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Sunday, January 25, 2015

80 percent of this harsh interrogation program was outsourced to outside contractors who had no clue about interrogations. We left our most important prisoners to amateurs.

Ex-FBI Official: 'We Left Our Most Important Prisoners To Amateurs'

The notorious "Camp X-Ray" has been abandoned, but the US prison facility at Guantanamo for suspected terrorists is still in operation.Zoom
The notorious "Camp X-Ray" has been abandoned, but the US prison facility at Guantanamo for suspected terrorists is still in operation.
Former FBI agent Ali Soufan was one of the first to interrogate terror suspects at Guantanamo. He later left the prison and criticized torture methods used by the CIA. He accuses the government of turning interrogations of inmates over to outsourced amateurs.

Ali Soufan, a 43-year-old US citizen, worked as a special agent for the FBI until 2005 as part of its efforts to combat terrorism. In March 2002, he and a colleague were the first to interrogate Abu Zubaydah, who at that point was considered the most important al-Qaida prisoner held by the Americans. Because Soufan was born in Lebanon and speaks Arabic, and because he could quote the Koran during questioning, he was able to build up trust with the prisoner.
He was able to glean extensive information from Zubaydah. Nevertheless, the CIA still chose Zubayadah as the first prisoner on whom to test its "enhanced interrogation techniques". He was forced to undergo waterboarding and other cruel measures at least 83 times. In the prison where Zubaydah was interrogated, Soufan met James Mitchell, one of the two highly controversial men behind the CIA interrogation programs. In protest over the torture methods, Soufan left Guantanamo in the summer of 2002. SPIEGEL published the following interview with Soufan in its Dec. 15, 2014 issue. We are now posting an English version in conjunction with this week's release of "Guantánamo Diary," by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the first prisoner still being held to detail his torture experiences at the US military facility. You can read an excerpt from Slahi's book here.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Soufan, during your time as an FBI agent, you spent years conducting interrogations. Now you have also written a book about torture at secret American prisons. Were there any surprises for you in the recently released US Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture?Soufan: Yes, there were few things I didn't know. That we put prisoners (including Zubaydah) in a big box for a total of 266 hours -- that's 11 days and 2 hours -- and that we simply kept one of our most important prisoners, our only high-value-detainee at the time, in total isolation for 47 days instead of questioning him and gaining important information. As a matter of fact, I didn't know about these things.
SPIEGEL: Were details of the report still shocking to you, even though you had known about the allegations for years?
Soufan: At some point it was difficult for me to read on, especially the passages about the torture of the first important prisoner we interrogated, the terror facilitator Zubaydah. The level of unprofessionalism that the report reveals is incredible. It is really shocking. But I should not be surprised, given that 80 percent of this harsh interrogation program was outsourced to outside contractors who had no clue about interrogations. We left our most important prisoners to amateurs.
SPIEGEL: Was this new to you as well?
Soufan: No, I knew about that before. Sadly, I had to experience it firsthand and listen to the contractors' theories. It was awful. There's another interesting fact: After 9/11, we wanted to improve communication between the FBI and the CIA and tear down the so-called Chinese wall between the agencies. After all, it was the lack of information transfer that had rendered 9/11 possible. But what we read in the report now is the exact opposite: the report revealed that there was a clear intent to wall off the FBI and military from the interrogation business of al-Qaida detainees.
SPIEGEL: Has the US made new enemies by publishing all these gruesome details?
Soufan: Our enemies are our enemies. I don't think that there will be notable protests. People around the world knew what we were doing. The world knows that we tortured. And that definitely played into our enemies' narratives: Regardless whether they call themselves the Islamic State, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb or al-Shabab, there are thousands of people around the world nowadays adhering to Osama bin Laden's ideas. We did not have the right strategy and sometimes we had bad tactics. We put people in orange jumpsuits, and now our enemies are putting innocent hostages in orange jumpsuits. We are involved in an asymmetrical conflict to win hearts and minds. This is not how you win hearts and minds in the Arab and Muslim worlds. This is not how you counter the narrative of authoritarian regimes and terrorists.

A screenshot from an Islamic State propaganda video shows two Japanese hostages in orange jumpsuits.
A screenshot from an Islamic State propaganda video shows two Japanese hostages in orange jumpsuits. 
SPIEGEL: When did you first realize that these "enhanced interrogation methods" were being used?Soufan: During the summer of 2002 -- in a secret prison in a country that I still can't name, because it's classified information. It began when this psychologist arrived. Up to that point, we had conducted the traditional questionings and interrogations according to the principle of "rapport building". First you establish a relationship with the prisoner -- you have to win him over -- and then he'll tell you things.
SPIEGEL: And how is that done?
Soufan: By engaging in a mental poker game with them, but consistently presenting them with facts and evidence of their guilt, by speaking their language -- both figuratively and literally -- which is something none of these private contractors for the CIA could do. For example, I questioned Salim Ahmed Hamdan, bin Laden's driver, in Guantanamo. I offered him tea, made it possible for him to call his wife -- those are things that had been promised to him, but the promises weren't kept. During the interrogations, I lay down next to him on the floor, and then we talked. That's classic "rapport building".
SPIEGEL: In 2002, you dealt with Zubaydah, a high-ranking prisoner. He had been captured in Pakistan in March 2002, but suffered serious gunshot wounds during his arrest. At the time, President George W. Bush hailed the arrest as a great victory. He was to be the first prisoner on whom these enhanced interrogation methods would be tried out.
Soufan: Yes, everyone was very excited, and word came clearly from Washington that it was essential that we keep him alive. My FBI colleagues and I were the first people who spoke with him. And Zubaydah cooperated from the start.
SPIEGEL: Even though he was in very bad health?
Soufan: Yes, so bad that we had to later bring him to the hospital, so he wouldn't die on us during the interrogations. It was certainly weird somehow. We were fighting for the life of a terrorist whose declared goal was to kill Americans, but he has information that we badly needed. My partner and I sat by his bed for days, looked after him, held his hand. And we talked with him, in Arabic. When he was too weak to speak, we worked with a chart of the Arabic alphabet. He cooperated with that, too.
SPIEGEL: Did you obtain relevant information using this method?
Soufan: Absolutely. In fact, long before the special interrogation techniques were used on Zubaydah. While he was still in his hospital bed, he began to tell us things. He was the first to identify Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (who went by the codename "Mukhtar") and to explain to us what a crucial role he played in the Sept. 11 attacks. When we showed him pictures, actually in relation to someone else, he suddenly said, "That's Mukhtar, the guy who planned 9/11." He revealed to us the people pulling the strings behind the attacks, entirely without torture, without waterboarding, without us having asked or anticipated that.
SPIEGEL: President Bush later suggested that those things were the result of successful "enhanced interrogation techniques," in other words, of the interrogation program. The CIA claims to this day that that was the case.
Soufan: That is not true. The CIA's contractors hadn't even arrived at the secret prison at that point. To this day, I am not aware of any relevant intelligence that was obtained through the use of torture. The Senate report confirms this as well.

Ali Soufan is pictured here in New York: "I am not aware of any relevant intelligence that was obtained through the use of torture."
Peter Lüders/ DER SPIEGEL
Ali Soufan is pictured here in New York: "I am not aware of any relevant intelligence that was obtained through the use of torture."
SPIEGEL: What happened next with Zubaydah after he was released from the hospital?Soufan: While he was still in the hospital, the CIA sent us word that the tactics used with him were going to change. Interrogations of Zubaydah would now be orchestrated only by CIA contractors, without the presence of FBI in the room. This change in strategy was contradictory to all the successes we had achieved up to that point. We tried to offer them compromises; these were refused without discussion. The contractors had one set idea: They were convinced that Zubaydah had only given up useless information so far, and kept the important things to himself.
SPIEGEL: And then the CIA's new contractor, psychologist James Mitchell, arrived at the location of this secret prison?
Soufan: Yes, although I can't confirm that name to you. As a former FBI agent, I am still bound not to violate confidentiality. And officially the name of the psychologist remains confidential information. It's absurd, but that's how it is. In my book, I called the psychologist Boris, so let's call him that as well. Boris, after Zubaydah's release from the hospital, took over immediately. The prisoner was taken to a completely white room, without daylight or windows, only four halogen lights on the ceiling. The room's interrogation corner was also sectioned off with a white curtain. All the people he saw, meanwhile, were dressed in black: uniforms, boots, gloves, glasses - everything was black. It was explained to us that the only human contact he has will be with his interrogator.
SPIEGEL: Did you speak with Boris, the psychologist?
Soufan: Yes, and he told me he would force Zubaydah to submit. He should see his interrogator as a sort of god, someone capable of controlling his suffering. In this way, Boris told me, he would quickly become pliable. Zubaydah, he said, needed to understand that he had wasted his chance to cooperate and that we were no longer playing his game. When I told him that he had in fact already divulged information, he wasn't interested.
SPIEGEL: According to the report, the CIA implemented its new interrogation methods in mid-April 2002. Were you still there at the time?
Soufan: Not in the room, but I was still there, yes. First they undressed him. That would humiliate him, Boris said, and he would cooperate in order to get his clothing back. They also bombarded him with loud music. He would eventually talk in order to get the music to stop, Boris said. The same rock song was played again and again, all day. Even in the observation room, the music made us feel sick. Then Boris decided to try sleep deprivation. But that, too, failed to increase Zubaydah's willingness to cooperate. The worst part for us was that for days we had to watch as methods were used that no decent interrogator would ever consider.
SPIEGEL: Were you the only one who saw it that way at the time?
Soufan: No, my partner and also many of the CIA officers saw it the same way, and they contacted headquarters in Langley for instructions.
SPIEGEL: Did you see Zubaydah again later?
Soufan: Yes, after they had no success with their methods, they let us talk to him again. That was difficult. He didn't understand what was happening here. Not even we understood it. He was naked, and we gave him a towel, so he could cover himself. We gave him a chair, so he could sit, and offered him water. He talked to us, and he revealed some details -- an alleged plan to build a "dirty bomb," a radioactive bomb, for example. After that the contractors attempted to take over again. The entire thing was very frustrating, not only for us, also for the CIA personnel on the premises. Again and again, we wrote to our superiors that it couldn't go on like this. These letters of protest can now be read in the Senate report. The report also notes that some of the CIA personnel had tears in their eyes as they watched Zubaydah being waterboarded later on by the contractors. But all that did nothing to change the situation.
SPIEGEL: When did you decide to leave?
Soufan: In late May, I called FBI headquarters and told them about the sleep deprivation, the box, the loud music. The answer from FBI HQ was unambiguous: "We don't do that sort of thing. Come back." It was totally frustrating, and eventually we flew back to the US.
SPIEGEL: How do you explain the fact that the CIA outsourced the interrogation of the United States' most important prisoner to incompetent psychologists and that all the checks and balances within the system failed?
Soufan: It wasn't the entire CIA. Ultimately, I believe the decision was made by just a few people, who chose this course of action for political reasons, security reasons and business reasons. Many of the CIA officers were just as horrified as I was. And by the way, their massive complaints led in 2004 to an investigation and to the very critical report by CIA Inspector General John Helgerson.
SPIEGEL: But to this day, the CIA has not distanced itself from what it did. On the contrary, it continues to defend these methods as necessary in combatting terrorism.
Soufan: Yes, and they didn't just give these two psychologists free rein for months and then call the whole thing off as failed and cruel. The two psychologists were allowed to conduct their nonsensical interrogation program for four years, from 2002 to 2006. And they earned over $80 million in doing so. Unbelievable.
SPIEGEL: What conclusions can be drawn from the Senate report?

Soufan: The good thing is that this report can't be gotten rid of. It's not a political report, it's an impressive collection of facts: Hundreds of thousands of documents and CIA dispatches were analyzed. The report is an impressive 6,800 pages, including 38,000 footnotes. That's an enormous achievement. So far, we've only seen a little under 600 pages of that, so not quite 10 percent. That's something we need to continue to remind ourselves. But we've also shown, as a nation, that we're prepared to extensively illuminate this dark side of our history. A bipartisan vote led to the investigation, and a bipartisan vote lead to the declassification. Devoting attention to this chapter was not a lone decision made by (Democratic) Senator Dianne Feinstein -- she and others like (Republican) Senator John McCain have to be applauded for taking a huge political risk to do the right thing.SPIEGEL: Should those who conducted the torture and those who approved this program be tried in court?
Soufan: I don't think this chapter can be dealt with through legal action in today's political environment. However, we must ensure that these interrogation methods are never used again. All of us, across party lines, must read this report intensively, take its results seriously and learn from them. 

Red Alert Update: At the Heart of the Mariupol Crisis 

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As the situation on the ground quiets down in the wake of the Jan. 24 barrage by Russian-allied forces near the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Stratfor is continuing the watch initiated by our Red Alert. We believe, at the very least, that Russia is keeping its option to mount an offensive open, and at most, is preparing to launch an offensive to secure its hold on the Crimean Peninsula.
The artillery barrage in Mariupol has died down, and according to the Ukrainian military's local commander, there have been no attacks today. Some diplomacy is spinning up, and mutual charges of responsibility are being exchanged. The pro-Russian faction is blaming the Ukrainian military for the attack, and the Ukrainians are charging that the Russian military initiated the barrage, not Ukrainian pro-Russian factions. The fog of war is being supplemented by deliberate disinformation on all sides. The issue is whether this was an isolated incident or part of an extended strategy. If it is, it is not a Ukrainian strategy. Following recent defeats, Ukraine is not in a position to go on the offensive in this region, despite a noticeable build up and mobilization of Ukrainian forces in recent weeks. The Russians, however, have been moving regular forces, including some first-rate units, into Donbas. More important than the charges and counter-charges is this fact: At this moment, the rebels are being strongly reinforced by Russian forces, and those forces have an operational advantage but a strategic problem.
Consider this from the standpoint of a Russian military planner. The operational advantage is that the separatists have more and better forces available for combat. The strategic problem is that this advantage is temporary. If the United States chooses to increase arms transfers and training, the operational gap will close in 6-12 months. The rebels' broader strategic problem is geographical. Russia holds Crimea, but it has little sustainable contact with its forces there. Both sea and air transport can be interdicted. The best access to the peninsula is by land, but the routes are heavily defended by mobile and strategic surface to air missiles and armor to the north. Opening the route up would not be easy, but it would dramatically increase Ukraine's cost of severing Russia's link to Crimea. Without this, blockading Crimea would be relatively easy for the United States, Ukraine and other allies once their capabilities are increased and more units are deployed.
There is a connection to Crimea over the Kerch Strait from Russia proper of course, now based on ferry traffic but with plans for a bridge. But if war were to come, such tenuous links can easily be closed by a capable enemy. They are useful in peacetime, but vulnerable in war and near-war situations.

If Russia is serious about holding on to Crimea, it has a diplomatic route and a military route that it can use. The diplomatic route would be to gain international recognition of its hold on Crimea. That will be difficult to get, certainly if Russia is passive. The alternative is to create a military presence that might be attacked but would have significant ability to resist. The third option is to use the threat of an attack on Ukrainian positions to force a more favorable political settlement. If that fails, Russia still has the superior strategic position that it has now.
If the Russians are serious about holding Crimea, and if their calculation of how the correlation of forces will shift over coming months is the same as ours, then they now have a window of opportunity to redefine the strategic reality using their current operational superiority. Whether this results in a diplomatic settlement instead of further combat will be up to the West.
The counter-argument will be that, given Russia's economic problems, the diplomatic consequences of further offensive operations would increase the strain on Russia. From a political point of view, however, pure passivity in the face of sanctions that are not the critical factor in Russia's economic downturn will hurt the government's legitimacy at home while offering no real economic advantage. In addition, the Americans are not eager for a Ukrainian conflict while their forces are engaged in the Middle East. Therefore, while nothing is certain, a Russian strategist might well calculate that the risks of passivity are higher than those that come with an offensive. The military buildup in Donbas, the concentration of artillery, certain incursions by Russian aircraft that would be needed to keep Western aircraft at a distance from the battle zone, including aircraft with standoff anti-armor capabilities, indicate to us that the Russians are at least keeping this option open, and at most, are preparing to launch an offensive.
Good strategy involves creating options while withholding commitment to any particular course until the political and diplomatic possibilities are played out in the context of a build up. It would seem to us that this is what the Russians are doing, while signaling capability if not yet intent. However, the Americans sending the commander of the U.S. Army to Kiev on a very public visit is a signal that the window is closing. That forces Russia to make decisions sooner rather than later.
The Red Alert we issued yesterday was triggered by what appeared to be artillery preparation by the Russians at exactly the point when a move toward Crimea would be launched. That was alarming. We think it was meant by the Russians to be alarming, a warning of Russian operational superiority and strategic imperatives. Things have quieted down. The quiet ought not to be taken as the end of anything.
We call Red Alerts when action is underway. While the action has now halted, the underlying crisis is intensifying. There are exits from the path to an offensive, though it is not clear that either side is prepared to pay the toll needed for the exit.

Read more:  Red Alert Update: At the Heart of the Mariupol Crisis | Stratfor
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The technology revolution, which has been turbo-charged by globalisation, is an economic upheaval comparable in its scale and scope to the Industrial Revolution.

The last time we negotiated a comparable political and economic transition – the Industrial Revolution – it took economic depression, two world wars and communist revolutions in Russia and China before we were able to establish a new, economically and politically sustainable status quo

Even plutocrats can see profound inequality isn’t in their interests

As the smartest of the super-rich now understand, income inequality must be addressed before it tears societies apart

Chrystia Freeland 
Saturday 24 January 2015 22.30 EST

Not so long ago, inequality was a dirty word. The experience of my friend Branko Milanovic, the world’s foremost expert on global income inequality, was typical. “I was once told by the head of a prestigious thinktank in Washington DC that the thinktank’s board was unlikely to fund any work that had income or wealth inequality in its title,” Milanovic recalled in his 2011 book on the subject.

These were the days when Mitt Romney said discussions of income inequality should be conducted only in quiet rooms and when an American private equity tycoon compared an effort to raise taxes on his industry to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. To mention the increasing concentration of wealth at the very top was to court accusations of class envy – indeed, in his 2011 book, even Bill Clinton admonished Barack Obama for his tone in talking to and about America’s super-rich. After my book, Plutocrats, was published in 2012, I was even – and I know this will shock you – disinvited to a Davos dinner party!

Just three years later, inequality hasn’t merely become a subject fit for polite company, it has become de rigueur. It was a central preoccupation at a conference on inclusive capitalism at the Mansion House and Guildhall last May. The event was organised by Lady Lynn de Rothschild and the opening speaker was Prince Charles. And at Davos, income inequality has gone from taboo to top of the agenda.

There’s a good reason for this pivot. Rising inequality is becoming so pronounced it is impossible to ignore. The latest jaw-dropping statistic is Oxfam’s calculation that by next year, the top 1% will own more of the world’s wealth than the bottom 99%. What is less apparent is how those of us who have been worried about income inequality for a long time should respond to the embrace of this issue by the plutocrats themselves.
It is easy to be sceptical. But we should welcome the plutocratic critique of plutocracy. Here’s why. 

Surging income inequality is a symptom of a broader transformation in how capitalism is working in the 21st century. This change has brought tremendous benefits – it has helped to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the emerging markets and provided cheaper goods and services, and many brand new ones, for us in the industrialised world. But it is also hollowing out the incomes and wealth of the western middle class, even as it enriches those at the very top.

This distributional shift is the great economic and political challenge of our time. It will tear some societies apart. The successful ones will be those that figure out how to solve it together.

The technology revolution, which has been turbo-charged by globalisation, is an economic upheaval comparable in its scale and scope to the Industrial Revolution. Just as the Industrial Revolution did not bring the end of farming, the technology revolution won’t bring the end of manufacturing. But just as the agricultural sector shrank as a share of the overall economy, particularly in terms of employment, the relative size of the industrial sector will decline, too.

Mike Moffatt, an economist at the Ivey School of  Business in London, Ontario, likes to use the example of Gary Works, in Indiana, to illustrate what is going on. It was once the world’s largest steel mill and remains the largest integrated steel mill in North America. At its postwar peak, Gary Works employed 30,000 people and could produce 6m tons of steel a year. Today, Gary can produce more than 7m tons of steel working at full capacity, but it takes just 5,000 workers to do that.
The same forces that have transformed Gary Works are changing every sphere of human activity. This isn’t just about the assembly line any more – 99% of us are, metaphorically, Gary steel workers.

The lucky 0.1% own a Gary Works or have invented the technologies that transformed them, and the rest of the top 1% work for them. Until now, these winners in our winner-take-all economy have backed a set of political measures – weaker unions, deregulation, lower taxes – which have exacerbated the distributional impact of the new economy.
As even Davos Man has realised, that is not sustainable. 

The weak economic growth that much of the western industrialised world is currently experiencing suggests that an economic system that hollows out the middle class will struggle to grow. And the vicious political polarisation should make us worry that an economy that produces cheap goods but even cheaper jobs will ultimately erode mass democracy.

Some think a violent confrontation between the new economy’s winners and losers is inevitable. As Nick Hanauer, an American technology billionaire, warned last year: “If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us.” He’s right. After all, the last time we negotiated a comparable political and economic transition – the Industrial Revolution – it took economic depression, two world wars and communist revolutions in Russia and China before we were able to establish a new, economically and politically sustainable status quo.

That is a very high cost indeed. Which is why the smartest plutocrats understand it is in their best interest to work to build a 21st-century version of inclusive capitalism. For our own sakes, we should give them a chance to join the rest of us in figuring that out.

Chrystia Freeland, ex-deputy editor of the FT, is a Liberal MP in the Canadian parliament and author of Plutocrats (2012)

How Obama can enforce existing law to force the reduction of reliance on fossil fuels

Fossil fuels must stay in ground to stop warming

Two-thirds of the world’s fossil-fuel reserves must remain unburnt to hold temperature increases below dangerous levels, according to researchers at University College London.
Half the world’s known gas reserves, one-third of the oil and 80 percent of the coal should remain in the ground and unused before 2050 to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius, the maximum climate scientists say is advisable, according to a report from the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources.
“Policy makers must realize that their instincts to completely use the fossil fuels within their countries are wholly incompatible with their commitments to the 2 degrees Celsius goal,” UCL research associate and lead author Christophe McGlade said in the report, which was published recently in the scientific journal Nature.
The research will heighten the debate about so-called stranded assets, the idea that the reserves of oil drillers and coal miners have little value because the fight against climate change will require them to be left in the ground.
While disputed by energy companies, the issue has been gaining greater prominence in recent months. Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney said last year he’d instructed staff to consider whether stranded assets posed a threat to banks, investors and the financial system.
The UCL report, funded by the U.K. Energy Research Center, said that the “overwhelming majority” of coal reserves in China, Russia and the U.S. must remain unburnt, along with 260 billion barrels of Middle East oil and 60 percent of its gas reserves.
Governments are adopting policies to cut carbon dioxide emissions and meet the 2 degrees Celsius target agreed in Copenhagen six years ago.
The International Energy Agency estimates that based on current trends the world may warm 3.6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, raising the risk of more violent storms, droughts and rising sea levels.
The United Nations said in November that the world must halt fossil-fuel emissions within the next six decades to prevent irreversible impacts from a warming planet.
The U.N. estimates that to stand a 50 percent chance of holding global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, emissions since the late 19th century need to be limited to 3,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide, with 63 percent of that already released by 2011. That means there’s 1,100 gigatons left, or at best 30 percent of the 3,700 gigatons to 7,100 gigatons of carbon dioxide contained in known fossil fuel reserves that are economically recoverable, according to the U.N.
The world’s biggest producers of coal, oil and gas reject the concept of stranded assets, saying fossil fuels are needed to provide affordable energy.
Exxon Mobil Corp. said in March that its natural-gas reserves won’t become stranded as global demand grows and the drive for higher living standards in developing nations trumps efforts to curtail carbon emissions.
Glencore, the biggest coal exporter, said in its sustainability report that fossil fuels will be a vital element of the world’s energy sources for some time to come.