In this secret facility known to prisoners as "The Hangar" and believed to be at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, al Libi told fellow "ghost prisoners," one recalled to me for a PBS "Frontline" to be broadcast tonight, an incredible story of his treatment over the previous two years: of how questioned at first by Americans, by the FBI and then CIA, of how he was threatened with torture. And then how he was rendered to a jail cell in Egypt where the threats became a reality.
In a CIA sub-station close to al Libi's jail cell, the CIA's "debriefers," who had been talking to al Libi for days after his return from Cairo, were typing out a series of operational cables to be sent Feb. 4 and Feb. 5 to the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Va. In the view of some insiders, these cables provide the "smoking gun" on the whole rendition program -- a convincing account of how the rendition program was, they say, illegally sending prisoners into the hands of torturers.
Under torture after his rendition to Egypt, al Libi had provided a confession of how Saddam Hussein had been training al Qaeda in chemical weapons. This evidence was used by Colin Powell at the United Nations a year earlier (February 2003) to justify the war in Iraq. ("I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these [chemical and biological] weapons to al Qaeda," Powell said. "Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story.")
But now, hearing how the information was obtained, the CIA was soon to retract all this intelligence. A Feb. 5 cable records that al Libi was told by a "foreign government service" (Egypt) that: "the next topic was al-Qa'ida's connections with Iraq...This was a subject about which he said he knew nothing and had difficulty even coming up with a story."
Meanwhile, al Libi, who told fellow prisoners in Bagram he was returned to U.S. custody from Egypt on Nov. 22, 2003, has disappeared. He was not among the "high-value prisoners" transferred to Guantanamo last year.
So, torture produced "evidence" of Hussein's WMD programs, evidence that was directly pipelined to senior Bush administration officials, who immediately included it in Powell's presentation. In other words, torture served its only purpose, which is to produce false confessions that are useful to the authority doing the torturing. Everywhere on the right advocates of torture argue that we may legitimately torture to save American lives, in fact, that it is something we can be proud of (a disgusting argument that illustrates the degradation of our values.) It is assumed by these brave defenders of our democracy that torture actually saves lives, though the Bush administration cannot point to even a single example where torture practiced by us or one of our "allies" produced legitimate intelligence that saved lives. Justifiers of torture argue that we must be prepared to use whatever means to save lives that are in imminent danger, but here in the real world, we see that torture has actually been used to produce false statements that are politically convenient. When, if you recall the history of torture and its primary uses throughout time, should have been fully anticipated.
Torture is wrong. It is evil and it perverts and undermines our democracy. And a majority of Americans agree.