respect, support and understand the mission of our defenders.

Gina Haspel answered the call on 9/11. Confirm her, senators.

Debra Burlingame, a former attorney, is the sister of Charles F. Burlingame, III, pilot of American Airlines flight 77, Pentagon attack, September 11, 2001.

Congress should override Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA)

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have vowed to override President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, S.2040, known as JASTA, and both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have stated they would sign the bill into law if they were president. It would allow 9/11 family members to bring a lawsuit in federal court against Saudi Arabia. The lawsuit seeks justice; Islamists slaughtered 3,000 men, women, and children on our soil.

It is also a quest for truth. Here’s some: former Senator Bob Kerry refuted claims that the 9/11 Commission cleared the Saudi government of complicity in the September 11 attacks:

Stated most simply, our investigation found substantial evidence that one or more Saudi government employees located in the United States provided direct aid and support to the 9/11 hijackers. Those Saudi government employees were associated with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the same arm of the Saudi government that had primary responsibility for implementing the Kingdom’s global efforts to propagate the radical Wahhabi stream of Islam, and that was responsible for supervising Wahhabi proselytizing organizations that directly sponsored al Qaeda, like Al Haramain.

[See here and here for State Department terror designations of Al Haramain.]

Andrew J. Maloney, Liaison Counsel at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP for the plaintiffs, added (in response to our request for comment):

“While the International Islamic Relief Organization [the IIRO is Saudi Arabia-based] has been deeply involved with al Qaeda since the founding of al Qaeda in Pakistan in 1988, over the past few years our investigation has led us to the bigger picture role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs. While the MOIA has provided oversight of the al Qaeda charities, it has also trained and deployed al Qaeda members and supporters worldwide. And that is just the tip of the iceberg!”

Indeed, the plaintiffs’ 157-page complaint should easily meet JASTA’s litigation threshold requirements. Read it and, in small part, you will discover:

* “In 1993, [Saudi] King Fahd established a new “Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowment (Waqf), Guidance and Da’awa” (the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Da’awa). … With its formation, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Da’awa assumed primary responsibility for supervising and directing the activities of Saudi Arabia’s charity alter-egos, including among others the MWL, IIRO, WAMY, and al Haramain, in keeping with the new ministry’s authority over all Saudi da’awa activities outside of the Kingdom.”

* “In addition to the support that flowed to al Qaeda from the Kingdom’s charity agents and alter-egos, investigations by the United States and its allies have confirmed that officials within the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Da’awa collaborated directly with al Qaeda members, and that agents of the Saudi government, including representatives of the Islamic Affairs Departments in the Saudi embassy in Berlin and the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, provided direct assistance to the September 11th plotters and hijackers, which was essential to the success of the attacks.”

* “As the 9/11 Commission correctly observed, the two hijackers [Hazmi and Mihdhar] were “ill prepared for a mission in the United States. Their only qualifications for this plot were their devotion to Usama Bin Ladin, their veteran service, and their ability to get valid U.S. visas. Neither had spent any time in the West, and neither spoke much, if any, English.” … The Commission concluded it was therefore “unlikely that Hazmi and Mihdhar – neither of whom, in contrast to the Hamburg group, had any prior exposure to life in the West – would have come to the United States without arranging to receive assistance from one or more individuals informed in advance of their arrival.””

* “On February 1, 2000, Bayoumi and Caysan bin Don (a/k/a “Isamu Dyson”) got into Bayoumi’s car and drove nearly two hours from San Diego to the Saudi Arabian Royal Consulate in Los Angeles. Bayoumi had previously disclosed to friends at the ICSD that he had friends at the Saudi Consulate. Although the stated purpose of the trip was to resolve a visa issue and obtain Islamic religious materials and Korans, Bayoumi had told at least one other person prior to the trip that he was going to Los Angeles to pick up visitors.”

* “Upon arriving at the Saudi Consulate, Bayoumi met for an hour with an official from the Consulate’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs office, Fahad al Thumairy. U.S. officials have concluded that Thumairy and Bayoumi discussed the recent arrival of future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar in the United States, and Bayoumi was tasked with getting them welcomed and assimilated into the San Diego Muslim community. … Thumairy, who was twenty-nine years old at the time of the meeting with Bayoumi, graduated with a degree in Islamic studies from the Imam Muhammad Bin Saudi Islamic University in the Kingdom and immediately joined the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs.”

* “Thumairy was an accredited diplomat at the Saudi Consulate from 1996 to 2003, and further served as a religious leader at the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, CA, a mosque that had been built with financial assistance from the government of Saudi Arabia. As of January 2000, Thumairy acted as the Saudi Consulate’s liaison to the King Fahd Mosque, per the request of his superiors at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. After arriving in the United States on January 15, Hazmi and Mihdhar reportedly spent time at the King Fahd Mosque until their move to San Diego a few short weeks later.”

* “Bayoumi (a/k/a “Omar Ahmad Mustafa Al-Baioomi”), was a long-time employee of the Saudi Arabian government … a top FBI official has stated that “We [the FBI] firmly believed that he [Bayoumi] had knowledge [of the 9/11 plot], and that his meeting with them [Hazmi and Mihdhar] that day was more than coincidence.””

* “Evidence further indicates that an additional source of Saudi government funding used to support the activities of Hazmi and Mihdhar while in the United States came by way of Bayoumi’s relationship with Osama Yousef Basnan, another agent of the Saudi government who was being groomed to replace Bayoumi in San Diego. Basnan, known as a vocal al Qaeda sympathizer and further described by U.S. intelligence as an “ardent UBL [Osama bin Laden] supporter” who “has been in contact with UBL family members,” was a target of FBI investigations as early as 1992.”

* “… on October 17, 1992, Basnan hosted a party in Washington D.C. for Omar Abdul Rahman (a/k/a the “Blind Sheikh”) who is currently serving a life sentence following his conviction for his role in supporting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and for plotting a “day of terror” in which he planned to attack the United Nations in New York City, bomb the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, and assassinate then-Senator Alfonse D’Amato. … FBI sources further report that in September 2000, Basnan was in phone and email contact with senior al Qaeda member and key facilitator for the September 11th attacks, Ramzi Binalshibh. Binalshibh himself confirmed his relationship with Basnan during interrogations by U.S. officials following his capture in Karachi, Pakistan on September 11, 2002.” [Binalshibb is alleged to be the 9/11 plot coordinator, then located in Germany, and is currently awaiting trial by Military Commission at Guantanamo Bay alongside Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.]

* “The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs is further implicated in the September 11th terrorist attacks by virtue of the relationship between the 9/11 plot’s “Hamburg cell” and the head of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs office in the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Berlin, Germany, Muhammad Jaber Hassan Fahiki. The “Hamburg cell” consisted of key operatives in the September 11th attacks, including Mohammed Atta (the ringleader of the 19 hijackers who piloted American Airlines Flight 11), Marwan al Shehhi (piloted United Airlines Flight 175), Ziad Jarrah (piloted United Airlines Flight 93), Ramzi Binalshibh, Mounir el Motassadeq, Said Bahaji, Zakariya Essabar, Abdelghani Mzoudi, and others.”

Congress should override Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.

9/11 family members deserve the opportunity to present their case in federal court. Yet every American needs to know if and when Saudi Arabia replaced Iran as the number one state sponsor of terrorism.

Obama and Senate Intel Cmte tortured the truth about CIA’s enhanced interrogation program

President Barack Obama said on Friday, “In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right. But we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.” Yet the Department of Justice has twice closed investigations of alleged torture by the CIA without filing charges against anyone. Obama’s remarks were not only politically self-serving and contrary to the findings of fact, they went viral in the Muslim world and provided Islamist radicals with ready-made propaganda with which they will recruit many to the jihad.

In February 2013, I did what the Senate Intelligence Committee did not do while it spent years and $50 million dollars “investigating” whether EITs provided credible intelligence; I interviewed a top official directly involved with the program, Jose Rodriguez who headed the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. He directed the enhanced interrogations of high-value detainees, and led worldwide intelligence collection programs and covert action operations. Here is the complete audio of my Freedom Radio interview of him:

If you listened, you heard Mr. Rodriguez tell of how the enhanced interrogation program was developed and that it was briefed to leaders in Congress in August and September of 2002, including those on the House and Senate intelligence committees.

A detainee — after he became compliant through the use of EITs — was the first to tell the CIA that Ahmed al-Kuwaiti was bin Laden’s courier; interrogating and observing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confirmed that it was credible information. Subsequently, the CIA got the courier’s real name through human intelligence and traditional trade craft, they spotted him in Pakistan, and he led them to Osama bin Laden:

“No doubt about it; the information that was obtained from al Qaeda terrorists in our custody at our black sites using enhanced interrogation techniques led to the demise of bin Laden.”

It is important to understand the scope of the intelligence gained. Mr. Rodriguez described it:

“The intervening ten years we were up against all kinds of threats, a second wave of attacks. We also knew they had a nuclear program, they had a biological weapons program, they had operatives that were coming after us, and the enhanced interrogation program gave us the intelligence that allowed us to capture all of them or kill them. We were actually able to decimate al Qaeda because of this program.

“This program was the key to doing that. And to say otherwise is to try to rewrite history, and it based on ideology and politics which really is of great concern to me. We need an honest assessment of the value of these techniques, and if we can’t be honest with ourselves, I think we are in big trouble.”

What we did right after 9/11 included not rewarding unlawful enemy combatants with the Geneva Conventions protection to not answer questions. Overwhelming, Americans believe those protections should only be provided to lawful enemy combatants who follow the Rules of War.

My family and I thank those who did what was necessary to defend our Nation. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,000-page deception about the effectiveness of EITs and President Obama falsely claiming that detainees were tortured will not diminish our appreciation.