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Harrowing Cables Detail How the CIA Tortured Accused 9/11 Mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Jeopardizing the Case Against Him

Published: September 12, 2019
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Source: The Intercept

In March 2003, in a secret CIA prison cell in Poland, a small frog jumped out of a drain and an interrogator caught it.

“No, no,” said Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused architect of the 9/11 attacks. “Let it stay.” He asked that the frog be returned to the drain.

Later that day, an unnamed observer included the incident in a CIA cable addressed to “IMMEDIATE DIRECTOR,” calling it “a poignant moment.”

 
C06718741 3 pages

The CIA interrogation program has been well documented. But recently declassified cables, published here for the first time, reveal in new detail interrogators’ attempts to transform detainees into collaborators in the war against Al Qaeda.

The cables chronicle the banal and brutal moments of Mohammed’s so-called enhanced interrogation over a period of almost four weeks in 2003. They display in cold bureaucratic prose the thinking behind torture tactics, including waterboarding, “walling,” and sleep deprivation. And they exhibit a committed belief that enhanced measures always move detainees closer to an imagined breaking point that, once met, force them to produce more accurate information — a belief that the 2014 Senate torture report showed to have been wrong.

“Keep pushing,” a cable urges, “until [Mohammed] reaches his resistance limit, and then exploit his weakness when it occurs.”

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