Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Last Great Hate

The Last Great Hate

Countless are the dead

In graves unmarked,

Lost in jungles and the deep

Cool repose of oceans and lakes.

Burned beyond recognition and identification

Reduced to atoms wandering unseen.

Countless are the dead

In graves marked with ritual head stones,

Celebrated in story and song,

Comrades in the death of the brave

Honored in valor blind, as acts of reason

Faith, fealty and flag.

Countless are the dead

Made enemies by the color of a uniform

The emblem of a flag, a holy book,

The color of their skin, or a different tongue,

Loyal to an oath prescribed

By those who dictated their demise.

Unspeakable are the atrocities

Of men who tremble

At the words: commonality,

Brothers and sisters in humanity,

Preferring warriors and enemies,

And the bestiality of power.

Unspeakable are the atrocities

Of men who have given

Knowing license to unleashing

The darkest corners of our being

In the name of ennobled killing

And savage desperate depravity.

Unspeakable are the atrocities

Of those who speak

Of the honored warrior,

Slaves to their decrees of destruction,

Marching to the drum beat

Of primeval slaughter.

When The moral war has ended

Who will count up

The unborn killed in the

Wombs of their Mother’s;

Who will explain Why a child

Must live Maimed and in pain.

When the moral war has ended

Who will tell the truth

Of why a Father, Mother or lover

Has died and Why all the medals

And tri corner flag

is more important than life.

When the moral war has ended

And the masters of power Are ashes and dust,

A trillion lives shattered

On their lies of honored sacrifice,

A world no better

Awaiting the last great hate.

We have lost the war,

The war of words, the war of idea,

The war of principle

Because we honor the warrior

Sworn to an order to kill even us;

To uphold the right of barbarism.

We have lost the war,

As somewhere approaching dawn

A rifle is cradled set for the kill,

The aircraft glides to rain death from the sky

And iron vehicles prepare to roll over human flesh

Amid all the fires of hell man can generate.

We have lost the war

To salvage civility from condoned savagery

In name of all that is different,

And like a God we have a self-ordained right

To remake or destroy

Humanity as we see fit.

We have lost the war

In The Last Great Hate.

Velvet Revolution, Sweet Revenge: Maria Belen Chapur and Mark Sanford, Sotomayor Noise Makers And Alternet News

Velvet Revolution, Sweet Revenge: Maria Belen Chapur and Mark Sanford, Sotomayor Noise Makers And Alternet News

Torture: What Is The Difference?

Velvet Revolution: Disbar Torture Lawyers Press Conference - Nat’l Press Club DC - June 29, 2009

Kevin Zeese Files Bar Complaints Against Torture Lawyers Rizzo And Fredman

The Corporate Media State Has Deformed American Culture -- Time to Fight Back
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig
Progressives must embrace emotion and passion to counter the force of corporate propaganda.
Read more

"More Better Faster!": How Our Spastic Digital Culture Scrambles Our Brains
By David Bollier, On the Commons
The digital communications apparatus is crowding out deeper relationships and more deliberative modes of thinking.
Read more

DC Metro Crash: Who Will Die Next Because We Throw Money At Billionaries and Scrimp on the Public Good?
By Dave Zirin, The Nation
The wreckage of the DC train crash is not an accident site. It's a crime scene. When we spend more on sports stadiums than infrastructure, people die.
Read more

Why Does Our Government Still Spy On, Arrest and Persecute Dissidents?
By Emily Spence, Consortium News
One needn't return in time to the McCarthy Era to find many individuals who have been investigated and persecuted for holding vilified opinions.
Read more

E-Mail From Hilda Solis to Employees Who Defaced Gay Pride Posters at U.S. Dept. of Labor
By Nate Carlile, Think Progress
"Respect for others is non-negotiable at the U.S. Department of Labor"
Read more

Obama Has Become Radical in His Commitment to Secrecy
By Martin Garbus, Huffington Post
Obama's attempt at secrecy, continued torture and repression of speech must be stopped.
Read more

Obama Sides With Fidel Castro & Hugo Chavez – Refuses To Recognize ...
By mcauleysworld
”Deposed” is not the proper term here, we should be referring to President Zelaya's
impeachment – because with the approval of the Honduran Congress and the Honduran Supreme Court, that is what happened, Zelaya was impeached not deposed ...
Mcauleysworld's Weblog - http://mcauleysworld.wordpress.com/

Sweet revenge: scorned lover squeals on Maria Belen Chapur and Mark Sanford

"Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned." But sometimes even a man can unleash his fury as seems to have happened in the case of Maria Belen Chapur and Gov. Mark Sanford. A younger boyfriend of the governor's mistress has been identified as the person who leaked the emails. Is Maria a cougar as well as an alleged home-wrecker?

We often talk of "sweet" revenge, and it appears to be so. A brain study about five years ago answered the question: "Why do we reprimand people who have abused our trust or broken other social rules, even when we get no direct practical benefits in return?" It seems that revenge is rooted in passion and is not really cold and calculated. National Geographic

The New York Times reported "The mystery of who revealed Gov. Mark Sanford's e-mail messages may finally be solved. A business associate of Mr. Sanford’s Argentine mistress said Friday that private messages between the two lovers had been sent anonymously to a South Carolina newspaper last December by an Argentine man the mistress had briefly dated."

It appears that "Ms. Chapur was dating a young Argentine a few months after her affair with Mr. Sanford began. The man happened to see the e-mail messages being exchanged between the governor and Ms. Chapur, said the executive — who said he had direct knowledge of the situation — and hacked into her e-mail account to see the rest." NYTIMES (See updated story Love triangle: as Gov. and Jenny Sanford talk of reconcilliation, Maria Belen Chapur talks of pain)

Someone should have told the young man to take a deep breath and wait it out. It would only be a matter of time before the entire affair would come crashing down. But for him, revenge was apparently sweet.

Just say "no." In this case my neutral, but opinionated side is surfacing. I must repeat what I have said so often about adultery. A married man cannot be unfaithful if the other woman says, "No, you are a married man."

Lots of pain here as the darling of Argentina is splashed all over the news while the governor is weeping and Jenny Sanford is left to worry about her children.

The romantic triangle is a tangled web of deception but also one of sadness of the intensity of feelings. And why did this movie poster of The Scarlet Letter come to mind? Because this is a love story and the story of infidelity.

However, Politico is looking at the whole thing through the romance novel perspective. "It’s a love story worthy of a treacly Nicholas Sparks novel. A high-ranking politician sneaks away from the pressures of political life to meet his secret lover — a beautiful, intelligent brunette from Argentina. He's willing to risk anything, even a potential shot at the presidency, to be with her. In the meantime, he plies her with hopelessly romantic love letters." Politico.com

Despite being far more opinionated than neutral here, why do I have this haunting feeling that I should remind myself of the words, "Let he (or she) who is not guilty cast the first stone?"

Have you read this story from our Relationship Examiner? Everything's Personal, Nothing's Sacred - Mark Sanford's infamous e-mail to his mistress

Photo reported to be that of Maria Belen Chapur is a video still from several sources including:www.reporterdelespectaculo.com/.../10667.jpg and www.wkrg.com/.../138045/Jun-26-2009_5-21-pm/




If there was any question of whether Republicans had given up on the idea of turning the nomination of judge Sonia Sotomayor into a major political fight, the events of the past 24 hours have effectively erased those doubts.

The Supreme Court's decision to overturn a ruling by Sotomayor regarding allegations of reverse discrimination by a group of white firefighters in Connecticut seemed like just the sort of thing Republicans would jump on to reinforce the idea that President Obama's nominee was not fit for the bench.

Instead, crickets.

To be sure, people like Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) issued statements hitting Sotomayor but neither GOP leader took any real rhetorical risks; McConnell said the decision reinforced his "concerns" about Sotomayor while Cornyn called the ruling a "victory for evenhanded application of the law."

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the party's frontrunner for the 2012 presidential nomination, didn't even see fit to offer a public statement on the Supreme Court decision or its impact on Sotomayor's confirmation.

It was left up to Judicial Watch, a conservative outside group, to use the decision to conclude that "Judge Sotomayor should not be confirmed for the United States Supreme Court."

The simple fact made clear by the (at best) muted criticism of Sotomayor's decision on the firefighters case is that elected Republican officials have decided that the Supreme Court fight is not one worth picking.

"I think the strategy not to rain on a very big Latino parade that could not be stopped anyway was a very good one," said Mike Murphy, a prominent Republican strategist based in California.

The decision to back down -- as reflected by Murphy -- is, in large part, a politically-motivated one. Opposing the first Hispanic to ever be nominated to the bench would almost certainly have the effect of further damaging the Republican brand in the eyes of Latinos who are, in case you have been under a pile of coats for the last few years, the largest minority group in the country.

More broadly, there seems to be little public appetite for a fight over Sotomayor. In polling conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News, more than six in ten Americans said the Senate should confirm Sotomayor -- including 64 percent of Independent voters.

Combine the risk of alienating the Hispanic vote, the general sentiment in favor of Sotomayor and the struggles that Republicans have experienced in settling on a message and messengers to carry it and it seems that taking a pass on a full-blown Supreme Court battle was the right choice.

Stuart Stevens, a media consultant who handled Romney's advertising during the 2008 presidential primary, put the GOP calculation bluntly -- and best.

"On Obama's watch, GM has gone bankrupt, unemployment is pushing historic highs, trillions have been wasted and more soldiers are at war today than a year ago," Stevens said. "Don't pick a fight with a tough girl from the Bronx. There are easier fights."

Tuesday's Fix Picks: Jeff Tweedy > Jay Farrar.

1. Maria Belen Chapur profiled.
2. Romney 2012 in waiting.
3. Paterson wins!
4. The Illinois Senate field grows.
5. A John Edwards tell-all is coming.

Sanford Apologizes (Again): Gov. Mark Sanford has sent out an e-mail to his supporters apologizing for his disappearance from South Carolina last week and his admitted extramarital affair . "Immediately after all this unfolded last week I had thought I would resign -- as I believe in the military model of leadership and when trust of any form is broken one lays down the sword," Sanford wrote, adding "that for God to really work in my life I shouldn't be getting off so lightly." He added that his plan to stay in office is in a teaching moment for his four sons, an attempt to turn a "fall from grace" into a "renewal and rebuilding and growth in its aftermath." Sanford's re-assertion that he will remain in office came almost simultaneously with Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer's (R)pledge on CNN that if he became governor as a result of Sanford's resignation he would not, as planned, run for the open seat in 2010. (For more on the incredible intrigue that is South Carolina politics, make sure to check out the New York Times account.)

New FL-Sen Poll, Rubio Forces Rejoice: A new Mason-Dixon surveyshows Gov. Charlie Crist leading former state House Speaker Marco Rubio by a 51 percent to 23 percent margin in the Florida Republican Senate primary. But, Rubio allies are claiming jubilation at the numbers as it shows their candidate gaining five points from a similar poll in May and Crist dropping two. (Worth noting: Those sorts of rises and drops are within the survey's margin of error and, therefore, could constitute movement or nothing at all. Ah, polling.) What is made abundantly clear in the Mason-Dixon data is that Rubio has significant room to grow. Roughly half of all Republican primary voters don't recognize Rubio's name while Crist is almost universally recognized. Among those voters who recognize both Rubio and Crist, the race is essentially tied with Crist at 33 percent and Rubio at 31 percent. At issue for Rubio is whether he can raise the sort of money (double digit millions) that will allow him to get known statewide in Florida. If he can, there is potential that the contest could be closer than many -- including the Fix -- think it would be.

Republicans Rally on Health Care: With Congress in recess, three high powered Republicans -- Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and John Cornyn (Texas) are gathering at the University of Texas this morning to make their case against the president's health care proposal. The event won't be televised or even streamed live on the Internet (booo!).

Conway Gets Horne: In the seeming unending fight for endorsements in the Kentucky Democratic Senate primary between Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo and state Attorney General Jack Conway, the latter added to his pile on Monday when Andrew Horne announced his support. Horne, a lieutenant colonel in the Army and briefly a Senate candidate against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2003, said that Conway "gives us the best short of winning in 2010" because of his ability to appeal statewide and his youth. Does Horne's endorsement sway a single vote in the primary (other than his own, of course)? No. But, just because these sorts of endorsements have almost no real-world impact doesn't mean they are not important; the game right now is to show viability and strength to activists and the more endorsements Conway (or Mongiardo) can secure, the better case they can make that they are the stronger candidate.

Are You Ready to Laugh?: Mark your calendars -- the annual Funniest Celebrity in Washington competition will be held on Sept. 30. Among those who will try their hand at the business of show are Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist, Washington Times editorial page editor Richard Minitir and U.S. News and World Report's Anna Mulrine. Who could forget the travashamockery that was the 2008 funniest celeb contest where former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) somehow beat out rapping James Kotecki?

The Last Minute Fundraising Push: With less than 24 hours remaining before candidates must close their books on the second fundraising quarter, all sorts of appeals are coming across the Fix desk. A few of our favorites: 1) former GOP representative Rob Simmons, who is running for the Senate in Connecticut, promises to personally call (!) anyone who gives before midnight 2) Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Bob Menendez (N.J.) who asks for a very specific amount -- $129,071 -- to be donated before the period ends 3) Appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y) who wished us a happy weekend before asking for more money. 4) Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) who isn't up for reelection until 2012, acknowledges that "my next campaign seems like a long way away but it's close than you think." Got a favorite of your own? Send it to us at chris.cillizza@wpost.com

Say What?: "Light bulbs may not seem sexy." -- President Barack Obama on energy, the universe and everything.

For Those Who Requested An Icon For Torture On The Left

Monday, June 29, 2009

The New Face Of Torture

CIA Crucified Captive In Abu Ghraib Prison

CIA Crucified Captive In Abu Ghraib Prison

No criminal charges have ever been brought against any C.I.A. officer involved in the torture program, despite the fact that at least three prisoners interrogated by agency personnel died as the result of mistreatment. In the first case, an unnamed detainee under C.I.A. supervision in Afghanistan froze to death after having been chained, naked, to a concrete floor overnight. The body was buried in an unmarked grave. In the second case, an Iraqi prisoner named Manadel al-Jamadi died on November 4, 2003, while being interrogated by the C.I.A. at Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad. A forensic examiner found that he had essentially been crucified; he died from asphyxiation after having been hung by his arms, in a hood, and suffering broken ribs. Military pathologists classified the case a homicide. A third prisoner died after an interrogation in which a C.I.A. officer participated, though the officer evidently did not cause the death. (Several other detainees have disappeared and remain unaccounted for, according to Human Rights Watch.)

During his tenure at the C.I.A., John Helgerson, the former inspector general, forwarded the crucifixion case, along with an estimated half-dozen other incidents, to the Justice Department, for possible prosecution. But the case files have languished. An official familiar with the cases told me that the agency has deflected inquiries by the Senate Intelligence Committee seeking information about any internal disciplinary action. (Helgerson told me, “Some individuals have been disciplined. And others no longer work at the agency.”)

Panetta acknowledges that there are some people still at the C.I.A. who may be tainted by the torture program. Nevertheless, he says, “I really respect the people who say we shouldn’t have gotten involved in the interrogation business but we had to do our jobs. I don’t think I should penalize people who were doing their duty. If you have a President who exercises bad judgment, the C.I.A. pays the price.”

Excuse me? We're literally crucifying detainees (who have not had the right to even know what they're charged with, much less any other legal right) and there's been NO accountability, NO investigation and Panetta's worried about the CIA paying the price?

“Crucifixions they execute in the Middle East differ from those reported in the New Testament in at least one important respect: Jesus Christ had a trial.”
By Sherwood Ross

The Central Intelligence Agency crucified a prisoner in Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, according to a report published in The New Yorker magazine.

“A forensic examiner found that he (the prisoner) had essentially been crucified; he died from asphyxiation after having been hung by his arms, in a hood, and suffering broken ribs,” the magazine’s Jane Mayer writes in the magazine’s June 22nd issue. “Military pathologists classified the case a homicide.” The date of the murder was not given.

“No criminal charges have ever been brought against any C.I.A. officer involved in the torture program, despite the fact that at least three prisoners interrogated by agency personnel died as a result of mistreatment,” Mayer notes.

An earlier report, by John Hendren in The Los Angeles Times, indicated other torture killings. And Human Rights First says nearly 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hendren reported that one Manadel Jamadi died “of blunt-force injuries” complicated by “compromised respiration” at Abu Ghraib prison “while he was with Navy SEALs and other special operations troops.” Another victim, Abdul Jaleel, died while gagged and shackled to a cell door with his hands over his head.” Yet another prisoner, Maj. Gen. Abid Mowhosh, former commander of Iraq’s air defenses, “died of asphyxiation due to smothering and chest compression” in Qaim, Iraq.

"There is no question that U.S. interrogations have resulted in deaths," says Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU. "High-ranking officials who knew about the torture and sat on their hands and those who created and endorsed these policies must be held accountable. America must stop putting its head in the sand and deal with the torture scandal." At least scores of detainees in U.S. custody have died and homicide is suspected. As far back as May, 2004, the Pentagon conceded at least 37 deaths of prisoners in its custody in Iraq and Afghanistan had prompted investigations.

Nathaniel Raymond, of Physicians for Human Rights, told The New Yorker, “We still don’t know how many detainees were in the black sites, or who they were. We don’t fully know the White House’s role, or the C.I.A.’s role. We need a full accounting, especially as it relates to health professionals.”

Recently released Justice memos, he noted, contain numerous references to CIA medical personnel participating in coercive interrogation sessions. “They were the designers, the legitimizers, and the implementers,” Raymond said. “This is arguably the single greatest medical-ethics scandal in American history. We need answers.”

The ACLU obtained its information from the Pentagon through a Freedom of Information suit. Documents received included 44 autopsies and death reports as well as a summary of autopsy reports of people seized in Iraq and Afghanistan. An ACLU statement noted, "This covers just a fraction of the total number of Iraqis and Afghanis who have died while in U.S. custody." (Italics added).

Torture by the CIA has been facilitated by the Agency’s ability to hide prisoners in “black sites” kept secret from the Red Cross, to hold prisoners off the books, and to detain them for years without bringing charges or providing them with lawyers.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, denounced the Obama administration for considering “prevention detention,” The New Yorker’s Mayer wrote. Roth said this tactic “mimics the Bush Administration’s abusive approach.”

From all indications, CIA Director Panetta has no intention of bringing to justice CIA officials involved in the systematic torture of prisoners. Panetta told Mayer, “I’m going to give people the benefit of the doubt…If they do the job that they’re paid to do, I can’t ask for a hell of a lot more.”

Such sentiments differ markedly from those Panetta wrote in an article published last year in the January Washington Monthly: “We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don’t. There is no middle ground.”

One way to discern who really runs a country is to look to see which individuals, if any, are above the law. In the Obama administration, like its predecessors, they include the employees of the CIA. Crucifixions they execute in the Middle East differ from those reported in the New Testament in at least one important respect: Jesus Christ had a trial.

28 June 2009

(Sherwood Ross formerly reported for major dailies and wire services. To contact him or contribute to his Anti-War News Service: sherwoodr1@yahoo.com)





A rare look inside the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program.

by Jane MayerAUGUST 13, 2007

In March, Mariane Pearl, the widow of the murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, received a phone call from Alberto Gonzales, the Attorney General. At the time, Gonzales’s role in the controversial dismissal of eight United States Attorneys had just been exposed, and the story was becoming a scandal in Washington. Gonzales informed Pearl that the Justice Department was about to announce some good news: a terrorist in U.S. custody—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Al Qaeda leader who was the primary architect of the September 11th attacks—had confessed to killing her husband. (Pearl was abducted and beheaded five and a half years ago in Pakistan, by unidentified Islamic militants.) The Administration planned to release a transcript in which Mohammed boasted, “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head.”

Pearl was taken aback. In 2003, she had received a call from Condoleezza Rice, who was then President Bush’s national-security adviser, informing her of the same news. But Rice’s revelation had been secret. Gonzales’s announcement seemed like a publicity stunt. Pearl asked him if he had proof that Mohammed’s confession was truthful; Gonzales claimed to have corroborating evidence but wouldn’t share it. “It’s not enough for officials to call me and say they believe it,” Pearl said. “You need evidence.” (Gonzales did not respond to requests for comment.)

The circumstances surrounding the confession of Mohammed, whom law-enforcement officials refer to as K.S.M., were perplexing. He had no lawyer. After his capture in Pakistan, in March of 2003, the Central Intelligence Agency had detained him in undisclosed locations for more than two years; last fall, he was transferred to military custody in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. There were no named witnesses to his initial confession, and no solid information about what form of interrogation might have prodded him to talk, although reports had been published, in the Times and elsewhere, suggesting that C.I.A. officers had tortured him. At a hearing held at Guantánamo, Mohammed said that his testimony was freely given, but he also indicated that he had been abused by the C.I.A. (The Pentagon had classified as “top secret” a statement he had written detailing the alleged mistreatment.) And although Mohammed said that there were photographs confirming his guilt, U.S. authorities had found none. Instead, they had a copy of the video that had been released on the Internet, which showed the killer’s arms but offered no other clues to his identity.

Further confusing matters, a Pakistani named Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh had already been convicted of the abduction and murder, in 2002. A British-educated terrorist who had a history of staging kidnappings, he had been sentenced to death in Pakistan for the crime. But the Pakistani government, not known for its leniency, had stayed his execution. Indeed, hearings on the matter had been delayed a remarkable number of times—at least thirty—possibly because of his reported ties to the Pakistani intelligence service, which may have helped free him after he was imprisoned for terrorist activities in India. Mohammed’s confession would delay the execution further, since, under Pakistani law, any new evidence is grounds for appeal.

A surprising number of people close to the case are dubious of Mohammed’s confession. A longtime friend of Pearl’s, the former Journal reporter Asra Nomani, said, “The release of the confession came right in the midst of the U.S. Attorney scandal. There was a drumbeat for Gonzales’s resignation. It seemed like a calculated strategy to change the subject. Why now? They’d had the confession for years.” Mariane and Daniel Pearl were staying in Nomani’s Karachi house at the time of his murder, and Nomani has followed the case meticulously; this fall, she plans to teach a course on the topic at Georgetown University. She said, “I don’t think this confession resolves the case. You can’t have justice from one person’s confession, especially under such unusual circumstances. To me, it’s not convincing.” She added, “I called all the investigators. They weren’t just skeptical—they didn’t believe it.”

Special Agent Randall Bennett, the head of security for the U.S. consulate in Karachi when Pearl was killed—and whose lead role investigating the murder was featured in the recent film “A Mighty Heart”—said that he has interviewed all the convicted accomplices who are now in custody in Pakistan, and that none of them named Mohammed as playing a role. “K.S.M.’s name never came up,” he said. Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. officer, said, “My old colleagues say with one-hundred-per-cent certainty that it was not K.S.M. who killed Pearl.” A government official involved in the case said, “The fear is that K.S.M. is covering up for others, and that these people will be released.” And Judea Pearl, Daniel’s father, said, “Something is fishy. There are a lot of unanswered questions. K.S.M. can say he killed Jesus—he has nothing to lose.”

Mariane Pearl, who is relying on the Bush Administration to bring justice in her husband’s case, spoke carefully about the investigation. “You need a procedure that will get the truth,” she said. “An intelligence agency is not supposed to be above the law.”

Mohammed’s interrogation was part of a secret C.I.A. program, initiated after September 11th, in which terrorist suspects such as Mohammed were detained in “black sites”—secret prisons outside the United States—and subjected to unusually harsh treatment. The program was effectively suspended last fall, when President Bush announced that he was emptying the C.I.A.’s prisons and transferring the detainees to military custody in Guantánamo. This move followed a Supreme Court ruling, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which found that all detainees—including those held by the C.I.A.—had to be treated in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions. These treaties, adopted in 1949, bar cruel treatment, degradation, and torture. In late July, the White House issued an executive order promising that the C.I.A. would adjust its methods in order to meet the Geneva standards. At the same time, Bush’s order pointedly did not disavow the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” that would likely be found illegal if used by officials inside the United States. The executive order means that the agency can once again hold foreign terror suspects indefinitely, and without charges, in black sites, without notifying their families or local authorities, or offering access to legal counsel.

The C.I.A.’s director, General Michael Hayden, has said that the program, which is designed to extract intelligence from suspects quickly, is an “irreplaceable” tool for combatting terrorism. And President Bush has said that “this program has given us information that has saved innocent lives, by helping us stop new attacks.” He claims that it has contributed to the disruption of at least ten serious Al Qaeda plots since September 11th, three of them inside the United States.

According to the Bush Administration, Mohammed divulged information of tremendous value during his detention. He is said to have helped point the way to the capture of Hambali, the Indonesian terrorist responsible for the 2002 bombings of night clubs in Bali. He also provided information on an Al Qaeda leader in England. Michael Sheehan, a former counterterrorism official at the State Department, said, “K.S.M. is the poster boy for using tough but legal tactics. He’s the reason these techniques exist. You can save lives with the kind of information he could give up.” Yet Mohammed’s confessions may also have muddled some key investigations. Perhaps under duress, he claimed involvement in thirty-one criminal plots—an improbable number, even for a high-level terrorist. Critics say that Mohammed’s case illustrates the cost of the C.I.A.’s desire for swift intelligence. Colonel Dwight Sullivan, the top defense lawyer at the Pentagon’s Office of Military Commissions, which is expected eventually to try Mohammed for war crimes, called his serial confessions “a textbook example of why we shouldn’t allow coercive methods.”

The Bush Administration has gone to great lengths to keep secret the treatment of the hundred or so “high-value detainees” whom the C.I.A. has confined, at one point or another, since September 11th. The program has been extraordinarily “compartmentalized,” in the nomenclature of the intelligence world. By design, there has been virtually no access for outsiders to the C.I.A.’s prisoners. The utter isolation of these detainees has been described as essential to America’s national security. The Justice Department argued this point explicitly last November, in the case of a Baltimore-area resident named Majid Khan, who was held for more than three years by the C.I.A. Khan, the government said, had to be prohibited from access to a lawyer specifically because he might describe the “alternative interrogation methods” that the agency had used when questioning him. These methods amounted to a state secret, the government argued, and disclosure of them could “reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage.” (The case has not yet been decided.)

Given this level of secrecy, the public and all but a few members of Congress who have been sworn to silence have had to take on faith President Bush’s assurances that the C.I.A.’s internment program has been humane and legal, and has yielded crucial intelligence. Representative Alcee Hastings, a Democratic member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said, “We talk to the authorities about these detainees, but, of course, they’re not going to come out and tell us that they beat the living daylights out of someone.” He recalled learning in 2003 that Mohammed had been captured. “It was good news,” he said. “So I tried to find out: Where is this guy? And how is he being treated?” For more than three years, Hastings said, “I could never pinpoint anything.” Finally, he received some classified briefings on the Mohammed interrogation. Hastings said that he “can’t go into details” about what he found out, but, speaking of Mohammed’s treatment, he said that even if it wasn’t torture, as the Administration claims, “it ain’t right, either. Something went wrong.”

ince the drafting of the Geneva Conventions, the International Committee of the Red Cross has played a special role in safeguarding the rights of prisoners of war. For decades, governments have allowed officials from the organization to report on the treatment of detainees, to insure that standards set by international treaties are being maintained. The Red Cross, however, was unable to get access to the C.I.A.’s prisoners for five years. Finally, last year, Red Cross officials were allowed to interview fifteen detainees, after they had been transferred to Guantánamo. One of the prisoners was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. What the Red Cross learned has been kept from the public. The committee believes that its continued access to prisoners worldwide is contingent upon confidentiality, and therefore it addresses violations privately with the authorities directly responsible for prisoner treatment and detention. For this reason, Simon Schorno, a Red Cross spokesman in Washington, said, “The I.C.R.C. does not comment on its findings publicly. Its work is confidential.”

The public-affairs office at the C.I.A. and officials at the congressional intelligence-oversight committees would not even acknowledge the existence of the report. Among the few people who are believed to have seen it are Condoleezza Rice, now the Secretary of State; Stephen Hadley, the national-security adviser; John Bellinger III, the Secretary of State’s legal adviser; Hayden; and John Rizzo, the agency’s acting general counsel. Some members of the Senate and House intelligence-oversight committees are also believed to have had limited access to the report.

Confidentiality may be particularly stringent in this case. Congressional and other Washington sources familiar with the report said that it harshly criticized the C.I.A.’s practices. One of the sources said that the Red Cross described the agency’s detention and interrogation methods as tantamount to torture, and declared that American officials responsible for the abusive treatment could have committed serious crimes. The source said the report warned that these officials may have committed “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions, and may have violated the U.S. Torture Act, which Congress passed in 1994. The conclusions of the Red Cross, which is known for its credibility and caution, could have potentially devastating legal ramifications.

Concern about the legality of the C.I.A.’s program reached a previously unreported breaking point last week when Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat on the intelligence committee, quietly put a “hold” on the confirmation of John Rizzo, who as acting general counsel was deeply involved in establishing the agency’s interrogation and detention policies. Wyden’s maneuver essentially stops the nomination from going forward. “I question if there’s been adequate legal oversight,” Wyden told me. He said that after studying a classified addendum to President Bush’s new executive order, which specifies permissible treatment of detainees, “I am not convinced that all of these techniques are either effective or legal. I don’t want to see well-intentioned C.I.A. officers breaking the law because of shaky legal guidance.”

A former C.I.A. officer, who supports the agency’s detention and interrogation policies, said he worried that, if the full story of the C.I.A. program ever surfaced, agency personnel could face criminal prosecution. Within the agency, he said, there is a “high level of anxiety about political retribution” for the interrogation program. If congressional hearings begin, he said, “several guys expect to be thrown under the bus.” He noted that a number of C.I.A. officers have taken out professional liability insurance, to help with potential legal fees.

Paul Gimigliano, a spokesman for the C.I.A., denied any legal impropriety, stressing that “the agency’s terrorist-detention program has been implemented lawfully. And torture is illegal under U.S. law. The people who have been part of this important effort are well-trained, seasoned professionals.” This spring, the Associated Press published an article quoting the chairman of the House intelligence committee, Silvestre Reyes, who said that Hayden, the C.I.A. director, “vehemently denied” the Red Cross’s conclusions. A U.S. official dismissed the Red Cross report as a mere compilation of allegations made by terrorists. And Robert Grenier, a former head of the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center, said that “the C.I.A.’s interrogations were nothing like Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo. They were very, very regimented. Very meticulous.” He said, “The program is very careful. It’s completely legal.”

Accurately or not, Bush Administration officials have described the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo as the unauthorized actions of ill-trained personnel, eleven of whom have been convicted of crimes. By contrast, the treatment of high-value detainees has been directly, and repeatedly, approved by President Bush. The program is monitored closely by C.I.A. lawyers, and supervised by the agency’s director and his subordinates at the Counterterrorism Center. While Mohammed was being held by the agency, detailed dossiers on the treatment of detainees were regularly available to the former C.I.A. director George Tenet, according to informed sources inside and outside the agency. Through a spokesperson, Tenet denied making day-to-day decisions about the treatment of individual detainees. But, according to a former agency official, “Every single plan is drawn up by interrogators, and then submitted for approval to the highest possible level—meaning the director of the C.I.A. Any change in the plan—even if an extra day of a certain treatment was added—was signed off by the C.I.A. director.”

n September 17, 2001, President Bush signed a secret Presidential finding authorizing the C.I.A. to create paramilitary teams to hunt, capture, detain, or kill designated terrorists almost anywhere in the world. Yet the C.I.A. had virtually no trained interrogators. A former C.I.A. officer involved in fighting terrorism said that, at first, the agency was crippled by its lack of expertise. “It began right away, in Afghanistan, on the fly,” he recalled. “They invented the program of interrogation with people who had no understanding of Al Qaeda or the Arab world.” The former officer said that the pressure from the White House, in particular from Vice-President Dick Cheney, was intense: “They were pushing us: ‘Get information! Do not let us get hit again!’ ” In the scramble, he said, he searched the C.I.A.’s archives, to see what interrogation techniques had worked in the past. He was particularly impressed with the Phoenix Program, from the Vietnam War. Critics, including military historians, have described it as a program of state-sanctioned torture and murder. A Pentagon-contract study found that, between 1970 and 1971, ninety-seven per cent of the Vietcong targeted by the Phoenix Program were of negligible importance. But, after September 11th, some C.I.A. officials viewed the program as a useful model. A. B. Krongard, who was the executive director of the C.I.A. from 2001 to 2004, said that the agency turned to “everyone we could, including our friends in Arab cultures,” for interrogation advice, among them those in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, all of which the State Department regularly criticizes for human-rights abuses.

The C.I.A. knew even less about running prisons than it did about hostile interrogations. Tyler Drumheller, a former chief of European operations at the C.I.A., and the author of a recent book, “On the Brink: How the White House Compromised U.S. Intelligence,” said, “The agency had no experience in detention. Never. But they insisted on arresting and detaining people in this program. It was a mistake, in my opinion. You can’t mix intelligence and police work. But the White House was really pushing. They wanted someone to do it. So the C.I.A. said, ‘We’ll try.’ George Tenet came out of politics, not intelligence. His whole modus operandi was to please the principal. We got stuck with all sorts of things. This is really the legacy of a director who never said no to anybody.”

Many officials inside the C.I.A. had misgivings. “A lot of us knew this would be a can of worms,” the former officer said. “We warned them, It’s going to become an atrocious mess.” The problem from the start, he said, was that no one had thought through what he called “the disposal plan.” He continued, “What are you going to do with these people? The utility of someone like K.S.M. is, at most, six months to a year. You exhaust them. Then what? It would have been better if we had executed them.”

The C.I.A. program’s first important detainee was Abu Zubaydah, a top Al Qaeda operative, who was captured by Pakistani forces in March of 2002. Lacking in-house specialists on interrogation, the agency hired a group of outside contractors, who implemented a regime of techniques that one well-informed former adviser to the American intelligence community described as “a ‘Clockwork Orange’ kind of approach.” The experts were retired military psychologists, and their backgrounds were in training Special Forces soldiers how to survive torture, should they ever be captured by enemy states. The program, known as SERE—an acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape—was created at the end of the Korean War. It subjected trainees to simulated torture, including waterboarding (simulated drowning), sleep deprivation, isolation, exposure to temperature extremes, enclosure in tiny spaces, bombardment with agonizing sounds, and religious and sexual humiliation. The SERE program was designed strictly for defense against torture regimes, but the C.I.A.’s new team used its expertise to help interrogators inflict abuse. “They were very arrogant, and pro-torture,” a European official knowledgeable about the program said. “They sought to render the detainees vulnerable—to break down all of their senses. It takes a psychologist trained in this to understand these rupturing experiences.”

The use of psychologists was also considered a way for C.I.A. officials to skirt measures such as the Convention Against Torture. The former adviser to the intelligence community said, “Clearly, some senior people felt they needed a theory to justify what they were doing. You can’t just say, ‘We want to do what Egypt’s doing.’ When the lawyers asked what their basis was, they could say, ‘We have Ph.D.s who have these theories.’ ” He said that, inside the C.I.A., where a number of scientists work, there was strong internal opposition to the new techniques. “Behavioral scientists said, ‘Don’t even think about this!’ They thought officers could be prosecuted.”

Nevertheless, the SERE experts’ theories were apparently put into practice with Zubaydah’s interrogation. Zubaydah told the Red Cross that he was not only waterboarded, as has been previously reported; he was also kept for a prolonged period in a cage, known as a “dog box,” which was so small that he could not stand. According to an eyewitness, one psychologist advising on the treatment of Zubaydah, James Mitchell, argued that he needed to be reduced to a state of “learned helplessness.” (Mitchell disputes this characterization.)

Steve Kleinman, a reserve Air Force colonel and an experienced interrogator who has known Mitchell professionally for years, said that “learned helplessness was his whole paradigm.” Mitchell, he said, “draws a diagram showing what he says is the whole cycle. It starts with isolation. Then they eliminate the prisoners’ ability to forecast the future—when their next meal is, when they can go to the bathroom. It creates dread and dependency. It was the K.G.B. model. But the K.G.B. used it to get people who had turned against the state to confess falsely. The K.G.B. wasn’t after intelligence.”

As the C.I.A. captured and interrogated other Al Qaeda figures, it established a protocol of psychological coercion. The program tied together many strands of the agency’s secret history of Cold War-era experiments in behavioral science. (In June, the C.I.A. declassified long-held secret documents known as the Family Jewels, which shed light on C.I.A. drug experiments on rats and monkeys, and on the infamous case of Frank R. Olson, an agency employee who leaped to his death from a hotel window in 1953, nine days after he was unwittingly drugged with LSD.) The C.I.A.’s most useful research focussed on the surprisingly powerful effects of psychological manipulations, such as extreme sensory deprivation. According to Alfred McCoy, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, who has written a history of the C.I.A.’s experiments in coercing subjects, the agency learned that “if subjects are confined without light, odors, sound, or any fixed references of time and place, very deep breakdowns can be provoked.”

Agency scientists found that in just a few hours some subjects suspended in water tanks—or confined in isolated rooms wearing blacked-out goggles and earmuffs—regressed to semi-psychotic states. Moreover, McCoy said, detainees become so desperate for human interaction that “they bond with the interrogator like a father, or like a drowning man having a lifesaver thrown at him. If you deprive people of all their senses, they’ll turn to you like their daddy.” McCoy added that “after the Cold War we put away those tools. There was bipartisan reform. We backed away from those dark days. Then, under the pressure of the war on terror, they didn’t just bring back the old psychological techniques—they perfected them.”

The C.I.A.’s interrogation program is remarkable for its mechanistic aura. “It’s one of the most sophisticated, refined programs of torture ever,” an outside expert familiar with the protocol said. “At every stage, there was a rigid attention to detail. Procedure was adhered to almost to the letter. There was top-down quality control, and such a set routine that you get to the point where you know what each detainee is going to say, because you’ve heard it before. It was almost automated. People were utterly dehumanized. People fell apart. It was the intentional and systematic infliction of great suffering masquerading as a legal process. It is just chilling.”

he U.S. government first began tracking Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 1993, shortly after his nephew Ramzi Yousef blew a gaping hole in the World Trade Center. Mohammed, officials learned, had transferred money to Yousef. Mohammed, born in either 1964 or 1965, was raised in a religious Sunni Muslim family in Kuwait, where his family had migrated from the Baluchistan region of Pakistan. In the mid-eighties, he was trained as a mechanical engineer in the U.S., attending two colleges in North Carolina.

As a teen-ager, Mohammed had been drawn to militant, and increasingly violent, Muslim causes. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood at the age of sixteen, and, after his graduation from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, in Greensboro—where he was remembered as a class clown, but religious enough to forgo meat when eating at Burger King—he signed on with the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, receiving military training and establishing ties with Islamist terrorists. By all accounts, his animus toward the U.S. was rooted in a hatred of Israel.

In 1994, Mohammed, who was impressed by Yousef’s notoriety after the first World Trade Center bombing, joined him in scheming to blow up twelve U.S. jumbo jets over two days. The so-called Bojinka plot was disrupted in 1995, when Philippine police broke into an apartment that Yousef and other terrorists were sharing in Manila, which was filled with bomb-making materials. At the time of the raid, Mohammed was working in Doha, Qatar, at a government job. The following year, he narrowly escaped capture by F.B.I. officers and slipped into the global jihadist network, where he eventually joined forces with Osama bin Laden, in Afghanistan. Along the way, he married and had children.

Many journalistic accounts have presented Mohammed as a charismatic, swashbuckling figure: in the Philippines, he was said to have flown a helicopter close enough to a girlfriend’s office window so that she could see him; in Pakistan, he supposedly posed as an anonymous bystander and gave interviews to news reporters about his nephew’s arrest. Neither story is true. But Mohammed did seem to enjoy taunting authorities after the September 11th attacks, which, in his eventual confession, he claimed to have orchestrated “from A to Z.” In April, 2002, Mohammed arranged to be interviewed on Al Jazeera by its London bureau chief, Yosri Fouda, and took personal credit for the atrocities. “I am the head of the Al Qaeda military committee,” he said. “And yes, we did it.” Fouda, who conducted the interview at an Al Qaeda safe house in Karachi, said that he was astounded not only by Mohammed’s boasting but also by his seeming imperviousness to the danger of being caught. Mohammed permitted Al Jazeera to reveal that he was hiding out in the Karachi area. When Fouda left the apartment, Mohammed, apparently unarmed, walked him downstairs and out into the street.

In the early months of 2003, U.S. authorities reportedly paid a twenty-five-million-dollar reward for information that led to Mohammed’s arrest. U.S. officials closed in on him, at 4 A.M. on March 1st, waking him up in a borrowed apartment in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The officials hung back as Pakistani authorities handcuffed and hooded him, and took him to a safe house. Reportedly, for the first two days, Mohammed robotically recited Koranic verses and refused to divulge much more than his name. A videotape obtained by “60 Minutes” shows Mohammed at the end of this episode, complaining of a head cold; an American voice can be heard in the background. This was the last image of Mohammed to be seen by the public. By March 4th, he was in C.I.A. custody.

Captured along with Mohammed, according to some accounts, was a letter from bin Laden, which may have led officials to think that he knew where the Al Qaeda founder was hiding. If Mohammed did have this crucial information, it was time sensitive—bin Laden never stayed in one place for long—and officials needed to extract it quickly. At the time, many American intelligence officials still feared a “second wave” of Al Qaeda attacks, ratcheting the pressure further.

According to George Tenet’s recent memoir, “At the Center of the Storm,” Mohammed told his captors that he wouldn’t talk until he was given a lawyer in New York, where he assumed he would be taken. (He had been indicted there in connection with the Bojinka plot.) Tenet writes, “Had that happened, I am confident that we would have obtained none of the information he had in his head about imminent threats against the American people.” Opponents of the C.I.A.’s approach, however, note that Ramzi Yousef gave a voluminous confession after being read his Miranda rights. “These guys are egomaniacs,” a former federal prosecutor said. “They love to talk!”

complete picture of Mohammed’s time in secret detention remains elusive. But a partial narrative has emerged through interviews with European and American sources in intelligence, government, and legal circles, as well as with former detainees who have been released from C.I.A. custody. People familiar with Mohammed’s allegations about his interrogation, and interrogations of other high-value detainees, describe the accounts as remarkably consistent.

Soon after Mohammed’s arrest, sources say, his American captors told him, “We’re not going to kill you. But we’re going to take you to the very brink of your death and back.” He was first taken to a secret U.S.-run prison in Afghanistan. According to a Human Rights Watch report released two years ago, there was a C.I.A.-affiliated black site in Afghanistan by 2002: an underground prison near Kabul International Airport. Distinctive for its absolute lack of light, it was referred to by detainees as the Dark Prison. Another detention facility was reportedly a former brick factory, just north of Kabul, known as the Salt Pit. The latter became infamous for the 2002 death of a detainee, reportedly from hypothermia, after prison officials stripped him naked and chained him to the floor of his concrete cell, in freezing temperatures.

In all likelihood, Mohammed was transported from Pakistan to one of the Afghan sites by a team of black-masked commandos attached to the C.I.A.’s paramilitary Special Activities Division. According to a report adopted in June by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, titled “Secret Detentions and Illegal Transfers of Detainees,” detainees were “taken to their cells by strong people who wore black outfits, masks that covered their whole faces, and dark visors over their eyes.” (Some personnel reportedly wore black clothes made from specially woven synthetic fabric that couldn’t be ripped or torn.) A former member of a C.I.A. transport team has described the “takeout” of prisoners as a carefully choreographed twenty-minute routine, during which a suspect was hog-tied, stripped naked, photographed, hooded, sedated with anal suppositories, placed in diapers, and transported by plane to a secret location.

A person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry, referring to cavity searches and the frequent use of suppositories during the takeout of detainees, likened the treatment to “sodomy.” He said, “It was used to absolutely strip the detainee of any dignity. It breaks down someone’s sense of impenetrability. The interrogation became a process not just of getting information but of utterly subordinating the detainee through humiliation.” The former C.I.A. officer confirmed that the agency frequently photographed the prisoners naked, “because it’s demoralizing.” The person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry said that photos were also part of the C.I.A.’s quality-control process. They were passed back to case officers for review.

A secret government document, dated December 10, 2002, detailing “SERE Interrogation Standard Operating Procedure,” outlines the advantages of stripping detainees. “In addition to degradation of the detainee, stripping can be used to demonstrate the omnipotence of the captor or to debilitate the detainee.” The document advises interrogators to “tear clothing from detainees by firmly pulling downward against buttoned buttons and seams. Tearing motions shall be downward to prevent pulling the detainee off balance.” The memo also advocates the “Shoulder Slap,” “Stomach Slap,” “Hooding,” “Manhandling,” “Walling,” and a variety of “Stress Positions,” including one called “Worship the Gods.”

In the process of being transported, C.I.A. detainees such as Mohammed were screened by medical experts, who checked their vital signs, took blood samples, and marked a chart with a diagram of a human body, noting scars, wounds, and other imperfections. As the person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry put it, “It’s like when you hire a motor vehicle, circling where the scratches are on the rearview mirror. Each detainee was continually assessed, physically and psychologically.”

According to sources, Mohammed said that, while in C.I.A. custody, he was placed in his own cell, where he remained naked for several days. He was questioned by an unusual number of female handlers, perhaps as an additional humiliation. He has alleged that he was attached to a dog leash, and yanked in such a way that he was propelled into the walls of his cell. Sources say that he also claimed to have been suspended from the ceiling by his arms, his toes barely touching the ground. The pressure on his wrists evidently became exceedingly painful.

Ramzi Kassem, who teaches at Yale Law School, said that a Yemeni client of his, Sanad al-Kazimi, who is now in Guantánamo, alleged that he had received similar treatment in the Dark Prison, the facility near Kabul. Kazimi claimed to have been suspended by his arms for long periods, causing his legs to swell painfully. “It’s so traumatic, he can barely speak of it,” Kassem said. “He breaks down in tears.” Kazimi also claimed that, while hanging, he was beaten with electric cables.

According to sources familiar with interrogation techniques, the hanging position is designed, in part, to prevent detainees from being able to sleep. The former C.I.A. officer, who is knowledgeable about the interrogation program, explained that “sleep deprivation works. Your electrolyte balance changes. You lose all balance and ability to think rationally. Stuff comes out.” Sleep deprivation has been recognized as an effective form of coercion since the Middle Ages, when it was called tormentum insomniae. It was also recognized for decades in the United States as an illegal form of torture. An American Bar Association report, published in 1930, which was cited in a later U.S. Supreme Court decision, said, “It has been known since 1500 at least that deprivation of sleep is the most effective torture and certain to produce any confession desired.”

Under President Bush’s new executive order, C.I.A. detainees must receive the “basic necessities of life, including adequate food and water, shelter from the elements, necessary clothing, protection from extremes of heat and cold, and essential medical care.” Sleep, according to the order, is not among the basic necessities.

In addition to keeping a prisoner awake, the simple act of remaining upright can over time cause significant pain. McCoy, the historian, noted that “longtime standing” was a common K.G.B. interrogation technique. In his 2006 book, “A Question of Torture,” he writes that the Soviets found that making a victim stand for eighteen to twenty-four hours can produce “excruciating pain, as ankles double in size, skin becomes tense and intensely painful, blisters erupt oozing watery serum, heart rates soar, kidneys shut down, and delusions deepen.”

Mohammed is said to have described being chained naked to a metal ring in his cell wall for prolonged periods in a painful crouch. (Several other detainees who say that they were confined in the Dark Prison have described identical treatment.) He also claimed that he was kept alternately in suffocating heat and in a painfully cold room, where he was doused with ice water. The practice, which can cause hypothermia, violates the Geneva Conventions, and President Bush’s new executive order arguably bans it.

Some detainees held by the C.I.A. claimed that their cells were bombarded with deafening sound twenty-fours hours a day for weeks, and even months. One detainee, Binyam Mohamed, who is now in Guantánamo, told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, that speakers blared music into his cell while he was handcuffed. Detainees recalled the sound as ranging from ghoulish laughter, “like the soundtrack from a horror film,” to ear-splitting rap anthems. Stafford Smith said that his client found the psychological torture more intolerable than the physical abuse that he said he had been previously subjected to in Morocco, where, he said, local intelligence agents had sliced him with a razor blade. “The C.I.A. worked people day and night for months,” Stafford Smith quoted Binyam Mohamed as saying. “Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and doors, screaming their heads off.”

Professor Kassem said his Yemeni client, Kazimi, had told him that, during his incarceration in the Dark Prison, he attempted suicide three times, by ramming his head into the walls. “He did it until he lost consciousness,” Kassem said. “Then they stitched him back up. So he did it again. The next time, he woke up, he was chained, and they’d given him tranquillizers. He asked to go to the bathroom, and then he did it again.” This last time, Kazimi was given more tranquillizers, and chained in a more confining manner.

The case of Khaled el-Masri, another detainee, has received wide attention. He is the German car salesman whom the C.I.A. captured in 2003 and dispatched to Afghanistan, based on erroneous intelligence; he was released in 2004, and Condoleezza Rice reportedly conceded the mistake to the German chancellor. Masri is considered one of the more credible sources on the black-site program, because Germany has confirmed that he has no connections to terrorism. He has also described inmates bashing their heads against the walls. Much of his account appeared on the front page of the Times. But, during a visit to America last fall, he became tearful as he recalled the plight of a Tanzanian in a neighboring cell. The man seemed “psychologically at the end,” he said. “I could hear him ramming his head against the wall in despair. I tried to calm him down. I asked the doctor, ‘Will you take care of this human being?’ ” But the doctor, whom Masri described as American, refused to help. Masri also said that he was told that guards had “locked the Tanzanian in a suitcase for long periods of time—a foul-smelling suitcase that made him vomit.” (Masri did not witness such abuse.)

Masri described his prison in Afghanistan as a filthy hole, with walls scribbled on in Pashtun and Arabic. He was given no bed, only a coarse blanket on the floor. At night, it was too cold to sleep. He said, “The water was putrid. If you took a sip, you could taste it for hours. You could smell a foul smell from it three metres away.” The Salt Pit, he said, “was managed and run by the Americans. It was not a secret. They introduced themselves as Americans.” He added, “When anything came up, they said they couldn’t make a decision. They said, ‘We will have to pass it on to Washington.’ ” The interrogation room at the Salt Pit, he said, was overseen by a half-dozen English-speaking masked men, who shoved him and shouted at him, saying, “You’re in a country where there’s no rule of law. You might be buried here.”

According to two former C.I.A. officers, an interrogator of Mohammed told them that the Pakistani was kept in a cell over which a sign was placed: “The Proud Murderer of 3,000 Americans.” (Another source calls this apocryphal.) One of these former officers defends the C.I.A.’s program by noting that “there was absolutely nothing done to K.S.M. that wasn’t done to the interrogators themselves”—a reference to SERE-like training. Yet the Red Cross report emphasizes that it was the simultaneous use of several techniques for extended periods that made the treatment “especially abusive.” Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who has been a prominent critic of the Administration’s embrace of harsh interrogation techniques, said that, particularly with sensory deprivation, “there’s a point where it’s torture. You can put someone in a refrigerator and it’s torture. Everything is a matter of degree.”

ne day, Mohammed was apparently transferred to a specially designated prison for high-value detainees in Poland. Such transfers were so secretive, according to the report by the Council of Europe, that the C.I.A. filed dummy flight plans, indicating that the planes were heading elsewhere. Once Polish air space was entered, the Polish aviation authority would secretly shepherd the flight, leaving no public documentation. The Council of Europe report notes that the Polish authorities would file a one-way flight plan out of the country, creating a false paper trail. (The Polish government has strongly denied that any black sites were established in the country.)

No more than a dozen high-value detainees were held at the Polish black site, and none have been released from government custody; accordingly, no first-hand accounts of conditions there have emerged. But, according to well-informed sources, it was a far more high-tech facility than the prisons in Afghanistan. The cells had hydraulic doors and air-conditioning. Multiple cameras in each cell provided video surveillance of the detainees. In some ways, the circumstances were better: the detainees were given bottled water. Without confirming the existence of any black sites, Robert Grenier, the former C.I.A. counterterrorism chief, said, “The agency’s techniques became less aggressive as they learned the art of interrogation,” which, he added, “is an art.”

Mohammed was kept in a prolonged state of sensory deprivation, during which every point of reference was erased. The Council on Europe’s report describes a four-month isolation regime as typical. The prisoners had no exposure to natural light, making it impossible for them to tell if it was night or day. They interacted only with masked, silent guards. (A detainee held at what was most likely an Eastern European black site, Mohammed al-Asad, told me that white noise was piped in constantly, although during electrical outages he could hear people crying.) According to a source familiar with the Red Cross report, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed claimed that he was shackled and kept naked, except for a pair of goggles and earmuffs. (Some prisoners were kept naked for as long as forty days.) He had no idea where he was, although, at one point, he apparently glimpsed Polish writing on a water bottle.

In the C.I.A.’s program, meals were delivered sporadically, to insure that the prisoners remained temporally disoriented. The food was largely tasteless, and barely enough to live on. Mohammed, who upon his capture in Rawalpindi was photographed looking flabby and unkempt, was now described as being slim. Experts on the C.I.A. program say that the administering of food is part of its psychological arsenal. Sometimes portions were smaller than the day before, for no apparent reason. “It was all part of the conditioning,” the person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry said. “It’s all calibrated to develop dependency.”

The inquiry source said that most of the Poland detainees were waterboarded, including Mohammed. According to the sources familiar with the Red Cross report, Mohammed claimed to have been waterboarded five times. Two former C.I.A. officers who are friends with one of Mohammed’s interrogators called this bravado, insisting that he was waterboarded only once. According to one of the officers, Mohammed needed only to be shown the drowning equipment again before he “broke.”

“Waterboarding works,” the former officer said. “Drowning is a baseline fear. So is falling. People dream about it. It’s human nature. Suffocation is a very scary thing. When you’re waterboarded, you’re inverted, so it exacerbates the fear. It’s not painful, but it scares the shit out of you.” (The former officer was waterboarded himself in a training course.) Mohammed, he claimed, “didn’t resist. He sang right away. He cracked real quick.” He said, “A lot of them want to talk. Their egos are unimaginable. K.S.M. was just a little doughboy. He couldn’t stand toe to toe and fight it out.”

The former officer said that the C.I.A. kept a doctor standing by during interrogations. He insisted that the method was safe and effective, but said that it could cause lasting psychic damage to the interrogators. During interrogations, the former agency official said, officers worked in teams, watching each other behind two-way mirrors. Even with this group support, the friend said, Mohammed’s interrogator “has horrible nightmares.” He went on, “When you cross over that line of darkness, it’s hard to come back. You lose your soul. You can do your best to justify it, but it’s well outside the norm. You can’t go to that dark a place without it changing you.” He said of his friend, “He’s a good guy. It really haunts him. You are inflicting something really evil and horrible on somebody.”

Among the few C.I.A. officials who knew the details of the detention and interrogation program, there was a tense debate about where to draw the line in terms of treatment. John Brennan, Tenet’s former chief of staff, said, “It all comes down to individual moral barometers.” Waterboarding, in particular, troubled many officials, from both a moral and a legal perspective. Until 2002, when Bush Administration lawyers asserted that waterboarding was a permissible interrogation technique for “enemy combatants,” it was classified as a form of torture, and treated as a serious criminal offense. American soldiers were court-martialled for waterboarding captives as recently as the Vietnam War.

A C.I.A. source said that Mohammed was subjected to waterboarding only after interrogators determined that he was hiding information from them. But Mohammed has apparently said that, even after he started coöperating, he was waterboarded. Footnotes to the 9/11 Commission report indicate that by April 17, 2003—a month and a half after he was captured—Mohammed had already started providing substantial information on Al Qaeda. Nonetheless, according to the person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry, he was kept in isolation for years. During this time, Mohammed supplied intelligence on the history of the September 11th plot, and on the structure and operations of Al Qaeda. He also described plots still in a preliminary phase of development, such as a plan to bomb targets on America’s West Coast.

Ultimately, however, Mohammed claimed responsibility for so many crimes that his testimony became to seem inherently dubious. In addition to confessing to the Pearl murder, he said that he had hatched plans to assassinate President Clinton, President Carter, and Pope John Paul II. Bruce Riedel, who was a C.I.A. analyst for twenty-nine years, and who now works at the Brookings Institution, said, “It’s difficult to give credence to any particular area of this large a charge sheet that he confessed to, considering the situation he found himself in. K.S.M. has no prospect of ever seeing freedom again, so his only gratification in life is to portray himself as the James Bond of jihadism.”

y 2004, there were growing calls within the C.I.A. to transfer to military custody the high-value detainees who had told interrogators what they knew, and to afford them some kind of due process. But Donald Rumsfeld, then the Defense Secretary, who had been heavily criticized for the abusive conditions at military prisons such as Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, refused to take on the agency’s detainees, a former top C.I.A. official said. “Rumsfeld’s attitude was,You’ve got a real problem.” Rumsfeld, the official said, “was the third most powerful person in the U.S. government, but he only looked out for the interests of his department—not the whole Administration.” (A spokesperson for Rumsfeld said that he had no comment.)

C.I.A. officials were stymied until the Supreme Court’s Hamdan ruling, which prompted the Administration to send what it said were its last high-value detainees to Cuba. Robert Grenier, like many people in the C.I.A., was relieved. “There has to be some sense of due process,” he said. “We can’t just make people disappear.” Still, he added, “The most important source of intelligence we had after 9/11 came from the interrogations of high-value detainees.” And he said that Mohammed was “the most valuable of the high-value detainees, because he had operational knowledge.” He went on, “I can respect people who oppose aggressive interrogations, but they should admit that their principles may be putting American lives at risk.”

Yet Philip Zelikow, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission and later the State Department’s top counsellor, under Rice, is not convinced that eliciting information from detainees justifies “physical torment.” After leaving the government last year, he gave a speech in Houston, in which he said, “The question would not be, Did you get information that proved useful? Instead it would be, Did you get information that could have been usefully gained only from these methods?” He concluded, “My own view is that the cool, carefully considered, methodical, prolonged, and repeated subjection of captives to physical torment, and the accompanying psychological terror, is immoral.”

Without more transparency, the value of the C.I.A.’s interrogation and detention program is impossible to evaluate. Setting aside the moral, ethical, and legal issues, even supporters, such as John Brennan, acknowledge that much of the information that coercion produces is unreliable. As he put it, “All these methods produced useful information, but there was also a lot that was bogus.” When pressed, one former top agency official estimated that “ninety per cent of the information was unreliable.” Cables carrying Mohammed’s interrogation transcripts back to Washington reportedly were prefaced with the warning that “the detainee has been known to withhold information or deliberately mislead.” Mohammed, like virtually all the top Al Qaeda prisoners held by the C.I.A., has claimed that, while under coercion, he lied to please his captors.

In theory, a military commission could sort out which parts of Mohammed’s confession are true and which are lies, and obtain a conviction. Colonel Morris D. Davis, the chief prosecutor at the Office of Military Commissions, said that he expects to bring charges against Mohammed “in a number of months.” He added, “I’d be shocked if the defense didn’t try to make K.S.M.’s treatment a problem for me, but I don’t think it will be insurmountable.”

Critics of the Administration fear that the unorthodox nature of the C.I.A.’s interrogation and detention program will make it impossible to prosecute the entire top echelon of Al Qaeda leaders in captivity. Already, according to the Wall Street Journal, credible allegations of torture have caused a Marine Corps prosecutor reluctantly to decline to bring charges against Mohamedou Ould Slahi, an alleged Al Qaeda leader held in Guantánamo. Bruce Riedel, the former C.I.A. analyst, asked, “What are you going to do with K.S.M. in the long run? It’s a very good question. I don’t think anyone has an answer. If you took him to any real American court, I think any judge would say there is no admissible evidence. It would be thrown out.”

The problems with Mohammed’s coerced confessions are especially glaring in the Daniel Pearl case. It may be that Mohammed killed Pearl, but contradictory evidence and opinion continue to surface. Yosri Fouda, the Al Jazeera reporter who interviewed Mohammed in Karachi, said that although Mohammed handed him a package of propaganda items, including an unedited video of the Pearl murder, he never identified himself as playing a role in the killing, which occurred in the same city just two months earlier. And a federal official involved in Mohammed’s case said, “He has no history of killing with his own hands, although he’s proved happy to commit mass murder from afar.” Al Qaeda’s leadership had increasingly focussed on symbolic political targets. “For him, it’s not personal,” the official said. “It’s business.”

Ordinarily, the U.S. legal system is known for resolving such mysteries with painstaking care. But the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program, Senator Levin said, has undermined the public’s trust in American justice, both here and abroad. “A guy as dangerous as K.S.M. is, and half the world wonders if they can believe him—is that what we want?” he asked. “Statements that can’t be believed, because people think they rely on torture?”

Asra Nomani, the Pearls’ friend, said of the Mohammed confession, “I’m not interested in unfair justice, even for bad people.” She went on, “Danny was such a person of conscience. I don’t think he would have wanted all of this dirty business. I don’t think he would have wanted someone being tortured. He would have been repulsed. This is the kind of story that Danny would have investigated. He really believed in American principles.”





Can Leon Panetta move the C.I.A. forward without confronting its past?

by Jane MayerJUNE 22, 2009

Panetta has no C.I.A. experience, but, an ex-officer says, it’s not “a bad thing to have a powerful guy with access to the President.”

he Central Intelligence Agency typically fights distant enemies, but on May 21st its leaders were preoccupied with a local opponent. A few miles from the agency’s headquarters, which are in Langley, Virginia, former Vice-President Dick Cheney delivered an extraordinary attack on the Obama Administration’s emerging national-security policies. Cheney, speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, accused the new Administration of making “the American people less safe” by banning brutal C.I.A. interrogations of terrorism suspects that had been sanctioned by the Bush Administration. Ruling out such interrogations “is unwise in the extreme,” Cheney charged. “It is recklessness cloaked in righteousness.”

Leon Panetta, the C.I.A.’s new director—and the man who bears much of the responsibility for keeping the country safe—learned the details of Cheney’s speech when he arrived in his office, on the seventh floor of the agency’s headquarters. An hour earlier, he had been standing at the side of President Barack Obama, who was giving a speech at the National Archives, in which he argued that America could “fight terrorism while abiding by the rule of law.” In January, the Obama Administration banned the “enhanced” techniques that the Bush Administration had approved for the agency, including waterboarding and depriving prisoners of sleep for up to eleven days. Panetta, pouring a cup of coffee, responded to Cheney’s speech with surprising candor. “I think he smells some blood in the water on the national-security issue,” he told me. “It’s almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it’s almost as if he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that’s dangerous politics.”

Panetta was also absorbing criticism from the left. The day before, a group of progressive human-rights advocates had been given an off-the-record briefing with Obama, where they discussed his plans for handling terrorism suspects; some of the advocates were enraged at what they saw as a tacit continuation of the Bush approach. According to a participant, Obama warned the group that such comparisons were “not helpful.” Nevertheless, Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, who also attended the briefing, went on to denounce the Administration for considering “preventive detention”—incarcerating certain terror suspects indefinitely, without trial. Obama’s position, Roth said, “mimics the Bush Administration’s abusive approach.”

Since January, the C.I.A. has become the focus of almost daily struggle, as Obama attempts to restore the rule of law in America’s fight against terrorism without sacrificing safety or losing the support of conservative Democratic and independent voters. So far, he has insisted on trying to recalibrate the agency’s policies without investigating past mistakes or holding anyone responsible for them. Caught in the middle is Panetta, who is seventy years old and has virtually no experience in the intelligence field. Indeed, his credentials for running the world’s foremost spy agency are so unlikely that when John Podesta, the head of Obama’s transition team, asked him to take the job he responded, “Are you sure?” Podesta assured Panetta that his outsider status was actually an advantage: “He said, ‘You don’t carry the scars of the past eight years. Besides, the President wants somebody who will talk straight to him on these issues.’ ”

Although Panetta served briefly in the military, half a century ago, his reputation has been built almost entirely on his mastery of domestic policy. For sixteen years, he was a Democratic congressman from his home town, Monterey, California. In 1989, he became the chairman of the House Budget Committee, making him a natural choice as President Bill Clinton’s first budget director. In 1994, he became Clinton’s chief of staff.

Panetta, the son of Italian immigrants, grew up washing dishes in his parents’ restaurant. He is disarmingly forthright, with an easy laugh; he is also a stern disciplinarian and a workaholic. Colleagues say that Panetta, who attends Mass regularly, can be principled to the point of rigidity. It was partly Panetta’s rectitude that got him the C.I.A. job. During the Bush years, he decried the country’s loss of moral authority; in a blunt essay for Washington Monthly last year, he declared that Americans had been transformed “from champions of human dignity and individual rights into a nation of armchair torturers.” He concluded, “We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don’t. There is no middle ground.”

Panetta’s impassioned essay unexpectedly became an asset during the Obama transition, after John Brennan—the initial candidate for C.I.A.director—was pressured to withdraw. Critics accused Brennan, who had been a top agency official during the Bush years, of complicity with the torture program. (A friend of Brennan’s from his C.I.A. days complained to me, “After a few Cheeto-eating people in the basement working in their underwear who write blogs voiced objections to Brennan, the Obama Administration pulled his name at the first sign of smoke, and then ruled out a whole class of people: anyone who had been at the agency during the past ten years couldn’t pass the blogger test.”)

Panetta had one other strong qualification: he was close to Rahm Emanuel, the new chief of staff. During the Clinton Administration, Emanuel, serving as the White House political director, was suspected by former First Lady Hillary Clinton and others of leaking information, and was very nearly fired. Emanuel entered what he calls his “wilderness period.” When Panetta became chief of staff, however, he reinstated Emanuel as a top aide. “I thought he had a lot of street smarts and good political sense,” Panetta told me.

In 1994, Panetta discovered, to his dismay, that the President had quietly turned to Dick Morris, a political consultant with a dubious ethical reputation. Harold Ickes, a former White House aide, recalls Panetta walking the halls late one night and saying that he needed a shower after attending a meeting with Morris. Later, a tabloid newspaper reported that Morris had been meeting with a prostitute in a nearby Washington hotel. In 1997, Panetta left the White House, by mutual agreement; he and his wife, Sylvia, founded the nonpartisan Panetta Institute for Public Policy, in Northern California. In January, 1998, it was revealed that Clinton had conducted an extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky—Panetta’s former intern. An associate described Panetta then as “very disappointed in Bill Clinton, because of Monica Lewinsky. He saw him as a man with no personal discipline.”

Eleven years later, Barack Obama called Panetta for advice on who might make a good chief of staff. Panetta recommended Emanuel, telling him that “Rahm knows the Hill, he certainly knows the White House, and he’s got the tough side” necessary for the job. In January, Emanuel recommended Panetta for the C.I.A. post. Emanuel said of Panetta, “Leon has great judgment, a great compass. He’s a great manager, and he’s trusted by both parties.” (Panetta was a Republican until 1971.) Some former C.I.A. officers, such as Tyler Drumheller, who retired in 2005 as the head of clandestine operations in Europe, welcome the choice. “It’s not such a bad thing to have a powerful guy with access to the President,” he told me. Panetta, he predicted, “will restore the integrity of the intelligence process. After what we’ve been through on Iraq and torture allegations, that’s a big deal.”

Michael Waldman, who was President Clinton’s chief speechwriter, and who now runs the Brennan Center for Justice, at the New York University School of Law, describes Panetta as “one of the more honorable, decent, and principled people in government,” but considers it “amazing that he was such an outspoken critic” of the agency. Given Panetta’s reputation for integrity, and the C.I.A.’s central role in the interrogations scandal, Waldman wondered, “can he ride the tiger without being eaten?” He added, “An agency like that can turn on a director. That’s the challenge: he’s got to both lead it and reform it.”

he record of outsiders taking over the C.I.A. is mixed. John McCone, a California shipping magnate who ran the agency in the Kennedy and Johnson years, is often cited as being among the most successful directors; having been trained as a mechanical engineer, he was skilled at assessing threats posed by both conventional and nuclear weapons. But other outsiders have been met with intense hostility. James Schlesinger was named C.I.A. director by President Richard Nixon after heading the Atomic Energy Commission. Given instructions to “get rid of the clowns,” Schlesinger dismissed or forced into retirement more than five hundred analysts and a thousand clandestine officers. He faced death threats, and his tenure lasted six months. In 1995, President Clinton appointed John Deutch, who had previously served at the Pentagon. Deutch tried to improve the oversight of clandestine operatives after evidence surfaced that an agent in Guatemala had covered up two murders. Deutch was reviled by many operatives, and he left the agency after eighteen months. Eventually, he was accused of mishandling classified documents and stripped of his security clearance. “You pick on the C.I.A. at your own peril,” Michael Waldman says.

Nevertheless, many critics believe that the agency must reckon with the legacy of the Bush era. In the past few years, irrefutable evidence has emerged that after 9/11 the agency lost its moral bearings. A confidential Red Cross report has come into public view, along with formerly classified government documents, leaving no doubt that the agency subjected scores of terror suspects to prolonged physical and psychological cruelty. Officers shackled prisoners for weeks in contorted positions; chained them to the ceiling wearing only diapers; exploited their phobias; propelled them head first into walls. At least three prisoners died.

Torture is a felony, and is sometimes treated as a capital crime. The Convention Against Torture, which America ratified in 1994, requires a government to prosecute all acts of torture; failure to do so is considered a breach of international law. The issue of torture assumed symbolic importance during the 2008 campaign, and when Obama took office many of his liberal supporters expected him to hold the perpetrators of abuse accountable. Democratic leaders in Congress pushed particularly hard for action. Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, had investigated the military’s role in detention and interrogation abuse but was kept by his committee’s limited jurisdiction from investigating the C.I.A.; he urged the new Attorney General, Eric Holder, to open an inquiry, saying, “There needs to be an accounting of torture in this country.” Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, argued for the creation of an independent “truth commission,” which could grant immunity to witnesses—thus helping to insulate the Obama Administration from charges that it was exploiting the torture issue for partisan gain.

The C.I.A.’s role in providing misleading intelligence about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has also provoked calls for reform. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the new chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told me, “There’s no vote that I regret more than the vote to authorize war with Iraq”; her vote was based on intelligence that she describes as “flat wrong.” Feinstein went on, “I am absolutely determined to reform the process of gathering and analyzing intelligence.”

As soon as Obama took office, he overturned most aspects of the Bush Administration’s interrogation policy. He issued an executive order banning inhumane treatment of prisoners by any government officials, and one closing the C.I.A.’s network of secret “black site” prisons, which stretched from Poland to Thailand. He also vowed to close the military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where fourteen former C.I.A. prisoners are being held. But Obama’s message has been uncharacteristically muddled on the question of accountability. He has said that Attorney General Holder should be the one to decide whether to take criminal action; he has also said that he would support further congressional investigation, as long as it was done in a bipartisan fashion. At the same time, he has signalled that he has no appetite for “looking backwards,” and in late April, during a private White House meeting with congressional leaders, he rejected the idea of an outside truth commission. In the meantime, Republicans have seized the political initiative, expressing grave concern about the plans to close Guantánamo and transfer the prisoners to U.S. facilities.

Tim Weiner, the author of “Legacy of Ashes,” a recent history of the C.I.A., says that Panetta is facing a series of “unappetizing choices.” Weiner believes that the country is in a period similar to the Watergate era, when a series of disturbing state secrets—such as the existence of the Phoenix Program, a C.I.A.-supported initiative, in which the South Vietnamese were alleged to have tortured civilians—spilled out. Speaking of Panetta, he said, “It can’t be comfortable for a man who said, ‘This is un-American,’ to be put in the position of saying, ‘Well, we hold no one accountable.’ ”

anetta, whose conversation with me at C.I.A. headquarters was his first lengthy interview on the topic of abusive interrogations, said that when he took over the agency he “wanted to be damn sure” that there was nobody on the payroll who should be prosecuted for torture or related crimes. He asked John Helgerson, then the C.I.A.’s inspector general, to conduct a review. In theory, the inspector general is politically independent, and therefore able to render unbiased judgments. In 2004, Helgerson had written a classified report on the C.I.A.’s secret detention-and-interrogation program, in which he questioned both the legality and the effectiveness of the agency’s brutally coercive techniques. Panetta cited Helgerson’s “credibility” as a reason to trust his assessment. According to Panetta, Helgerson, who is not a lawyer, assured him that no officer still at the agency had engaged in actions that went beyond the legal boundaries as they were understood during the Bush years. Helgerson, who retired from the agency in May, says he told Panetta only that he was not aware of any cases that merited prosecution, though “continuing work was being done.”

Panetta told me, “I’m going to give people the benefit of the doubt. . . . If they do the job that they’re paid to do, I can’t ask for a hell of a lot more.” His words echo those of President Obama, who on April 16th promised immunity from prosecution to any C.I.A. officer who relied on the advice of legal counsel during the Bush years. Jeffrey H. Smith, a former general counsel to the C.I.A., points out that this is a low standard, given that “what the Justice Department approved was outrageous.” For example, for more than a century the U.S. had prosecuted waterboarding as a serious crime, and a ten-year prison sentence was issued as recently as 1983. Indeed, the memos authorizing interrogators to torment prisoners clashed so glaringly with international and U.S. law that some of them were later withdrawn by lawyers in Bush’s own Justice Department.

Smith, who has advised Obama informally on how to handle the C.I.A.’s legacy of abuse, thinks that prosecutions are not politically viable at this point, and would in any case be unfair to officers who thought they were adhering to the law. And many Republicans, from Newt Gingrich to John McCain, have argued that pressing charges against government officials would threaten morale and inhibit risk-taking at a time when the agency faces wars on two fronts and a continuing threat from Al Qaeda. The Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe disagrees. “It’s hard not to do something to those who performed the act,” he says. “It’s not beyond the pale to imagine that even people armed with legal opinions might be held legally responsible for violating the criminal law in the area of torture.”

Panetta told me, “Frankly, I didn’t support these methods that were used, or the legal justification for why they did it. . . . I also believed if I were to take this job it was about dealing with the threats that are out there, and trying to really bring the C.I.A. into a new chapter.” He said that once he felt confident that there was no criminal liability inside the agency he “didn’t want to spend a lot of time dealing with the past and what mistakes were made.”

It turns out, however, that Panetta initially supported the creation of a truth commission. “I’m not big on commissions,” Panetta told me. “On the other hand, I could see that it might make some sense, frankly, to appoint a high-level commission, with somebody like Sandra Day O’Connor, Lee Hamilton—people like that.” The appeal was that Obama could delegate to others the legal problems stemming from Bush Administration actions, allowing him to focus on his ambitious political agenda. “In the discussion phase”—early in the spring, before Obama decided the issue—“I was for it,” Panetta said. “Because every time a question came up, you could basically say, ‘The commission, hopefully, is looking at this.’ ” But by late April Obama had vetoed the idea, fearing that it would look vindictive and, possibly, inflame his predecessor. “It was the President who basically said, ‘If I do this, it will look like I’m trying to go after Cheney and Bush,’ ” Panetta said. “He just didn’t think it made sense. And then everybody kind of backed away from it.”

Ken Gude, an associate director at the Center for American Progress, who specializes in national-security issues, and who has close ties to the White House, believes that Obama’s instinct, like Panetta’s, was to set up a truth commission of some sort. “I think the political staff walked it back,” he says. “They said it would be a distraction.” Obama’s political advisers dread any issue that could trigger a culture war and diminish his support among independent voters. They also see little advantage in picking a fight with the C.I.A. But the decision to discourage an accountability process, Gude says, has backfired. The Administration has lost control of the story, as revelations about C.I.A. misdeeds have continued to emerge through lawsuits and the press. “It’s now become the distraction they wanted to avoid,” Gude says. “The White House briefings have been dominated by questions about releasing documents and photos.” It’s understandable, he says, that Obama wouldn’t want to spend his energy on Bush’s mistakes. But, he warns, “they can’t leave the impression that they’re trying to cover it up.”

Panetta may not have scars from the past eight years, but he is surrounded by people who do. Some of his closest advisers have connections to the torture program. Panetta brought only one person with him to the agency: Jeremy Bash, the well-regarded former chief counsel to the House Intelligence Committee, who now serves as his chief of staff. Phil Trounstine, a California-based political consultant and analyst who has known Panetta for years, says of him, “Here’s a guy who has been very critical of the Bush world view, who has to enforce a new set of guidelines and policies by leading the same agency and the same people as in the past.”

Several of Panetta’s top deputies worked closely with George Tenet, the agency’s director from 1997 until 2004. Under Tenet, the C.I.A. took the lead role in fighting terrorism, and its officers became the jailers, and sometimes the tormentors, of many U.S.-held detainees. Tenet, who is now a managing director of the investment bank Allen & Company, has all but disappeared from public sight in Washington. He recently cancelled an appearance scheduled at the Panetta Institute this month. (“George has not wanted to do stuff in front of a camera,” Panetta noted.) But in his 2007 memoir, “At the Center of the Storm,” Tenet defended the use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques on terror suspects, claiming that the information they elicited had prevented other attacks and saved American lives. (He also assured President Bush that the case for going to war in Iraq was “a slam dunk.”) But a former senior agency official who worked with many of Tenet’s top team members says, “These people carried out this policy . . . but they’ll muddy the waters by explaining why what they did was O.K. They will say that ‘Bush was bad’ but they weren’t. A lot of it is just to protect their own positions. It’s amazing to me that all these Tenet people survived!”

Behind Panetta’s desk—next to a framed, tattered American flag that was rescued from the ruins of the World Trade Center—is a door leading to the office of Stephen Kappes, whom Panetta has kept on as the agency’s second-in-command. Kappes, a former U.S. marine, is widely admired within the agency, in particular for his role in persuading the Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi to abandon his nuclear-weapons program, in 2003. “Kappes is the case officer’s case officer,” John Radsan, who was a lawyer at the C.I.A. during President Bush’s first term, says. Intense, serious, and fluent in Russian and Farsi, Kappes has served as a station chief in Moscow, New Delhi, and Frankfurt, and has supervised many clandestine operations. In April, President Obama paid a visit to C.I.A. headquarters and singled out Kappes as the wise “graybeard” in the building. Senator Feinstein insisted to Obama Administration officials privately that Kappes continue as deputy director; it was a condition of her support for Panetta, whose lack of experience in covert operations she questioned.

During the first term of the Bush Administration, Kappes was a top official in the Directorate of Operations. This group oversaw the agency’s Counterterrorist Center, which, in turn, managed the secret detention-and-interrogation program. Few doubt that he was aware that the C.I.A. was engaging in brutality. One former officer recalls that Kappes voiced qualms, warning that the program amounted to “torture.” According to the former officer, once Kappes was overruled he went along; Kappes was “the brains” of the directorate, the former officer says. (Kappes, through a spokesman, denied having had a direct role in the interrogation program, or having called its tactics torture.) Another former C.I.A. operative says, “It would be hard to say someone so involved could be robustly objective” in advising Panetta.

Panetta says that most of the individuals who managed the secret interrogation program have since left the agency. One of the holdovers is Jonathan Fredman, who was formerly the chief counsel to the division that ran the interrogation program; he is now on temporary assignment with the director of National Intelligence. According to notes from a 2002 meeting, which were disclosed at a recent Senate hearing, Fredman advised that torture “is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.” The notes, whose accuracy Fredman has disputed, describe him saying that videotapes of interrogations would look “ugly.” Fredman’s former boss is John A. Rizzo, the C.I.A.’s acting general counsel, who was the recipient of many of the Justice Department’s torture memos. (Rizzo is scheduled to leave the agency once a replacement has been confirmed.) And the current head of the Counterterrorist Center—the officer, who is undercover, cannot be identified—ran the interrogation program for part of Bush’s second term. Several current station chiefs and division chiefs were also deeply involved in brutal interrogations, as were pilots, logistical experts, medical personnel, and others.

Meanwhile, John Brennan—the man who was considered too politically toxic for the top C.I.A. job—has become a senior official on the National Security Council. Brennan, who, as one former C.I.A. officer puts it, was once “joined to George Tenet at the hip”—he served as Tenet’s chief of staff—now advises Obama on terrorism and other national-security issues. He has reportedly lobbied hard to maintain secrecy on past abuses. According to Newsweek, Brennan recently persuaded Panetta to join him in protesting Obama’s plan to release four shocking Justice Department memos about the interrogation program. The documents, written by lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel, showed that the C.I.A. had waterboarded one suspect at least a hundred and eighty-three times and subjected many others to harrowing mistreatment. Opponents have argued that exposing such details could spark an anti-American backlash. Panetta also argued forcefully in favor of indemnifying any C.I.A. officers whose actions, as described in the memos, might have opened them up to criminal charges.

Several well-respected former C.I.A. officials—including Fred Hitz, a former inspector general, and Paul Pillar, a former Middle East analyst—told me that they saw no harm in releasing the documents. Dennis C. Blair, the director of National Intelligence, who oversees the U.S. intelligence establishment, including the C.I.A., also supported the release of the documents, after his staff concluded that the disclosures would likely do no damage.

After intense consideration, and a late-night meeting in Rahm Emanuel’s office, Obama rejected Panetta’s arguments for secrecy, deciding that it was in the public interest to release the memos. But Obama also endorsed the notion of giving blanket amnesty to any C.I.A. officers performing authorized work.

Panetta’s resistance to public disclosure seemed out of character to some longtime colleagues. “I was surprised by Leon’s position on the O.L.C. memos,” Phil Trounstine told me. “It’s tough to maintain your principles when you’re head of the C.I.A., because you need to be seen as someone that the people inside the agency want to follow.” Panetta had become an advocate for secrecy so quickly, a White House official joked, that “it’s like ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers.’ ”

Panetta’s advisers may have had a personal stake in opposing transparency. Another former C.I.A. official, who knows Brennan well, noted that, if the Bush torture program were to be further investigated, “potentially, both Brennan and Kappes could have a lot to lose.” Brennan’s supporters have argued that he had no operational control over the interrogation program, and point out that his tenure as Tenet’s chief of staff ended in March, 2001, before the Al Qaeda attacks. But he was subsequently named deputy executive director, and served in that position until March, 2003—the period when the most brutal detainee treatment occurred. In addition, Brennan often briefed President Bush about daily developments in the war on terror. Brennan has described himself as an internal critic of waterboarding—a position that friends, such as Emile Nakhleh, a former senior officer, confirm. Yet, in an interview with me two years ago, Brennan defended the use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques and extraordinary renditions, in which the C.I.A. abducted terror suspects around the globe and transported them to other countries to be jailed and interrogated; many of those countries had execrable human-rights records. He also questioned some people’s definition of “torture.” “I think it’s torture when I have to ride in the car with my kids and they have loud rap music on,” he said. Asked if “enhanced” interrogation techniques were necessary to keep America safe, he replied, “Would the U.S. be handicapped if the C.I.A. was not, in fact, able to carry out these types of detention and debriefing activities? I would say yes.”

Anthony Lake, who was the national-security adviser under Clinton, said of Brennan, “I’ve known John a long time, and he’s a really good guy. I would argue, you can’t throw out the whole agency.” Lake, in fact, recommended Brennan to the Obama campaign when it was looking for intelligence advisers—after consulting with their mutual friend George Tenet. America’s intelligence community is an incestuous one, making it difficult for a President to break with old ways of thinking.

Indeed, a well-informed analyst with close ties to the White House says that the C.I.A. has been lobbying hard to get Obama to support some form of preventive detention for terror suspects. An agency spokesman denies this. But the analyst says, “They definitely want the flexibility to hold people in some form of detention. They have been saying, ‘We need deep authorities.’ They’ve been presenting the President with nightmare scenarios.”

Panetta, for his part, has been persuaded that renditions are a tool worth keeping. The rendition program began, in a more carefully monitored form, during the Clinton Administration, but in the Bush years it was transformed into what John Radsan, the former C.I.A. lawyer, called “an abomination.” As many as seven detainees were misidentified and abducted by mistake; many other suspects have alleged that they were hideously tortured by foreign governments. Panetta told me, “The worst part of rendition was rendition to a black site. That will not be the case anymore. If we render someone, it will be to a country with jurisdiction over that individual.” During the Bush years, however, some of the most horrific allegations of abuse were made by detainees rendered not to black sites but to Egypt, Syria, and Morocco. The Obama Administration, Panetta says, will take precautions to insure that rendered suspects are treated humanely, as the law requires. “I’ve talked to the State Department, and our people have to make very sure that people won’t be mistreated,” Panetta said. “Some places, obviously, it’s more difficult to do. But we’re going to have to press to make sure it doesn’t happen, because it would fly in the face of everything the President has said we stand for.” The Bush Administration professed to be taking similar precautions.

The C.I.A. has apparently done nothing to penalize the officer who oversaw one of the most notorious renditions—that of a German car salesman named Khaled el-Masri. He was abducted while on a holiday in Macedonia, and flown by the agency to Afghanistan, where he was detained in a dungeon for five months without charges, before being released. From the start, the rendition team suspected that his case was one of mistaken identity. But the C.I.A. officer in charge at Langley—the agency asked that the officer’s name be withheld—insisted that Masri be further interrogated. “She just looked in her crystal ball and it said that he was bad,” a colleague recalls. Masri says that he was chained in a freezing cell with no bed, and given water so putrid that he could smell it across the room.

He was threatened and stripped, and could hear other detainees crying all around him. After several weeks, the C.I.A. officer in charge learned that Masri’s German passport was not a forgery, as was originally suspected, and that he was not the terror suspect the agency thought he was. (The names were similar.) Even so, the officer in charge refused to release him. Eventually, Masri went on a hunger strike, losing sixty pounds. Skeptics in the agency went directly over the officer’s head to Tenet, who realized that his agency had been brutalizing an innocent man. Masri was released after a hundred and forty-nine days. But the officer in charge was not disciplined; in fact, a former colleague says, “she’s been promoted—twice.” Masri, meanwhile, has been unable to sue the U.S. government for either an apology or damages, because the courts consider the very existence of rendition a state secret—a position that the Obama Justice Department has so far supported.

No criminal charges have ever been brought against any C.I.A. officer involved in the torture program, despite the fact that at least three prisoners interrogated by agency personnel died as the result of mistreatment. In the first case, an unnamed detainee under C.I.A. supervision in Afghanistan froze to death after having been chained, naked, to a concrete floor overnight. The body was buried in an unmarked grave. In the second case, an Iraqi prisoner named Manadel al-Jamadi died on November 4, 2003, while being interrogated by the C.I.A. at Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad. A forensic examiner found that he had essentially been crucified; he died from asphyxiation after having been hung by his arms, in a hood, and suffering broken ribs. Military pathologists classified the case a homicide. A third prisoner died after an interrogation in which a C.I.A. officer participated, though the officer evidently did not cause the death. (Several other detainees have disappeared and remain unaccounted for, according to Human Rights Watch.)

During his tenure at the C.I.A., John Helgerson, the former inspector general, forwarded the crucifixion case, along with an estimated half-dozen other incidents, to the Justice Department, for possible prosecution. But the case files have languished. An official familiar with the cases told me that the agency has deflected inquiries by the Senate Intelligence Committee seeking information about any internal disciplinary action. (Helgerson told me, “Some individuals have been disciplined. And others no longer work at the agency.”)

Panetta acknowledges that there are some people still at the C.I.A. who may be tainted by the torture program. Nevertheless, he says, “I really respect the people who say we shouldn’t have gotten involved in the interrogation business but we had to do our jobs. I don’t think I should penalize people who were doing their duty. If you have a President who exercises bad judgment, the C.I.A. pays the price.”

n June 1st, former Vice-President Cheney asserted in a speech that the C.I.A., rather than the White House, first proposed hurting prisoners during interrogations. “It was their initiative,” he said. “They had a couple of cases where they thought enhanced interrogation techniques would provide information.” Panetta has a different view. “There is no question in my mind,” he said. “The interrogation thing, to some extent, was cast upon us, because the military walked away from it, and the F.B.I. walked away from it, and so everybody came down on the C.I.A.,” he said. This is technically true, although the F.B.I. “walked away” from interrogations of terrorism suspects after its director, Bob Mueller, heard complaints from an agent, Ali Soufan, that the C.I.A.’s interrogation methods amounted to “borderline torture.” John Helgerson told me that he holds the C.I.A., the Pentagon, and the White House equally responsible: “They went arm in arm into it.”

Without a thorough public investigation, it’s difficult to assess the truth behind such contradictory accusations. “Everyone says, ‘It’s over, it’s known,’ ” Nathaniel Raymond, who works with the advocacy group Physicians for Human Rights, told me. “But what is known? We still don’t know how many detainees were in the black sites, or who they were. We don’t fully know the White House’s role, or the C.I.A.’s role. We need a full accounting, especially as it relates to health professionals.” The recently released Justice Department memos, he noted, contain numerous references to C.I.A. medical personnel participating in coercive interrogation sessions. “They were the designers, the legitimizers, and the implementers,” Raymond said. “This is arguably the single greatest medical-ethics scandal in American history. We need answers.”

Some conservatives are also calling for greater openness. Will Taft, the general counsel to the State Department in the Bush Administration, told me, “There are some twenty or thirty people whom the C.I.A. said it formerly held but no longer does. Those names have never been released. The government should identify all the people in the program and account for them.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee recently embarked on its own, closed-door investigation of the torture program; Panetta told me that he has been assured that the committee members’ work “would be about lessons learned, as opposed to going after people.” So the C.I.A. is “coöperating with them, giving them whatever information they need to try to conduct their review.” He says that the committee has already identified some ten million relevant documents. “It’s going to take a while,” he said.

The Senate investigation will, among other things, probe the question of torture’s efficacy. Dick Cheney has repeatedly claimed that “enhanced” interrogations yield results. Opponents say that torture is counterproductive. Panetta is more agnostic. He told me, “The bottom line would be this: Yes, important information was gathered from these detainees. It provided information that in fact was acted upon. Was this the only way to obtain this information? I think that will always be an open question.” But he is certain that “we did pay a price for using those methods.”

A number of recently released documents call into question the notion that the C.I.A. played a passive role in relation to torture policy. A 2008 report by the Senate Armed Services Committee indicates that the agency hired contract psychologists who went on to design and implement specific forms of abuse—such as locking a detainee, doubled up, in a tiny, airless cage—months before August, 2002, when the Justice Department granted legal authorization with its infamous “torture memo.” More troublingly, footnotes in the Office of Legal Counsel memos suggest that some C.I.A. interrogators may have egregiously exceeded the legal boundaries set down by the Justice Department and the White House—which seemingly puts them outside the legal safety zone demarcated by Obama and Panetta. In 2002, the Bush Administration authorized interrogators to re-create the ostensibly safe waterboarding techniques used in military training. But, instead of limiting the sessions to a maximum of two twenty-second bouts of controlled drowning, as prescribed in military training, the C.I.A. interrogators forced one detainee to undergo at least a hundred and eighty-three sessions, and another at least eighty-three. And, instead of using a very small amount of water, as the Justice Department stipulated, the C.I.A. interrogators subjected the detainees to “large volumes” of water.

The memos quote Inspector General Helgerson’s finding, in his secret 2004 report on coercive techniques, that the interrogators amplified the pain deliberately, in order to make the sensation of drowning “more poignant and convincing.” Helgerson also found that the psychologists and interrogators who designed the agency’s protocols—and who claimed that their judgments were based on knowledge of military standards—had “probably misrepresented” their “expertise.” In addition, the C.I.A.’s Office of Medical Services found that there was “no reason to believe that applying the waterboard with the frequency and intensity with which it was used by the psychologist/interrogators . . . was either efficacious or medically safe.”

In April, Panetta fired all the C.I.A.’s contract interrogators, including the former military psychologists who appear to have designed the most brutal interrogation techniques: James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. The two men, who ran a consulting company, Mitchell, Jessen & Associates, had recommended that interrogators apply to detainees theories of “learned helplessness” that were based on experiments with abused dogs. The firm’s principals reportedly billed the agency a thousand dollars a day for their services. “We saved some money in the deal, too!” Panetta said. (Remarkably, a month after Obama took office the C.I.A. had signed a fresh contract with the firm.)

According to ProPublica, the investigative reporting group, Mitchell and Jessen’s firm, which in 2007 had a hundred and twenty people on its staff, recently closed its offices, in Spokane, Washington. One employee was Deuce Martinez, a former C.I.A. interrogator in the black-site program; Joseph Matarazzo, a former president of the American Psychological Association, was on the company’s board. (According to Kirk Hubbard, the former head of the C.I.A.’s research and analysis division, Matarazzo served on an agency professional-standards board during the time the interrogation program was set up, but was not consulted about the interrogations.)

Lawsuits against abusive contractors remain a possibility, and any one of them could expose a line of authorizations leading directly up the chain of command at the C.I.A., and into the Bush White House. George Brent Mickum IV, a lawyer representing Abu Zubaydah, a C.I.A. prisoner who was repeatedly waterboarded, said, “I’d like to sue Mitchell and Jessen in a minute.” (Mitchell was an adviser on Zubaydah’s interrogation.) After Zubaydah was waterboarded, his lawyers say, his mental state deteriorated, and he has since been prescribed the antipsychotic drug Haldol.

Few activists expect lawsuits against the C.I.A. or its contractors to succeed. But John Sifton, an attorney who specializes in human-rights law, and who is part of Zubaydah’s legal team, notes that there are other ways for the detainees’ grievances to become public. “The act of prosecuting the high-value detainees will be the accountability process,” Sifton said. “It’s impossible to try these detainees without allowing them to air all the information about their torture.”

ther legal actions threaten to expose yet more secrets of the C.I.A.’s torture program. A prosecutor appointed by the Justice Department, John Durham, has convened a grand jury in Washington to weigh potential criminal charges against C.I.A. officers who were involved in the destruction of ninety-two videotapes documenting the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and other detainees. Mickum told me that he has met several times with Durham, and believes that the scope of his inquiry may have expanded to include a review of whether the C.I.A. began using brutal methods on Zubaydah before it received written authorization from the Justice Department. (This would provide an extra motive for destroying the videotapes.) Mickum said, “I got the sense he was very serious.” (Durham declined to comment.) The A.C.L.U., meanwhile, is suing to get access to classified descriptions of what was on the destroyed videotapes. Last week, Panetta filed an affidavit opposing the disclosure, which he said “could be expected to result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security.” Once again, he was protecting Bush-era interrogation secrets.

Pressure is also coming from abroad. In Italy, two dozen C.I.A. officers are on trial in absentia for participating in a 2003 rendition. Robert Seldon Lady, the agency’s station chief in Milan at the time, can no longer travel to Italy without danger of arrest, nor can the other C.I.A. officers named in the case. Spain has opened a criminal investigation of six Bush Administration officials in connection with torture. And in London a former rendition victim is suing the British authorities. After a British judge ruled that the plaintiff, Binyam Mohammed, should be given access to C.I.A. intelligence documents that the agency shared with British authorities, the Obama Administration surprised liberals by pressuring the British government to stop the disclosures.

Several other legal challenges to the agency’s interrogation program are working their way through the U.S. court system. A judge in California recently rejected the Justice Department’s claims of blanket state secrecy in a case brought by five rendition victims against Jeppesen Dataplan, a subsidiary of Boeing, which provided the flight plans for the C.I.A.’s renditions. In a press conference in April, Obama indicated that he had had second thoughts about the Justice Department’s assertion of blanket state secrecy in the case, but on June 12th the Administration reasserted its original claim.

Earlier this month, Philip Mudd, Obama’s nominee for a top Homeland Security post, withdrew from consideration after it became clear that his Senate confirmation would turn into a fight over his previous role in the C.I.A.’s interrogation program. Rahm Emanuel, speaking of the many challenges posed by the torture scandal, told me, “It’s a day-to-day—I won’t say struggle—but problem. There are a lot of cases in the queue that require response. Many of them. But I’ve seen the President in the Situation Room, and I know he wants to move forward.”

Panetta is already forging ahead on one important reform: he plans to replace the abusive interrogation program with a legally acceptable, non-coercive alternative. A task force led by the Harvard Law School professor Philip Heymann has been advising him on a proposal to create an élite U.S. government interrogation team, staffed by some of the best C.I.A., F.B.I., and military officers in the country, and drawing on the advice of social scientists, linguists, and other scholars. “What I’m pushing for is to establish a facility where we develop a team of interrogators trained in the latest techniques,” Panetta said. “That’s the one thing I’m worried about, frankly. There just aren’t that many people who have the interrogation abilities we’re going to need.” Heymann describes the effort to create “the best non-coercive interrogation team in the world” as the equivalent of “a NASA-like, man-on-the-moon effort” for human-intelligence gathering. He said that members of his task force have travelled to France, England, Japan, Australia, and Israel, in order to compile comparative information on what interrogators do. “We also went to the best people in the U.S.,” he added.

Panetta has many ambitions for his tenure at the agency. He spoke to me of the need for the C.I.A. to increase its foreign-language skills, and to recruit officers of more diverse backgrounds, who can more easily infiltrate hostile parts of the world. But, as Panetta sees it, the C.I.A.’s effort to “disrupt, destroy, and dismantle” Al Qaeda remains its top priority. The agency continues to acquire intelligence suggesting that Al Qaeda is planning attacks on America, he told me. “We’re conducting pretty robust operations in Pakistan, and I think we’re doing a good job of trying to disrupt Al Qaeda. But, clearly, that is a threat.” The greatest danger, he said, is that Al Qaeda will “find other safe havens to go to,” in states such as Somalia and Yemen. “Our mission is to make sure they can’t find a place to hide.” Finding and bringing to justice Al Qaeda’s leaders—in particular, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri—“remains a focal point,” Panetta said. “It’s not easy, as you can imagine.”

Last week, the Times reported on escalating friction over jurisdiction between Panetta and Dennis Blair, the National Intelligence director. “I’m surprised at the number of challenges you have to confront in this job,” Panetta confided. “You’re a traffic cop, in many ways.” When he was the White House chief of staff, Panetta said, he could delegate the big decisions to the President. “Here, though,” he said, gazing out over the C.I.A.’s serene grounds, “the decisions come to me. And a lot of them involve life and death.” Sometimes, he added, all he can do is “say a lot of Hail Marys.”

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