“The Interrogator”: Six Questions for Glenn Carle

4. You describe vividly a second rendition, which apparently occurred at an airport outside of Rabat, Morocco, in which CAPTUS — who was in his sixties, had already spent months in captivity, and presented no security threat — was manhandled in a humiliating fashion by CIA officers clad like ninjas. The scene took place in full view of Moroccan intelligence and military officers, and you note that one of your CIA colleagues objected and intervened to protect the prisoner, to no avail. What went through your mind as you witnessed this?

Well, let me just reiterate that I have never said, nor acknowledged where I was. This said, my reaction, and the reaction of the colleague who witnessed the events with me, was that the rendition broke basic rules about how intelligence operations are supposed to be conducted. They should be clandestine, and should avoid arousing unnecessary attention or causing a scene. That's why my old service is now called the Clandestine Services. But in this case, on an airstrip ringed with security personnel from a cooperating foreign power, the rendition was carried out in a rote way that drew attention. Who wouldn't note and be surprised by the scene of a jet landing in the middle of the night, followed by personnel emerging dressed up as ninjas and carrying off a fully bound prisoner? It was stupid, bad tradecraft. Moreover, the aspects of the rendition designed to intimidate the detainee were completely new to me; I had no experience in or knowledge of rendition procedures. They are all part of the KUBARK process, which seeks to "psychologically dislocate" a detainee, theoretically to make him more willing to cooperate. I consider renditions a sometimes-necessary tool of the United States. The procedures to "psychologically dislocate" a detainee that I describe in my book are foolish and unacceptable. And the ones used on CAPTUS at the airport combined theoretically reasonable security measures that took no account of the specific circumstances on site with measures intended to "psychologically dislocate" the detainee. My colleague and I were angry because so much of it was obtuse and unnecessarily offensive.

5. What led you to recommend the release of CAPTUS? You write that you believe at least some of your cables arguing for his release disappeared. Why do you think this happened? In particular, do you think the Agency was concerned about a record demonstrating that it knew it was holding and mistreating an innocent man?

Goodness. I recommended that he be released because we had assessed him to be a critical senior member of Al Qaeda when he wasn't. I have no problem with my colleagues or the CIA making mistakes. We all err. But we simply must try to rectify our errors if we can, even if it embarrasses us, especially when human lives are involved. We can't leave a man incorrectly detained in a prison because of an error we have recognized and can fix. It's simply obvious, and a duty.

I would say that the cables were never sent, rather than that they "disappeared." I think the cables were not sent because they appeared so out of the norm that they were viewed as problematic. They were impolitic. They challenged the premises of an entire program and operation, and would have upset the functioning of a vast, high-profile, highly regarded program that was considered one of the signal successes in the entire war on terrorism. And they were written in a style that could have been interpreted as coming from an officer who seemed really tired. In the Agency, an officer must work the system, the hallways, to prepare a cable's recipients for what is coming. One must shape the recipients' perceptions so that they are receptive to what you write. I had tried. But what I argued challenged the entire operation: whom we had rendered, what he knew, what he was, how we did it, what our obligations were, what worked and didn't. So, if the cables were never sent, they didn't exist. Problem solved. A gadfly ignored.

6. Did you ever learn that CAPTUS had a habeas case pending, or that the Afghan government was insisting on his release? Why do you think the Agency resisted his release so vigorously and for such a protracted period of time?

After I left the CAPTUS case, I never heard anything more about it — need to know, new responsibilities, and so on. That is typical, sound practice in the Agency. Once I left the Agency I never permitted myself — never — to type CAPTUS's name in my computer, or any computer I used. I simply would not do it. I could not associate my name with CAPTUS's at all. So I knew nothing about any litigation surrounding CAPTUS. I learned that he had been released only in early December 2010. And only then did I dare, with some ill-ease, I must say, to do a search of his name and learn a little bit about the public aspects of his case.

I can think of two possible reasons why the Agency — if it was the Agency — continued to oppose CAPTUS's release. First, some there might have continued to believe he was complicit in Al Qaeda's activities, and was therefore guilty of the alleged activities that had led to his initial rendering. CAPTUS was not a complete innocent, I do not believe. I try to make that clear in my book. Or, second, some in the Agency might not have wanted him released because so much of his case was based on erroneous assessments that to have released him would have shown the operation to have been a house of cards, like so much of the war on terrorism. Frankly, I believe the main reason is that many people in the government have been sincere but deluded in their perceptions and actions in the "War on Terror." I wrote my book because I was so distressed by so many aspects of the case: our erroneous and dangerous exaggeration of the terrorist threats facing us; what we have done to ourselves, our society, and our laws with our interrogation programs during the "War on Terror;" how our views about acceptable behavior have become coarser; our freedoms compromised unnecessarily; and how we unjustly kept a largely innocent man in prison for years, it seems, so as to bury in a dungeon the dark multiple, egregious errors. CAPTUS's release proves me right on and substantiates every single point I argued about the case, and about him — eight years too late. The whole story is disturbing and sad.


Tags: afghanistan war, cia, glenn carle, morocco, osama bin laden, pacha wazir, prb, rabat, salt pit, scott horton, the interrogator

    • Scott Horton
    • Scott Horton is a contributing editor at Harper’s magazine, where he covers legal and national security issues. As a practicing attorney, Horton has focused on investment in emerging markets. He is also a life-long human rights advocate and serves as a director of the Moscow-based Andrei Sakharov F...

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