FBI agents became CIA agents in overseas prisons

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba – In the troubled history of the US government’s black sites, the FBI has long been portrayed as operating with a strong moral compass. Its agents, disgusted by the violence they saw in a secret CIA prison in Thailand, came out, allowing the office to later deploy “clean teams” untainted with torture to interview the five men accused of plotted in the attacks of September 11, 2001..

But new information that emerged this week in the 9/11 case is undermining that FBI account. The two intelligence agencies secretly arranged for nine FBI agents to temporarily become CIA agents in the overseas prison network where the spy agency used torture to interrogate its prisoners.

The once-secret program was revealed during the preliminary proceedings in the death penalty case. The proceedings are currently examining whether the mastermind accused of the 9/11 conspiracy, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and his four co-defendants have voluntarily confessed after years spent in the network of black sites, where detainees have been drowned, beaten, deprived of sleep and isolated for training. to comply with the wishes of their captors.

The question is whether the military judge will exclude from the eventual trial the testimony of the FBI agents who interviewed the defendants in 2007 at Guantanamo and will also ban the use of the reports the agents wrote about each man’s account of his role. in the hijacking plot.

A veteran Guantánamo District Attorney Jeffrey D. Groharing called the FBI interrogations “the most critical evidence in this case.” Defense lawyers argue that the interrogations were marred by years of torture by US government agents.

In open court Thursday, another prosecutor, Clayton G. Trivett Jr., confirmed the unusual arrangement, in which nine FBI agents were “officially detached” from the agency “and thus became members of the CIA and were worked within the channels of the CIA “.

He said officers served as “debriefers,” a CIA term for interrogators, and interrogated prisoners at black sites “outside the coercive environment” and after using “EITs”.

EITs, or improved interrogation techniques, are a CIA euphemism for a series of abusive tactics the agency used against Mr. Mohammed and other prisoners in 2002 and 2003 – tactics that were then approved but are now illegal. They include waterboarding, painful chaining, and seclusion of a naked prisoner, shivering and in the dark to break his will to resist interrogation.

Mr. Trivett offered no specific time frame, but clarified that the FBI agents were absorbed by the CIA between 2002, when the black sites were created, and September 2006. Upon their return to the FBI, they took over. CIA asset status. , he said, and so their identities are classified.

Five of the nine officers were involved in the questioning of some of the defendants in the case, Mr Trivett said, and their names have been provided to defense attorneys on the basis that they will not be disclosed.

The FBI declined to comment on the arrangement, as did the CIA

Defense attorney James G. Connell III added more details at the same hearing.

He said the nine agents “ceased to be FBI agents and became CIA agents temporarily” under a memorandum of understanding that established a different arrangement than the more typical assignment of a representative of one law enforcement agency to work on another’s organization.

A former CIA historian, Nicolas dujmovic, said there was a precedent for “taking employees from another government agency and quickly turning them into CIA employees for specific functions.”

In the 1950s, the CIA transformed US Air Force pilots into CIA employees during their periods of flying U-2 spy planes, then returned them to the Air Force without loss of seniority or advantages. “President Eisenhower thought it was important that the U-2s were not flown by US military pilots,” said Dr Dujmovic. The process has been called “soaking the sheep,” he said.

Earlier testimonies have shown that the FBI participated remotely in CIA interrogations through cable requests to black sites seeking certain information from specific detainees, including Mr. Mohammed after he was subjected 183 times to the waterboarding to force him to speak.

The pre-trial hearings are in their ninth year and military judge Col. Matthew N. McCall of the Air Force is the fourth judge to hear testimony at Guantanamo. In discussing potential trial evidence, lawyers for the prisoners have repeatedly accused prosecutors of redacting information the defense needs to prepare for the death penalty trial. In military commissions, prosecutors are the custodians of potential trial evidence and may withhold information they deem irrelevant to defense needs.

In one example, Mr. Connell showed the judge a November 2005 cable that the FBI sent to the CIA that contained questions for three of the defendants while they were at a black site – beyond the reach of courts, law enforcement officials. lawyers and the International Red Cross.

The FBI made the cable public this month under an executive order from President Biden to declassify information about the FBI’s investigation into the 9/11 attacks.

Mr. Connell had previously received a version of the same cable from prosecutors. But it was so redacted that it obscured the fact that the FBI wanted Mr. Mohammed and the other defendants to be interviewed at black sites.

Mr Trivett sought to downplay the disclosure of the FBI-CIA collaboration as a routine matter at a time when the US government was devoting enormous resources to investigating the 9/11 attacks. “It’s not a big bomb,” he told the judge.

A lawyer for Mr. Mohammed, Denny LeBoeuf, presented the collaboration in a plot to present the FBI accounts of the interrogations of the defendants at Guantanamo in 2007 as “clear team statements”, an expression of the law enforcement.

“They were never clean,” Ms. LeBoeuf said. “Torture is not clean. It’s dirty. It has sights, sounds and consequences.

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