NSA Spied on German Officials to Help CIA Escape Scrutiny for Torture & Renditions

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WikiLeaks has published a list of telephone numbers used by German officials, which were targeted by the National Security Agency to help the CIA avoid scandal over torture and renditions of prisoners in the “War on Terrorism.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other officials in the Foreign Ministry had communications intercepted a few days after Steinmeier visited the United States on November 29, 2005, to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

A published NSA intercept summarizing Steinmeier’s communication on December 2 states, “He seemed relieved that he had not received any definitive response from the US Secretary of State regarding press reports of CIA flights through Germany to secret prisons in eastern Europe allegedly used for interrogating terrorism suspects. Steinmeier remarked that Washington is placing great hope in his country’s new government.”

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange described the publication of this information as evidence the “NSA has been used to help the CIA kidnap and torture with impunity.”

“For years, the CIA was systematically abducting and torturing people with the tacit complicity of European governments,” Assange noted. “In 2005, German Foreign Minister Steinmeier was thrilled that his tactic of asking Condoleezza Rice no hard questions about CIA renditions had worked. The US said nothing that would require him to do anything. And how do we know about it? Because the National Security Agency was gloating to the US senior executive about intercepting this cowardly display. Nobody comes out of this looking good.”

The information is latest in a string of publications revealing NSA spying on foreign government officials in France and Germany.

Over 125 German phone numbers targeted by the NSA have now been published. The information demonstrates how widespread the spying has been on the German chancellor’s administration as well as German politicians and other officials who analysts targeted for intelligence on economic and trade issues.

In 2010, WikiLeaks published US State Embassy cables from Chelsea Manning, which showed the Bush administration in 2007 had pressured German officials not to prosecute CIA officers involved in the rendition and torture of Khaled el-Masri. (more…)

CIA Investigation Minimizes Use of Drugs on Rendition & Black Site Detainees

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The CIA has released documents regarding a 2008 Inspector General (IG) investigation into the use of “mind-altering” drugs to enhance or facilitate interrogations undertaken as part of their rendition, “black site” detention, and interrogation-torture (RDI) program. Not surprisingly, a brief investigation found, according to a January 29, 2009 newly declassified letter sent from the CIA IG to Senator Dianne Feinstein, then-chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), that CIA had not used any drugs on detainees for the purpose of interrogations.

The documents were released to Jason Leopold at VICE News, who posted a comprehensive article examining them earlier today. Leopold and I have previously written on the subject of drugging prisoners, and examined an earlier Department of Defense IG report on the subject a few years ago, as well as the use of mefloquine at Guantanamo, about which more below.

The CIA Inspector General, John L. Helgerson, referred Feinstein to a statement by the Director of CIA’s Office of Medical Services (OMS), to the effect that “no ‘mind-altering’ drugs were administered to facilitate interrogations and debriefings because no medications of any kind were used for that purpose.”

But as we shall see, there were many claims by prisoners of drugging during CIA renditions, and later by affiliated “liaison” government officials. Other prisoners claimed they were drugged during the time they were held by CIA itself at their black site prisons. None of those charges were addressed by Helgerson in his investigation, unless they were part of a 5-page section of the new CIA document release that was totally whited out by the CIA FOIA officials.

No CIA detainees were evidently ever interviewed as part of the IG investigation.

Helgerson said that he queried IG investigators working on another investigation of abuse claims by 16 high-value detainees then held at Guantanamo. The alleged abuse concerned treatment by CIA before the detainees were transferred to Guantanamo in 2006. Helgerson said the investigators had no knowledge of “the use of ‘mind-altering’ drugs as a part of the interrogation regimen.” Nothing is known about this IG investigation on detainee complaints.

Helgerson, who is now retired, did refer in his letter to Feinstein to the May 2004 CIA IG report that examined “isolated allegations of mistreatment or abuse of detainees, though he never specifically states that there were no claims of drugging in that “comprehensive review.”

Helgerson said that the CIA IG had investigated “a variety of specific unrelated detainee abuse allegations” since the 2004 report.

MKULTRA, KUBARK, and Phoenix

The issue of CIA drugging of prisoners has historical resonance since CIA engaged in a decades-long program of experimentation on the use of “truth serums” and other drugs, including LSD, for use in interrogations. Known under various acronyms, including Bluebird, MKDELTA and MKSEARCH, the program was best known in popular accounts as MKULTRA. The CIA’s KUBARK interrogation manual from the early 1960s drew specifically upon MKULTRA research when it advocated use of “narcosis” or the use of drugs for interrogations.

The latest version of the KUBARK manual (PDF), released to me last year after a Mandatory Declassification Request, showed a much heavier emphasis on the use of foreign “liaison” agencies for detention of CIA prisoners than had been previously revealed.

The CIA’s 1983 Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual also describes such liaison relationships in some depth, in addition to a discussion of using drugs during interrogation. According to National Security Archive, “The manual was used in numerous Latin American countries as an instructional tool by CIA and Green Beret trainers between 1983 and 1987 and became the subject of executive session Senate Intelligence Committee hearings in 1988 because of human rights abuses committed by CIA-trained Honduran military units.”

This aspect of the CIA’s program both before and after 9/11 has probably had the least amount of emphasis in the press, for partly understandable reasons, as the actions of police or intelligence agencies in foreign countries is least penetrable or open to examination by government or human rights agency, not to mention journalists. (more…)