Welcome Glenn L. Carle and Host Marcy Wheeler (Emptywheel.com)

The Interrogator: An Education

Host, Marcy Wheeler:

In The Interrogator: An Education, retired CIA clandestine officer Glenn Carle tells how, in fall 2002, he was sent to the Middle East to interrogate a purportedly high level al Qaeda figure he calls CAPTUS. While Carle does not identify either the detainee or the countries in which he interrogated him, Scott Horton reports the detainee is an Afghan named Pacha Wazir who, before he was captured, ran a hawala al Qaeda used; the two locations are Morocco and Afghanistan’s Salt Pit. After some weeks of rapport-based interrogation, Carle became convinced CAPTUS wasn’t as involved in al Qaeda as CIA believed him to be.

The parts of Carle’s straightforward narrative that describe his failed efforts to prevent CAPTUS from being abused offer a number of damning details, such as the revelations he never got documents CAPTUS had with him when he was rendered and two cables he wrote decrying the abuse disappeared. The afterword, in which Carle argues that the CIA’s abusive interrogation program “obtained little of critical benefit,” is an important addition to debates about our torture program. But I was most interested in the ways the book textually replicated the sheer insanity of that program.

For example, to narrate what happened just after he and CAPTUS arrived at Afghanistan’s Salt Pit, Carle juxtaposes a description of his own dislocation as a result of SERE training…

I descended into a world of trauma and dreams, where I was not awake, or asleep, or coherent, or able to think straight. For the first time in my life, I lost the ability to distinguish where I ended, and where the outside world began. I could not tell. I started to lose control of my personality, to inhabit a world in which I was completely isolated, and in which I could not trust my senses. I hallucinated—I saw slimy things, told myself they did not exist, but also told myself I had better stay still so that they would go away.


It all accumulated on my mind. It never stopped. Nothing existed but the dark, cold, confusion, pain, fear . . . and the slow loss of myself. The only salvation was the moment of sanity when I sat facing an interrogator.

… With CAPTUS’ slow recognition of Carle (whom he knows only as “Jacques”) after he had been rendered to Afghanistan’s Salt Pit and abused by Americans:

“CAPTUS.” He looked at me, not understanding what was happening. My tone was declaratory, matter-of-fact, not imperious.

“CAPTUS, it’s Jacques.” He continued to stare, his eyes glassy, not making sense of anything yet. I could see his mind starting to work.

“CAPTUS, it’s Jacques. I am here too, now.”

“Jacques . . .”

He realized now who I was. His circumstances were so disorienting that it took a moment to put someone he knew into this context. I gestured, in a way I hoped was kind, for CAPTUS to take a seat. He rose slowly, hunched over, with a murmured “choukran, choukran.”

“CAPTUS, what has happened to you [redacted]? You do not look good.”

He tried to dismiss his appearance, responding vaguely and softly, “Your men . . . arriving. No. No men. It is nothing, it is nothing. I do not mind. It is no trouble.”

I persisted. “What ‘arriving’ and ‘men’? My men did this?” I found that unbelievable.

“No, no. Yes. [redacted]. It is all right.”

Narratively, Carle’s learned helplessness experienced many years earlier melds with that of CAPTUS in the Salt Pit. This provides a way for readers to understand, if only a tiny bit, what produced CAPTUS’ obsequiousness. But it also, I think, conveys how abusive interrogation affects both the interrogator and the detainee.

The form of the book adds a layer of disorientation to readers. As Carle explains, in the course of getting the book approved by the CIA Publications Board, “the CIA [has] imposed numerous redactions and elliptical phrases” on the book. The process remains visible in the book, most obviously in the many black redactions.

In addition, Carle resorts to quoting declassified documents–like the CIA IG Report–to hint at what he described behind the redactions. In short, narratively the book is a mess–a valiant, but ultimately, not entirely successful attempt to tell the story of our interrogation program. But perhaps that kind of narrative mess is the appropriate way to describe the cognitive mess and moral confusion produced by interrogation program.

And while I expect we’ll get into a heated discussion in comments about Carle’s role in all this (and his belief the interrogators shouldn’t be prosecuted), the narrative mess definitely supports one of his ultimate judgments on the program and our counterterrorism program more generally:

There are evildoers who killed many of us, and who merit cold excision from the world of men. I did my best to make it happen. But our own atavistic reflexes and errors are the deepest failure of 9/11, not the attacks themselves, because although we sometimes must suffer the deeds of others, we always must be responsible for our own.

Please welcome Glenn Carle to Firedoglake.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

146 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Glenn Carle, Author of The Interrogator: An Education”

BevW July 9th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Glenn, Welcome to the Lake.

Marcy, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Glenn, welcome to the Lake.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:00 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Hello, thank you for having me.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Glenn, I wanted to start with a sort of technical question.

You describe getting one of the Bybee memos before you left:

I saw the letter before I left for my assignment. It was the “do what you
want; what the President says is legal is legal” letter drafted by John Yoo in
the Justice Department that subsequently would become the subject of a tense
political and legal argument between the administration and Democrats (and
citizens concerned with civil liberties, and the rule of law). It was described
to me as coming from the White House and from the attorney general. I recall
thinking when I read it (a view shared by many colleagues at the time) that it
was tendentious and intellectually shoddy, an obvious bit of hack work, a bit
of legal sophistry to justify what the administration wanted done, not a guideline
and interpretation of the spirit and intention of the laws and statutes that
had guided the Agency for decades. This was simply clear to those of us who
had lived under EO12333.

Was this the Bybee One memo? (That is, the one talking about organ failure or death?)

Were you given this officially?

I find it interesting since so much of the claim about the memo rested on the claim thta none of the interrogators had seen it.

PeasantParty July 9th, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Glenn, welcome to FDL. As you know we have discussed the issue for years at this blog. I’d like to know how you feel about the treaties we have made in years past regarding torture.

Marcy, thank you. You follow these issues so closely that there could not be a better hostess for this Salon.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:04 pm

One thing we discussed some in an intro post I did was the fact you were never able to get CAPTUS’ papers. According to Ron Suskind, he would have had those papers to describe what he was doing to the FBI.

Are you still confident that you didn’t get those papers because no one was able to get them to you? Or is it possible CIA didn’t want you to get it bc it would solidify your worries that CAPTUS wasn’t as important as CIA said he was?

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:06 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 6

And in a question related to your inability to get CAPTUS’ papers. Suskind also described the CIA taking over his hawala as a way to identify al Qaeda figrues.

Did you ever hear anything about this? Or were you so compartmented so as to not know what was going on with his business?

Mauimom July 9th, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Welcome to the Lake, Glenn. We are delighted to have you here with us.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Thanks for the question. The exchange occurred as I wrote it: I said we’d need “at least a presidential finding.” The reply was “we have it.” I took that to mean we had a finding. I saw later/learned later that we had the letter. I believe that I read the letter sometime before I left for the country where I met CAPTUS. As I recall, it was the letter that spoke of something like “severe and lasting” harm, as the threshold. The discussion and hallway understanding was that methods were acceptable so long as they did not cause severe and lasting harm. But, I can’t distinguish between what you call the Bybee memo, and what I recall as the Yoo “torture memo.”

Jim White July 9th, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Hi, Glenn, thanks for joining us (and thanks to Marcy for hosting and Bev for her usual tremendous work in organizing).

I keep going back to the issue of the papers that CAPTUS had on him when he was captured. Wouldn’t those papers have been analyzed immediately by the agents in the location of the capture? Shouldn’t a report have been generated for which you would have had a “need to know”?

It seems to me that the papers (or a report) not being made available to you is best explained by the instant analysis showing that CAPTUS was indeed not the high level operative he was believed to be, but headquarters decided to push ahead anyway.

Have you considered this possibility?

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Given the memo officially? As I recall, I asked to read it, or had access to it, and read it. My thoughts were as I describe in my book.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:10 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 9

Oh, I was trying to distinguish between Bybee One (written by Yoo) with the organ failure or death, or the Bybee Two, naming 10 acceptable EITs, including waterboarding (that was the one written specifically for Abu Zubaydah).

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:11 pm
In response to Jim White @ 10

It sort of reminds me of the weird treatment of Zubaydah’s diary.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:11 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 5

Re the treaties– I presume you are referring to the Convention Against Torture, the Geneva Conventions? What I think about them is that they embody our ideals, and our obligations. they are good for us, and for everyone. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote the Geneva conventions; at least, she represented the US delegation. They are in our interest, and are right.

PeasantParty July 9th, 2011 at 2:12 pm


You may click on the reply box to answer a specific questioner.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:13 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 6

Thanks. Re the papers: No, there was no Machiavellian scheme to buttress the “case” against CAPTUS. I couldn’t get them from a combination of bureaucratic mess-up, and resource constraint. It was absurd, but it was not intentionally evil. It had bad consequences for the interrogation, and for CAPTUS, and for US intelligence, though.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:13 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 9

One more thing I find interesting is that the “Finding” was the September 17 document about rounding up and detaining al Qaeda members–which has still not been published. There was reportedly some interim Alberto Gonzales approvals. And then the Yoo memo.

(Also note, at least some of CTC was working off a July 13, 2002 memo from Yoo–that’s what they based the Gul Rahman non-prosecution on.)

Of course, when Jane Harman asked for a finding, the White House got really squeamish. She asked several times (as late as 2004) and I believe never got one.

bmaz July 9th, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Hi Glenn, and welcome indeed.

My first question can be dissociated from specific detainee subjects mostly, which will hopefully make it easier to answer. Regarding the facility known as the “Salt Pit”, how large of a facility was it, and what was the relative percentage of control, both in terms of number of personnel and authority between the US and locals?

Who had ultimate authority and decision making for the interrogation protocols and means at the Salt Pit?

PeasantParty July 9th, 2011 at 2:13 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 14

Thank you for your response. My entire family has served the military and currently we have a member at the Pentagon. I am just gobsmacked that our men and women are ordered to these types of things, especially in light of them being subject to the same.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:15 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 7

Re Susskind’s story about taking over his person’s hawala: I could explain, but I am afraid that I may not. I tried to do so in my book, and it was all/all taken out. I did, indeed, know all about the matter you refer to. Susskind has it wrong, but that is not his fault. I do not know him, but believe he accurately reported what he was told. It was not correct, however.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:16 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 8

Thank you. Glad for your good wishes. A little stressful with so many questions zooming in. Thanks!

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:17 pm

One more timing thing I wanted to note–in case you’ve got a reaction.

You also describe (at a time that at least appears to be shortly after the Lawrence Foley assassination, which was October 28, 2002) DO instructing everyone to use the term “interview” rather than “interrogation.”

This would have been precisely during the period when CIA was fabricating claims to have briefed Pelosi and Graham about the program after the fact. So I find it sort of Orwellian that DO tried to change the vocabulary at this point.

CTuttle July 9th, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Aloha, Glenn and Marcy…! Ultimately, Glenn, how much of our ‘interrogation’ procedures were reverse-engineered from the SERE school…?

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:17 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 20

Thanks. Interesting. Your book suggests they did shut down the business.

Jim White July 9th, 2011 at 2:18 pm


One thing that really stood out to me was your description of September 11, 2001. Of course, you can’t disclose exactly what your assignment or rank was at the time although you do mention that your work then was in “terrorism”, as I recall. And yet, you describe that you participated in the evacuation of headquarters and went home, tending only to family matters the rest of the day.

I would have thought that some sort of “in the event of an attack” plan would have kicked in and that anyone with expertise in terrorism would have had an assignment for someplace to go and take on the work of sorting out the attack in as close to real time as possible. I realize you probably can’t provide us with guidance on this question, but I’d like to hope there was a team that did take up such an assignment on that day but you just weren’t included.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:19 pm
In response to Jim White @ 10

Thanks for the question. I’m coming to learn that here and everywhere the “papers” issue has resonated with readers–it is so absurd!

There should/could have been many reports generated from CAPTUS’s papers, no question. They would have informed my questioning. They would have aided CAPTUS in his answers. It was ludicrous. But, you mustn’t think they were withheld from some devious motive; they were not sent out of bureaucratic foolishness. I know my colleagues. I’m sure there was no plot to make CAPTUS look worse by withholding documents. It was simply a mess-up.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:20 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 21

Oh, don’t let us stress you out! We try to get some questions out there at the beginning so you have time to think about them.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:22 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 12

Ah, okay. You use different terminology and have more knowledge of specific memos, actually, than I had at the time, or than the way I or colleagues thought of them/it. The 10 EITs did not exist at the time I became involved–not to my knowledge. I was involved in early days of the effort, as it were. The memo was a general letter authorizing steps that fell short of severe organ failure and death, I believe. I’m trying not to conflate my recollections here; that’s what I recall. More than anything, what I recall was my contempt for a shoddy piece of hack work, that had nothing to do with what I knew to be our obligations and historic positions.

greenwarrior July 9th, 2011 at 2:23 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 21


And please feel free to take your time answering the questions. We’re a curious bunch and very concerned about the subject matter you write about.

Was it painful for you to write the book? Is it difficult to go back to those times to answer our questions?

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:24 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 17

Yes, I learned later, as I note in my book, that what I saw and what was referred to by my colleague Wilkerson was a letter, not a finding. And your note reminds me: I believe it was a letter from July. Yes, that’s right.

Margaret July 9th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Welcome Glenn. I think you should be commended for attempting to stand up for American values. It’s not the “good guys” who commit torture and preemptive war. Well done.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:26 pm
In response to bmaz @ 18

Tough questions, not to answer, but whether and how I can answer. Let’s see,I think probably all I may say (I apologize) is that I worked for the CIA, and what I was involved in was a CIA operation.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:27 pm

You describe CAPTUS’s rendition, particularly you and your colleague’s efforts to get him transported like a human being, which was overruled. As you describe it, mehtane-breathing ninjas came in and gave CAPTUS the treatment we’ve seen described with other renditions.

In your interview with Scott Horton, you added this thought:

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.

I had never thought about how much the efforts to disorient and dehumanize detainees in our renditions were also a stupid violation of tradecraft, because they were very noticeable.

Has there ever been–as far as you know or can say–a discussion about this generally? About how the urge to dehumanize detainees was one of the things taht ended up making the rendition program so (relatively) easy to track?

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:29 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 19

Thanks for your note. I wrote the book for many reasons, but among the most important are that I considered what we were doing to be corrosive of our values, practices, and institutions. The dilemma for serving officers was acute, as I do my best to convey: the president, attorney general, CIA chief, etc. had ALL formally and legally authorized, and ordered the mission and operation and practices in which I became for a time involved. What is one to do when the legally-constituted processes and organs of the government you have sworn to serve, and which has, most of your life in most ways, embodied ideals you subscribe to…what is one to do when these orders and processes contradict your principles and understanding of your obligations? Very difficult.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:31 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 19

So, the dilemma of “when to say no” and what to do ,how to do right is critical and hard. But, the consequences for our society–happening out of sight–in my view were and are tremendous. Thus, the book. I felt I was obliged to describe what we have done to ourselves.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:31 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 30

Actually, as I look at it, the July 13 letter I referred to uses that same standard. The July one was written without Bybee’s–or anyone else’s from OLC’s–input, ni response to Michael Chertoff’s qualms about some of the discussion.

July 9th, 2011 at 2:33 pm

There was a question by Jim White about why you went home on 9/11 after the attacks instead of staying at Langley. Was there a continuity of government order that was implemented that day at your agency>

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:33 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 35

Well stated–thanks for describing that.

When did you start the book?

bmaz July 9th, 2011 at 2:33 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 32

Well, I am not shocked, but respect that. thanks.

PeasantParty July 9th, 2011 at 2:33 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 34

Exactly! You are required to respond, “Yes, Sir!”. Then carry out your duties as determined. I understand that, what I don’t understand is why so many did not refuse. Knowing that the orders went directly against our moral stand in the world. Anyway, I thank you for what you can tell us and how you are handling it.

I know my family members would say: “I can tell you but then I’d have to kill you before you can leave the room.”

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:34 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 22

Re the change from “interrogator” to “interviewer.” I hope the reader will have long since that point in my book recognized the irony, cynicism and anger in my “voice.” But the change in vocabulary occurred also for a bureaucratic and, I learned later, legal reason: the Agency was, to its credit, scrambling hard to develop formal, approved methods for interrogation. I was, as I’ve noted, involved in the “early days,” pre-formal protocols. So, the shift in vocabulary coincided with the institution of a formal interrogation training program: you could not be called an interrogator unless you were certified in it. When I was sent out, i was simply sent out and told to be creative and pressure the fellow.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:35 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 23

I found that SERE was the template. It was all SERE, in my experience.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:36 pm
In response to Jim White @ 25

Well, our folks in the Counter-Terrorism Center, and a few other critical offices, did stay at work. I was actually in an “out-building” and not in the counter-Terrorism Center. The general concern at the very moment was the Headquarters was a likely target of an incoming plane, so the decision was taken to evacuate.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:39 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 41

Oh, the irony definitely came through. Your exchanges with your office-mate Jack provided a useful counterpoint to highlight that.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:40 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 29

Many people have asked me if I have had trouble sleeping. Never. I feel that I did my very best, and did well, to honor my oath, complete my mission, and to act honorably. The hardest part was writing about the cataclysm that befell my wife and me, to be honest. And, to be honest, in two conversations I have had about the CAPTUS operation/interrogation, I choked up–to my surpise–because I was unable to make things right. Actually, writing this affects me this moment. I did my best.

Jim White July 9th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Here’s one where I would just like your reaction, Glenn (and I do hope we aren’t peppering the questions too quickly, but torture is really a specialty here among Marcy’s readers).

On page 199, you note that when agents are given weapons training, they are also informed by a lawyer from the Office of General Council:

“If ever you are called upon to use your weapon, and someone is killed or injured, you will be responsible to provide yourselves any legal representation that may be required.”

Then, as the torture issue started gaining some traction in the general press, it became clear that the CIA and the Bush Adminstration was going to provide full legal representation for any agent who faced prosecution for use of EIT’s. How did that strike you as someone who had been involved in interrogations?

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:42 pm
In response to Margaret @ 31

Thank you very much. I have been consistently surprised by my own reactions, from the moment I was first brought in to the case. I was shocked how powerful the children’s drawings were to me; I have been repeatedly moved by even small comments by people. I have “won” many enemies by writing what I have, but many expressions of support, too. It’s a big deal to me, more than I anticipated, to be honest.

bmaz July 9th, 2011 at 2:42 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 41

Fascinating. Did you find that much of your legal “authority” was similarly predicated upon semantics and gymnastics?

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:45 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 33

Interesting observation. No, to my knowledge, the issue has been approached in a more “classic” way: field officers, like my colleague and myself, on one side, as it were, and the renditions unit on the other. Officers seeking to conduct clandestine field operations running up against the protocol-routine-bound renditions folks, with overriding concern for security rather than liaison relations, operational security, sound tradecraft, etc. I’ve never heard a comment about a clash between the measures used and the…discretion of a rendition.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:46 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 36

You seem to know more about the history and twists and turns of the various letters than I did, or do. I recall a July letter, as I noted.

greenwarrior July 9th, 2011 at 2:47 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 45

I haven’t read the book yet, so I don’t know what you’re referring to about the cataclysm with you and your wife.

I appreciate hearing the effect it has on you. And I so appreciate your longing to have been able to make it right with CAPTUS. And to have what our country does be right. I’m guessing it was the impetus for serving our country in the first place. And it sounds like it was the main impetus for you to write the book.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:48 pm
In response to bmaz @ 48

Not Glenn, but I find it interesting that two things were going on in October 2002 (if I’ve got the timing right–for a timeline gal the datelessness of the book drove me nuts!).

As I said, that’s precisely the time when CIA was going back and writing briefing reports that made it look like they had briefed Pelosi and Graham–but not even Porter Goss’ version coincides with the briefing reports. That’s also the period they first decided to destroy the Abu Zubaydah tapes. The orders to the field about what to do with tapes changed at that point (that is, that’s when they gave the order to tape over any new videotapes).

But we know from the IG report that they had instituted a kind of certification program. I guess that’s part of what this was about. (And note semantics about who was doing the interviewing played into issues of contractors, etc.)

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:48 pm
In response to mattcarmody @ 37

Interesting question. Subsequent to my involvement in the CAPTUS case, I worked very deeply in the continuity of government programs and work. But, at the time of 9/11, my perspective as a rank and file employee was simply that we were all evacuated. I do not believe a COOP or COG program was implemented; but I do not know.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:50 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 49

I just remember how some of the details that identified black sites–I think Poland, for example–came from observers seeing a big ruckus at an airport. I seem to recall similar examples from European airports.

It may have been rendition flights would have been noticed in any case. But the Ninja treatment, I think, made renditions more visible to observers on the outside beginning to cop on.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:50 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 38

Hmm, I started the book sometime in 2007, late 2007 I think. It took a looong time of back and forth with the Agency to get it approved. They were not happy with it/me, I’m sure. I got a little disheartened at one point–it just seemed they would not let me write it in a coherent way. My wife deserves credit for bucking me up at that point. So, about 5 months of writing, I think, and 2 years of arguing with the Agency.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I focused on narrative in my post on this.

But I’m curious what sort of narrative you envisioned writing when you set out on this book?

You start each chapter w/literary quotes. And throughout the book you’re self-conscious of your Harvard training.

So did you see yourself as writing a straight non-fiction book, or something in-between?

(One of the reasons I ask is bc my PhD work included a lot of work on Czech and Argentine literature, and there are aspects of this–right when the narrative gives out–that remind me of some of those texts.)

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:54 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 40

I try to explore and explain why so many did what was troubling. In part, the motivations are honorable: the CIA and its officers consciously seek to be the body of the government that does tasks that run up to the edge of what is acceptable, and to accept the hard tasks. that is all fine. But, the other component, which I explore at length in the book, is how institutions develop orthodox views. To challenge them is very, very hard. Apostates are excised. The view was, for many, “well, the president has said xxx. We were attacked. Our superiors have established that we need to do x and y. Our experts assess that we are at grave threat. Dang it, I will do my duty and protect the nation…” that’s it. Honorable in most instances. But when our leaders lead us to…a John Yoo memo, we may commit terrible mistakes.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 2:58 pm
In response to Jim White @ 46

Ha! The no-legal-representation-in-the-event-of-a-shooting situation was yet another absurd, decades-long, Kafkaesque little sub-plot. Just ridiculous. but true. I actually never made a connection between the weapons and torture (sic) issues. Actually, I believe it wasn’t the Administration, but the Agency’s management (in the Directorate of Operations) that thought its officers should not be left defenseless, in all senses of the term, and helped arrange for liability insurance to be available.

Gitcheegumee July 9th, 2011 at 3:01 pm

I had read that Blackwater was in Afghanistan very early on. Any opinions or input about the CIA and Blackwater’s relationship?

Was Blackwater ever actual “interviewers” themselves? Do you address them in this book,btw?

Thank you in advance,and thanks for being here.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:01 pm
In response to bmaz @ 48

hahahahaha. I’m not sure how to answer. I describe as well as I can the land of absurdities in which I wandered. Perhaps that is any war. but I called it kafkaesque, Alice’s Wonderland, a dimension beyond the normal arc of time and sensory perception or normal humans, etc.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 3:02 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 55

Ah, I was going to ask about your wife’s role in supporting your decision to write this.

And I hope you don’t take it personally that I called the book a narrative mess–I think it’s telling that it is; it says as much as the actual content.

One of the things I appreciated, though–and wish more security people who go through these reviews would do–are your footnotes explaining what was in the redactions.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:06 pm
In response to greenwarrior @ 51

It sounds corny and good-two-shoes. The Agency can be a bizarre, wearing career. But, it is also true that my colleagues on the whole really devote their lives–and the lives of their spouses and children–to serving our oath. It’s true. A bizarre life, in which lying and morally…ambiguous, hard actions, serve a higher purpose. It’s also true that we must tell ourselves this, lest we completely fall into cynicism and nihilism. Read McCarry and LeCarre (and, dare I say it, me) and you’ll sense the tension of serving a purpose while abiding in a fog in which we have to exploit people’s hopes and fears. Strange life. Stimulating and boring and wearing.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:07 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 54

I think the renditions came to public attention because a clueless guy in Sweden noticed ninjas hopping around and thought, well, isn’t that special? and then it all unraveled because of the strange people (sic) who spend their time reading airplane serial numbers!

Jim White July 9th, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Going back to the “papers” issue, I guess I’m just a conspiracy type, because I find it incomprehensible that this was just a snafu.

Especially when it is coupled with your two damning cables never being sent from Point Zero. It sure looks to me like there was a concerted effort to keep negative information out of the “flow” on the CAPTUS case. As you say on page 172:

To challenge any paradigm requires awareness of its parameters and limitations. Few of us can do this.

And even fewer can do it when information is selectively edited to conform to the dominant paradigm.

Jeff Kaye July 9th, 2011 at 3:12 pm


In your book, you state that “the SERE training, through a manual called the KUBARK manual, became the de facto basis of interrogtion techniques throughout the Global War on Terror”.

The KUBARK manual, as readers may not know, was a CIA manual of counterintelligence interrogation written in approx. 1963. It was declassified in the late 1990s.

Numerous times, Glenn, you refer to the KUBARK manual in ways that appear to minimize its sinister aspect, saying, for instance, that KUBARK emphasized the harmful aspects of torture. You also state that the manual (which you also note was the blueprint for CAPTUS’s physical cell conditions) was misunderstood for its “few controversial passages concerning coercive methods of interrogation” (p. 84). You also say you were introduced to KUBARK while you working with Alan Fiers Central American Task Force in the 1980s,

I wonder if you would comment on how and when you encountered KUBARK in your career? Were you trained in it? Why do you not mention the Human Resource Exploitation Manual of the 1980s, which used torture and assassination and was authored by the U.S. CIA for training of Latin American military and paramilitary forces? Also, why say KUBARK only had a “few controversial passages,” when fully 1/4 of the manual (a little more actually) is given over use of torture?

Finally, what makes your “rapport-based” interrogation of CAPTUS any different from that the Good Cop/Bad Cop interrogation technique? Was not CAPTUS, while under your interrogation, not a kidnap victim? Was he not held in isolation, with no access to attorneys or family? Was he ever subjected to sleep deprivation during a period when you were interrogating him?

Sorry for all the questions, but these are what immediately came to mind as I looked at your book.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:12 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 56

Ha. I have been dunned for wearing the Harvard bit too much on my sleeve. Obnoxious, self-conscious and so on. I apologize. The events occurred as I wrote them, though. I almost took out ALL the epigrams, as being too pretentious and confirming the Harvard snot angle. But they were all so good!

Between fiction and non-fiction: No! But I DID quite consciously strive to convey the emotional impact of the events. I wanted what I lived and what happened to live and to resonate emotionally for the reader. I did not want to write a dry narrative of rendition-detention-interrogation-torture-foreign policy-GWOT. I wanted it to move people, as it moved everyone who lived it. So, to me, clearly a richer style of writing is more powerful. Yet, everything I wrote happened, every sentiment I had as I describe it. i wanted the reader to live this, not think about it. It is important; too important to be treated at an intellectual distance.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:13 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 56

Czech and Argentine texts: Interesting. I have been affected in my life by Kundera and Pio Baroja. My models were more explicitly Conrad and Greene, however. But everything I wrote is non-fiction. it is all true.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Okay, here’s one of the questions that might get contentious.

Here’s what you had to say about prosecutions.

Almost all individuals and institutions involved in coercive interrogations
strictly followed guidance that had received the repeated approval of the highest
bodies in the U.S. government. Prosecution would not rectify the errors
committed, but it would fray our society. Punishment metes out no justice.

And–just because I find it worthwhile to include here–here’s what retired FBI officer Ali Soufan had to say.

I served alongside CIA officers in interrogation rooms at Guantanamo and at black sites. I saw the officers disagree with instructions to start using coercive interrogation and demand to have the orders in writing; some even left the locations in protest. CIA officers also complained to their inspector general, John Helgerson, who conducted an investigation and produced a report in 2004, later released by the Obama administration, that was critical of enhanced interrogation techniques, or EITs. This is why I’ve publicly opposed calls to prosecute CIA officers involved in the interrogations: The officers registered their protests through the channels available.

Would you support the prosecution of people like John Yoo or David Addington who worked so hard to write these kafkaesque letters?

Jeff Kaye July 9th, 2011 at 3:16 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 65

I’m sorry, I wrote that you emphasized the harmful aspects of KUBARK, I meant you emphasized the opposite, painting KUBARK as emphasizing the negative aspects of coercive interrogation.

You also mentioned that the CIA in Central America in the 1980s was trying to “stop” abuses by local authorities, something I don’t anyone here would believe.

One last question, why do you oppose investigations into the CIA and Pentagon torture programs? You appear to follow the Obama administration’s don’t look back, no accountability policy.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:17 pm
In response to Gitcheegumee @ 59

In my experience, and to my knowledge, no contractor ever did an interrogation. But, I only know what I know. I find it hard to imagine the Agency would ever give such a sensitive assignment to a non-staff person.

No, I was not allowed to address the issue of Blackwater or contractors in my book. I tried. So, on this I think I have to punt a little.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 3:18 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 67

Yeah, the Conrad definitely came through–particularly in the “Jihadi Bar” scene.

And to be clear–I wasn’t implying this was fictional. I was thinking of texts now called testimonio, samizdat texts, and so on. Also all non-fictional, but also very absurd.

Gitcheegumee July 9th, 2011 at 3:21 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 70

Thank you for your response. Very interesting,indeed.So, if I understand correctly, when EITs were farmed out to other countries,it was always assiggned to and performed by staff persons?

Incidentally, any chance were you allowed to discuss the treatment,and prosecution of John Walker Lindh,or did this not enter into your narrative?

Once again,thanks in advance for your response and your years of service.

Jeff Kaye July 9th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Could you elaborate on the presence of psychologists and medical personnel in the interrogations? Did you work with a psychologist when working out the interrogation approach strategies in regards to CAPTUS?

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:23 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 61

Narrative mess. Well, perhaps for the chapter(s) at Hotel California (my wife suggested this name, for the obvious reason that one may check in, but never leave…) The “mess” to which you refer I think is the chapter in which something terrible happened to CAPTUS. They took every word of that chapter and the chapters on each side of that, out. I left it in, in the end, for this reason: I am not allowed to describe what happened to CAPTUS. But it was inadvertent. There was no conscious measure taken to harm him. It was another mess up. The POINT for leaving the “mess” in was, however, that CAPTUS’s description of the events was completely accurate. Completely. I saw it all happen. He did not know that. His accurate description helped demonstrate to me that he was fundamentally speaking straight with me. It was a small insight I could not convey to Headquarters. But, it made him an honest man, on the whole, for all his frequent incoherence. that’s why I left it in. I’m afraid the redactions obscure the real point of that chapter. it’s not what happened to him; it’s his accuracy in describing what happened that was important. And that no one else would appreciate that, except me, because I KNEW the man. couldn’t convince Headquarters, though.

PeasantParty July 9th, 2011 at 3:25 pm


I have to tell you how fully disappointed I am in the leadership, both during Bush’s term and now. Our Military and Intelligence is better than what is being portrayed in 11 years of war. The American people now know that the real “Strategic Interests” are the oil/pipelines/minerals, etc. I know that AQ and Taliban are fighting against the presence there, but the nastiest part of both of those factions do not take almost 11 years to eradicate.

Now we have Pakistan bombing Afghanistan as well. (shakes head)
Can you give us a view that might clarify some of the insanity and years there?

bmaz July 9th, 2011 at 3:27 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 52


Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:28 pm
In response to Jim White @ 64

Oh, the not sending the cables was intentional. No question about that point. No question. They did not disappear, because they never formally existed. A cable only exists if it is sent. And mine would have required a response. Awkward. So, they weren’t sent.

The document nonsense, though, I am equally certain was institutional foolishness and resource constraint. No malice. Am sure of it. Crazy, but I am completely certain of it. My institution was pressuring me and everyone to get everything from this guy–he might have led us to Bin Ladin! We believed this at the beginning; and Headquarters continued to believe it despite my cables. So, there was no plot to withhold them. I think anyone who serves in the Agency or military would recognize the nonsense. but not malice. it’s like when the Soviets sent foreign aid to a country in Africa at the beginning of my career–and the aid consisted of snow plows… Ha!!

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 3:29 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 74

Ah, thanks for that insight.

That’s not entirely what I mean by narrative mess (I mentioned, for example, how the timeline of this is deliberately vague, with just a few signposts to orient the reader (and some key ones to disorient the reader). Similarly, the way the redactions increase as things get more Heart of Darkeness-like make the narrative seem less sane, given that your voice as stable narrator is disrupted so much (and some of your metacomments–the footnotes, for example–add another layer of narration).

In any case, it wasn’t meant to be an insult. I argued a lot w/some pretty snobby French professors that Madame Bovary was annoying and uninteresting precisely because it was such a finished narrative. Within the literary academy THAT counts as heresy.

bmaz July 9th, 2011 at 3:30 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 60

Heh, no, I think all those descriptors are actually spot on. Quite sad to say that I might add.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:32 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 65

Phew! I recognize you from an exchange re Scott Horton’s article. Many questions. I’ll try to answer. Let’s see:

first, I wrote the book at first describing what I saw and thought, with no reference to KUBARK at first. The Agency took EVERY WORD out. they censored 40,000 of my initial 100,000 words. So, i had to resort to text they could not take out, because it was already declassified. Nonetheless, as I note, the Agency still censored all sorts of unclassified text–even T.S. Eliot and Rudyard Kipling!

Jeff Kaye July 9th, 2011 at 3:37 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 80

I understand the dilemma the censorship put you in. I am concerned with the larger question of revisionism in relation to earlier episodes of CIA torture, and to what is in the KUBARK document in general. I found the emphasis on the supposed support KUBARK gave to rapport-based interrogation to be consistent to what Steven Kleinman wrote in his essay on KUBARK in the Educing Information monograph. And in that case, too, Kleinman understated the emphasis KUBARK gave to use of sensory deprivation, stress positions, sleep deprivation, use of drugs on detainees, etc.So while I think I understand why you say you used KUBARK as you did, I’m afraid a side consequence was to cause general confusion about KUBARK, and to underplay other CIA interrogation manuals, such as the 1983 Human Resource Exploitation Manual.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:37 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 65

My experience with the Sandinista-Contra ware is directly relevant. It really is an entire, separate book, or should be. There is much one can condemn or criticize in the US involvement in Nicaragua. the relevant facts for my views of KUBARK, though, were that the Argentine intelligence service had been working with the Contras from sometime in the late 1970s, I think, until around 1983. They were surrogates. And disastrous ones, because the Contras and others engaged in practices that were appalling. So, truly one of the objectives of CIA involvement with the Contras was to STOP the crazy, awful excesses that the Argentines had taught. That was my experience. One of the ways the Agency sought to stop these practices was by using the KUBARK manual. The manual had, at that time, more clearly objectionable–at least controversial!–elements than a later version. But, nonetheless, it emphasized manipulation of a psyche, rather than, well, terror methods. it is in that sense that I referred to the KUBARK manual.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:38 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 65

the Human Resource Exploitation Manual of the 1980s I had never heard of until I read the name in your note a day or two ago. To the extent there was a manual of which I was aware (and there was, of course, much I didn’t know at all) was KUBARK.

Jeff Kaye July 9th, 2011 at 3:39 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 80

I had not realized, and am not surprised, to hear about the censorship of non-classified information. Yet another reason not to trust anything the CIA tells us.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:42 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 65

Sure, I’ll accept the good cop-bad cop description. Not different, I think.

Kidnapped: the rendition amounted to a kidnapping, a government-sanctioned one, yes. I believe I use the word in the book.

One of the main points of concern I had throughout was the utter elimination of habeas corpus. It is perhaps the single most important “right” or guarantee we have. With the First Amendment, I think it is the greatest guarantee we have, and what we take our oath to preserve and protect. It’s hugely important. Completely agree. And this is a big part of why the “program” so disturbed me.

CTuttle July 9th, 2011 at 3:43 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 82

You wouldn’t limit it to just Nicaragua…? What about Benning’s School of the Americas, which has merely been renamed lately, and not ‘closed’…! 8-(

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 3:45 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 85

Interesting point. I’m planning on a follow-up post, probably Monday, on Wazir. As you allude, he was released (in February 2010). But not until after John Bates rejected his habeas plea on a plea 4 different Bagram detainees made (he was rejected bc he was an Afghan citizen–the others were not). The Appeals Court decision on the other three is the ruling that now deprives Bagram detainees of habeas.

But I find Wazir’s treatment, given your book, all the more interesting. Why wasn’t he sent to Gitmo, if they believed him so important? But by keeping him in BAgram, it kept him out of the reach of greater review for his case.

And most interesting of all, the govt said we couldn’t give him habeas bc we don’t run Bagram, it’s a war zone, etc. But even while they were arguing it, Karzai and other top Afghans were pressuring us to release him.

So he is ending up to be an interesting–and tragic–figure in all our litigation about habeas.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:46 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 68

I very carefully and consciously worked out how I think we as a society should address what happened. I anticipate that many–some here–will assume I don’t want prosecution to protect the guilty, as it were. My reasons are much different: My goal is to strengthen our laws, practices, and crucially, civil society–the social compact that makes people abide by, or flaunt, our laws. We do this by fostering shared values. In this instance, by progressively accepting that torture is terrible and un-American; that habeas corpus is critical; that no circumstance justifies jettisoning 800 years of arduous devleopment of legal guarantees and individual rights. How to do this?

Jeff Kaye July 9th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 82

That is interesting that there have been multiple versions of the KUBARK manual. We only have the one declassified version.

The Human Resouce Exploitation Manual can be read from a version held by the National Security Archive: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB27/02-01.htm

Let me say that I find it odd you would not know of it, given the scandals over it in the mid-late 1990s.

Copies of both KUBARK and the Central American manuals can be accessed, with into material, at http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB122/

From my standpoint, the issue of CIA and U.S. military use of coercive interrogation methods goes back way before 9/11, and any treatment of the subject should include reference to that.

Have you not heard, either, of Operation Condor, would be associated with the use of Latin American intelligence and police agencies with other Latin American governments, for the purpose of cross-border, international state terror aimed against the Left or liberal government opponents. It spread from the Southern Cone in the 1970s to Central America, as you say, in the 1980s. Many of those involved in the Iran Contra scandals, including Mr. Fiers for whom you worked, and was convicted by the Walsh prosecutions, pop up again in the Bush/Cheney program.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 88

Dunno. Because some of the people I’ve worked with on this got pretty dispirited when they did some polling that showed not even Colin Powell’s public statements condemning torture convinced people to oppose it. Powell is about the most trusted man in the US (for better or worse!). But our society is so convinced now that torture is cool and necessary, they don’t believe the guy they purported trust.

Jim White July 9th, 2011 at 3:48 pm

The anecdote on the urinals that were five feet off the floor at the CIA field office in the city by the first interrogation site comes off as needed comic relief until your narrative gets to the point that you realize the facility was clearly built exclusively for the CIA. Left unsaid is the realization to which you came that this means the men’s room was constructed by someone who was not a Westerner. This, in turn, leads me to the conclusion that subcontractors were used extensively in the construction of the facility. Doesn’t that open the possibility of the “embassy” in Moscow that had to be abandoned during construction because of the number of Soviet bugs incorporated into the building during construction?

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:49 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 68

I believe prosecutions would divide us more than we are already. It would polarize our society. Large segments of it (the conservative, neocons, etc.) would view prosecutions as vindictive; they would become defensive, and would defend practices and positions which we want ALL to repudiate. So, what we should do is shame those who made the decisions, reinforce our commitment to the rule of law, the convention Against Torture and so on. Look ahead, bring together. If the cost (sic) is to let a few evil-doers and corrupters go free (sic), and the benefit is that the likelhood that our society will repudiate these practices more firmly in the future–well, to me that is the goal.

I would support that Yoo and one or two others be disbarred. And Cheney, well, that’s a whole other topic, perhaps.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:52 pm
In response to Gitcheegumee @ 72

I know nothing first-hand about John Walker Lindh.

I address the issue of CIA–my–actions in concert with and in presence of liason counterparts as well and clearly as I can in the book.

BevW July 9th, 2011 at 3:54 pm

As we come to the end of this Book Salon,

Glenn, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the CIA.

Marcy, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Glenn’s website and book.

Marcy’s website

Sunday’s Book Salon
Jonathan Hafetz – Habeas Corpus after 9/11: Confronting America’s New Global Detention System
Hosted by Dahlia Lithwick

Just quick reminder:
Membership drive! Are you an FDL member? If not, please join and help keep FDL delivering kick ass activism and independent journalism. You can join HERE.

Thanks all,
Have a great evening.

Gitcheegumee July 9th, 2011 at 3:55 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 89

Jeff have you researched this?

Battalion 3-16 (Honduras) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaen.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battalion_3-16_(Honduras) – Intelligence Battalion 3-16 or Battalion 316 (various names: Group of 14 (1979– 1981), Special Investigations Branch (DIES) (1982–1983), Intelligence …

1980s – 1990s – 2000s – Known members and roles►Torture at CIA Battalion 316:www.globalresearch.ca/articles/COH405A.html – CachedSimilar- Block all http://www.globalresearch.ca results

May 19, 2004 – The intelligence unit, known as Battalion 316, used shock and suffocation devices in interrogations. Prisoners often were kept naked and, …

NOTE:I have not seen reference to this group ,in your previous pieces here, to the best of my knowledge.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 3:56 pm
In response to Glenn L. Carle @ 92

I did quite a lot of work on the OPR report. There was a lot about it that was effectively a coverup (and then there’s the whole Zubaydah tape thing, which was a cover-up of a cover-up of a cover-up).

So instead, Yoo is still teaching future lawyers.

After the Libby trial (I believe more strongly than Joe, for example, that Cheney could have and should have been brought down over that), I’m think it’ll take far more to get the moral rot out of our system.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:56 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 86

Like field officers in all circumstances, my perspective is perhaps a bit limited: I worked on the Contra-Sandinista war. Colleagues literally sat beside me and worked El Salvador, Guatemala and so on. But my experience with the Contras was that, on this specific point (I am not touching upon for the moment wider political, military, intelligence objectives and actions), that of stopping the Contras from engaging in human rights violations (e.g. assassination), the KUBARK manual was an explicit tool, and the CIA worked to stop all this from happening. I do not claim we were there as peacekeepers and saints; but we worked to stop what the Argentines (as I understand it) had inculcated.

Jeff Kaye July 9th, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Re investigations and prosecutions, it’s interesting that government figures and those who say, essentially, “let’s move on” or “let’s not antagonize the [former?] torturers”, never think of asking the victims what they think.

Well, as those well-informed about the aftermath of the tens of thousands tortured, killed or disappeared in Latin America under Condor, the victims do not forget, or their families.

Ramzi Yousef and Al Zawahiri, to name two, became impassioned about what they did because of torture.

No, we must have this out, and our society will, one way or another.

We did nothing after the revelations about Phoenix, the support of death squads and torture in Latin America, and look what happened. No, it doesn’t work the way you may wish, Glenn. I too, would prefer no turmoil and have a nice peaceful life. But the ghosts will not be quiet.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 3:59 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 87

I literally knew nothing of my case–CAPTUS–for years after my several month involvement. the legal rationale for keepiong Pacha Wazir in detention, as I have read summaries of it, strikes me as equally Kafkaesque to my experience in the interrogation. If the man was in effective US control, it is past absurd to argue US law has no standing, and he has no legitimate habeas claim against the US. what?! But, here I know I am preaching to the choir.

powwow July 9th, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Glenn, your recent interviews, and comments here, are very impressive, and very much appreciated. Thank you for trying to maintain high and honorable standards of conduct for government service (even, or especially, in a clandestine role) – a seemingly thankless task anymore.

Can you describe how real oversight by Congress might have been received by you and your colleagues at the time of your involvement with CAPTUS? I’m assuming (without having read your book, as yet) that – partly because of all the secrecy and the imbalance of resources – the Congressional Intelligence Committees were far from effective then, as still seems to be the case today (see the unexamined “secret interpretations” of the PATRIOT Act, for example, as recently highlighted by two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee).

Did you and your colleagues respect, fear, or hold in contempt, Congressional oversight bodies? Did they try and fail, or simply not try? Or did they, and do they, mostly succeed, in your eyes, if only secretly, and without the knowledge of most other Members of Congress (or the general public)?

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 4:00 pm


Thanks for joining us–your openness and willingness to share personal details is admirable.

And thanks, too, for fighting to write the book.

CTuttle July 9th, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Mahalo, Glenn, for taking the time to be ‘interrogated’ by the best of ‘em, here at the Lake…! ;-)

Mahalo, Marcy and Bev for another excellent Book Salon…! *g*

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 4:04 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 89

Odd it may be, but the reason is ignorance, not intentional lack of knowledge, or any other coherent behind-the-scenes reason.

I do not know of coercive interrogations the Agency engaged in prior to 9/11. To my knowledge, the Agency didn’t do this stuff from Vietnam until the “War on Terror.” I may be wrong, but I don’t think so. We surely did teach interrogation in Central America and, I presume, elsewhere. But, I do not know myself.

what you call Condor I was vaguely aware of, I think, but had no first-hand knowledge or involvement. Central America was part of my life in 1986. After that I went on to other assignments. So, you are far more familiar with much of th history and activities than I.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 4:06 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 98

These are powerful arguments. What must one do for the victims? Very strong points. It’s terrible, all of this. My goal is to get the bad practices repudiated by ever more citizens. The rights of the victims is important, too, I agree.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 4:08 pm
In response to powwow @ 100

Congressional oversight is disfunctional, because completely politicized. I have seen this first-hand. I do not have a solution. But, each party vetoed the efforts of the other; or, rather, the Republicans sided with the Executive, and the Democrats could not get past that.

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I actually think Libya approvals almost turned into a basis for common ground.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Well, I guess I am supposed to be quiet now. I have been very, very impressed by everyone’s knowledge. Whew. I did my best. Thank you all for your direct, knowledgeable questions on difficult subjects.


Jeff Kaye July 9th, 2011 at 4:14 pm
In response to Gitcheegumee @ 95

Yes, I am aware of these matters. I’ll be incorporating them more and more into my writings in the near future.

PeasantParty July 9th, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Glenn, thank you so much. Very interesting book Salon.

Marcy and Bev, you two are awesome as usual!

emptywheel July 9th, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Well, you don’t HAVE to be quiet. We’re all in favor of loudmouths.

The comments remain open for 2 days, if you want to come back. And now that you’re all signed in, you can do diaries at MyFDL if you want.

Thanks for being so willing to answer questions–it was a great chat.

Jim White July 9th, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Thanks very much, Glenn. We can be a tough crowd and you did a very good job of conveying your thoughts and feelings as completely as the situation allows. Good luck in your future endeavors.

PeasantParty July 9th, 2011 at 4:17 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 110

Well, you don’t HAVE to be quiet. We’re all in favor of loudmouths.

LOL! Exactly!

People would never get any facts without loud mouths at FDL and other sites. The news certainly doesn’t go for those little insignificant things like facts!/ snark

CTuttle July 9th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

You’re most welcome to keep the discussion going… We’ll keep asking q’s as long as you keep answering them…! ;-)

VMT July 9th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Hi Glenn,

You can skip this question if you feel it’s too far off topic. I’d be interested to know your opinion on what percentage of CIA censorship is used to protect legitimate and legal covert operations and what percentage is used to ensure that the American public do not learn of the illegal nature of the activities being carried out in their name. Thanks.

powwow July 9th, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Great job, Glenn. Thank you, and Marcy and Bev, and all the questioners for this thought-provoking discussion.

Jeff Kaye July 9th, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Yes, please consider this side of the arguments. We need people who will press for accountability, and if you are sincere in your wish to end torture, then you will consider the importance of accountability. It won’t be pretty, it’s true. And you’re right there will be tremendous push-back, but empirically, we’ve seen that not doing anything doesn’t work. These people don’t really simply realize the errors of their ways and go back to civilized norms. If only that’s how it worked.

Thanks for taking the questions and attempting some answers.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 4:26 pm
In response to Jim White @ 91

No, no. The point of the urinal tale is that, at first, I assumed a “third worlder” had built it. Incompetent and stupid. Americans wouldn’t do that, of course not. Then, I realize, wait a minute, ONLY Americans could have built this. The absurd, stupid behavior was not that of “third worlders”, but of Americans. Then, the exchange with my office-mate: He offers me a pot to piss in–continuing to dun me for not being able to use the urinal. But it was I who had seen through the foolishness, not him. Thus, my comment: You are still only a first-tour officer, but already you are grown to be a fool! He still did not see, as I had come to, the misconceptions, and errors of us, the Americans; not the “third worlders.” THAT is the point; it underscores my progressive realization that WE did everything wrong, and understood nothing.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 4:28 pm
In response to Jim White @ 111

Thanks! I’d do this again in a split second! Very stimulating. Fair questions all.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 4:31 pm
In response to VMT @ 114

there is no one answer. the mandate is legitimate: to protect sources and methods. But, the term is elastic. Different administrations give different…vibes or behind-the-scenes orders. Under Bush it was hard to get anything published. It is a bit better under Obama. And so on.

Also, the topic is important. Torture and interrogation are very, very sensitive. The Agency is much tougher. If I wrote about logistical improvements, they would not be so hard.

thatvisionthing July 9th, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Hi Glenn, late here, jumping in — I apologize if this has been asked — Who wrote the interrogation scripts?

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 4:37 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 116

I’ll only add for now that my model, my conscious thought as I wrestle with “how can we strengthen the rule of law, habeas, etc.” is that we have laws enough. they are only as good as the values that guide the men and women in teh society. And, the greatest lesson from our Civil War, I think, was that within hours of the end of hostilities, the adversaries (Sherman and Johnston, to mention just one of millions of examples) were literally playing poker together. turning the page heals more, and foster comity of views more, than retribution and punishment. And, relatively benign (or incompetent and feckless) as “reconstruction” and post-Civil War America was…it still has taken us until NOW to overcome most of our racial differences, north and south. So, the lesson I take is that reconciliation and fostering shared views is more important than punishment for wrongdoing.

In any event, that is why I think looking forward it the way to go. But, your point about the victims… it’s terrible. They deserve something; perhaps something FOR them is better than punishment of the people who did wrong TO them.

Anyway, I am off. Thanks very, very much.

– Glenn

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 4:40 pm

? I don’t understand. Interrogation scripts? I formulated a series of questions each day, based on points various parts of the Intelligence Community wanted addressed.

Teddy Partridge July 9th, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Thanks to all for this, reading it now, I realize what an amazing community this is. Gotta read this book now, I guess.

pdaly July 9th, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Thank you Glenn Carle for your participation in this fdl book salon.

Look forward to any future comments/posts you may wish to write.

BTW, emptywheel’s (Marcy Wheeler’s) posts on the OPR report (as she mentions above) and all her other posts on the torture memos, etc. reference only publicly available information–which I hope allows you an easy way to avoid running afoul of any secrecy constraints.

pdaly July 9th, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Here’s one of emptywheel’s OPR threads.

Follow the hyper links to see and read others.
You can also use google or any other internet search engine to find others.

tambershall July 9th, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Thanks Jeff Kaye for asking the tough questions.
And in a polite and conversational tone, which I could have not.
I didn’t comment anything or ask anything because I’m sure if I would have, I would been banned for life from FDL. And I didn’t think now was the time for that. Yet.
So thanks.

AdamPDX July 9th, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Take a bunch of Bible College graduates. Run them through Falwell’s Liberty University and CBN University “Graduate degree” programs. Send them straight to Iraq to run a privatized multi-national invasion/occupation.

Gee… I wonder what went wrong there.

thatvisionthing July 9th, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Hi, you answered, thanks! If you come back to read this, my question came from something that was in Ron Suskind’s book, which was that the CIA’s code name for Cheney was Edgar, as in Edgar Bergen, the ventriloquist. Like how Cheney planted stories in the NY Times, then referred to them later on Meet the Press as outside verification, that kind of thing. So I’ve always wondered if Cheney wrote interrogation “scripts” — sent you guys on specific tasks, and therefore shaped what “intelligence” would be gotten. I’m actually thinking about a specific exchange I read once, how the same question and response got reported back differently — damn my memory — one agency did a little clearer job of reporting that the detainee had no answer, the other one implied more than was there, just from the question, which of course works out awful down the line for the detainee. (Help, anyone? I probably read it here.) Or, Karl Rove? Like Lawrence Wilkerson said the orange jumpsuit terror theater was Rove’s doing. See, scripts, theater, that’s what I meant. Also thinking about how the Army report on Wikileaks identified the threat of Assange not as a dangerous leaker of secrets, as in operational stuff, but as a “whistleblower,” an exposer of abuse. Never never never pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

I’m actually restating a comment I made here last year — here, with links.

Thank you so much!

thatvisionthing July 9th, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Also, along the lines of what emptywheel was asking @4 — did you see Rumsfeld’s “take the gloves off” memo I think from late 2001? I’ve wondered if that one has been released, and the only reference I could find was a TPM Muckraker pdf of the discovery letter describing it to John Lindh’s lawyers — and I see that link is now dead for me.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 8:14 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 73

Sorry I missed this earlier.

Yes, a psychologist was part of the team that conducted interrogation of a “HVT”–High Value Target. I write in the book about how I found him to be a rare ally, as I tried to stop the use of the EITs, at least in a way I found completely gratuitous. The “shrink” as we called him was humane and spoke up on my side to stop measures. Their mission was to make sure that treatment conformed to the norms being established, to make sure no excesses occurred; and to counsel the interrogator on any psychological element of the interrogation that might be relevant: the detainee’s psychological state, what was acceptable, what his reactions might mean, etc. In my experience they were insightful, constructive officers; thoughtful and measured, not gung ho. Critical minds.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 8:32 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 75

Well, this is a tough question. More a cry of distress than anything. I have come to accept that oil was a factor in the thinking of those who decided to invade Iraq. But, it really was secondary, tertiary even. The motives of the Neocons were to bring democracy to the little brown mustachioed people, who would be grateful, and would strew flowers before the liberators’ tanks; to catalyze revolutions throughout the downtrodden Arab regimes, and to turn them all–poof!–into little Texases or Montgomery Counties, flush with town meetings, PTAs, and Walmarts; to eliminate a strategic threat to Israel; to take Saddam out before the UN sanctions completely fell apart (as they were–a bad thing, and just about a legitimate causus belli…but that opens a whole new direction of discussion); to finish the job which the Neocons themselves had wisely refrained from embracing during Gulf War One (marching all the way to Bagdhad and eliminating Saddam). the Neocons had no interest in, and less understanding of, terrorism or, shockingly, regional dynamics. So, they in good faith (and complete lunacy) conflated Saddam, al-Qa’ida, Hizballah (a SHI’A organization!), weapons of mass destruction (on this one, the Neocons get half a pass, because the Intelligence Community–myself included–believed Saddam to possess nuclear and biological weapons programs)…and because it seemed an easy win. And, reflexively, they told everyone, and themselves, that since they rejected national building, and since victory would be fast, why, they needn’t worry about it. They also subscribed to the “shock and awe” doctrine in a particularly pernicious way; their view contained cultural condescension in it: why, the Arabs only understand strength and honor. If we use awe-inspiring, overwhelming force, demonstrate who the STRONG MAN is, well, they will be cowed, will submit, we can establish a democracy–everyone wants to be like us, after all, ain’t it so?–and, voila, we will have had our conquering, Gordon-takes-Khartoum moment, only this time Gordon will be crowned de facto emperor.

So much for our Iraq misadventure. Pakistan, Libya, etc., I’ll pass on for the moment. I will note that the dominant global power, the near hegemon, in any era ALWAYS seeks international stability, and generally supportive or neutral regimes. So, it is historically “normal” for the United States–our era’s hegemon–to seek stability, and to manage change. Much of the rest is momentary rationalization. From this perspective, our actions in Libya, Pakistan, the Middle East, are “normal”; what England did before us; France did; Spain did; the Ottomans did; the Athenians did.

Glenn L. Carle July 9th, 2011 at 9:10 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 78

Ah, thanks for that insight.

That’s not entirely what I mean by narrative mess (I mentioned, for example, how the timeline of this is deliberately vague, with just a few signposts to orient the reader (and some key ones to disorient the reader). Similarly, the way the redactions increase as things get more Heart of Darkeness-like make the narrative seem less sane, given that your voice as stable narrator is disrupted so much (and some of your metacomments–the footnotes, for example–add another layer of narration).

In any case, it wasn’t meant to be an insult. I argued a lot w/some pretty snobby French professors that Madame Bovary was annoying and uninteresting precisely because it was such a finished narrative. Within the literary academy THAT counts as heresy.

Madame Bovary was boring. And I surely would seek to emulate Arudati Roy and the God of Small Things before Bovary, francophile that I be.

I did follow a careful straight chronology in the book, but also intentionally made time hard to grasp. I did this in part because the Agency would have opposed a clear chronology of dates. So, I put in various clues as reference points: the Washington sniper; the anthrax attacks; the Foley assassination. I made the time hard to grasp for an artistic reason, too, quite consciously: I wanted the reader to enter into my world, in which horizons receded, time slowed and sped up and became irrelevant or malleable, a tool, or ungraspable. I wanted to accomplish also precisely what you note: as the case progresses, reality becomes more and more distorted. Nothing works, nothing makes sense. Up is down. Routine requests (please send me my prisoner’s documents…) become impossible and senseless. Senseless phenomena surge around me and become what passes for reality (hot chicks packing heat as some sort of sex implement showing off their bodies in a war zone where we were all in danger of getting shot; Chinese chicks–in the middle of a war, surrounded by women wearing burkas, and glowering men killing us with looks whereever we went–dance at our table after having donned our flak jackets, and shoot us with their hands made into pistols–pow! Pow!; American diplomats play bag pipes at midnight in the back gardens, and every dog to the horizon starts to bay wildly at the Moon; I am told that my prisoner’s ignorance is definitive proof of his intelligence, and that therefore I must “pressure”–i.e., torture, him more so that he tells me what I know he does not know…I want everyone to feel the vertigo and wonder, the apprehension and loss of reference points I felt while teetering on the camel, under a bright moon amidst towering dunes, where I could not tell shadow from sand, horizon from dune, sand from sky, and where everything was gray, except the sparkling sand along the crests of dunes far above me. What the hell was going on? Everyone was crazy and no one knew it.

So, much of the “mess” was intentional; some was imposed on me; redactions added an irritating disruption of coherency–which perhaps deepened the truth as I lived it. I was apprehensive that readers would find it disorienting and so different from a “regular” conventional “memoir” that they’d get lost and pissed off. But I also knew that I had written something unlike, and better than, more powerful than, any non-fiction book about the CIA or intelligence (please excuse the hubris) ever written. I have sought to write for the “GWOT” what Graham Greene did in the Quiet American for our misadventure in Indochina. Everything was crazy, we all went insane, the truth became subversive, and either no one would fucking listen (pardon the vulgarity) or, those who did were impotent. Which is another reason for the urinal tale: when I point out the lunacy of what I have worked out was an AMERICAN bit of stupidity–putting urinals five feet off the ground–my colleague tells me the problem is simply that I have a really small dick. If GOT WITH THE PROGRAM and didn’t question matters I would, of course, still be an American man. At the end, I have seen the insanity, and seen that it is ours, but my colleague continues to tease me about MY issues with the urinal–to which I respond, but you, Jack, green as you are, already “have grown to be a fool.” Because he has bought in to the whole lunacy I have tried to oppose and expose. I don’t go as far as Arudati Roy in her manipulation of time. But I quite consciously built the collapse of the senses and reference points, so as to parallel what we did to CAPTUS in Hotel California, and what our entire counter-terrorism campaign did to ourselves. Everyone was crazy around me, so almost by definition, I became the outlier; therefore the crazy one. Crazy became normal, and I became subversive. Holy shit! What a situation.

So, the “mess” was largely intentional, although not entirely, as the Agency tore my manuscript up so often it almost made me despair–itself an echo of my situation with CAPTUS.

I have anticipated, of course, that most will wish to discuss the specific interrogation techniques, orders, motivations, errors, and so on. This is all legitimate, of course. But, I have evoked what they all do and mean through the devices of what you call the “mess”. Hmm, perhaps I can find a more elegant term: I wrote the book consciously to have symphonic elements, to distort the reader’s perceptions and bring the reader in to my collapsing sense of reality, which resonated with the Bosch painting described by Kafka that had become CAPTUS’s and my lives.

Anyway, thus the mess as I tried to give it meaning.

Mary July 10th, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Sorry I missed this in real time. Thank you to everyone, host, hosted, participants and thank you for the post-salon follow up as well.

Glenn L. Carle July 10th, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Well, the issues and questions I addressed in the interrogation, and my colleagues addressed after me, were generated by the Intelligence Community. Policymaker influence did not extend directly into the interrogation room, in my experience. Cherry picking intelligence, however, was frequent. This means selecting reports that substantiate your views. Since there will almost always be reports on a given subject that range from “there is no threat from x,” to “x is the most important threat we face”, one can find a report to substantiate most positions.

openhope July 10th, 2011 at 3:25 pm

What an incredible comment. I wish I could have been lurking this Book Salon in real time.
Thank you, Glenn L. Carle for coming to Firedoglake.
Thank you, Marcy and Bev.

thatvisionthing July 11th, 2011 at 1:02 am

Hi, thanks again. Could you expand on your comment @92 re Cheney? I don’t know if you address that head-on in your book, or Rumsfeld. I understand from above comments that you don’t want prosecutions of those who were following orders… I’m wondering how you felt when the Abu Ghraib photos broke and only soldiers took the fall, while those who you knew gave orders deliberately avoided responsibility. And maybe even now Rumsfeld’s “take off the gloves” memo is still not released? It just seems the more harm they order, the more we as a nation can’t access that, it can’t be admitted, and so the more we’re stuck on fail. I know Jefferson and Madison said there are no angels in a government of men, but the idea was that everybody would check and balance each other. Which can’t be done with secret government and unaccountable authorities — ?

Also, what you said about prosecutions polarizing us, dividing us further — could it not be that court is the place where we all get on the same page again?

Again, thank you for staying on to answer. Best wishes to you.

Ken Hardy July 11th, 2011 at 6:02 am

You say “If the cost (sic) is to let a few evil-doers and corrupters go free (sic), and the benefit is that the likelihood that our society will repudiate these practices more firmly in the future–well, to me that is the goal.” In response I encourage you (all of us) to imagine for a moment that it is twelve years ago and someone attempts, in all seriousness, to demand a national “torture debate”—a discussion of when and if the US should torture people.

So unthinkable, so incompatible with our convictions of basic American honor and decency would such a notion have seemed that a typical American reaction would likely have been something like “What is wrong with you, you filthy, unpatriotic Nazi Klansman piece of filth. Beat it before I kick your ass.”

I, for one, find myself still astonished by what happened. How did we go from there to here? And let me tell you, I find no comfort in Obama’s patronizing cooing about how the nightmare is over and we need not worry about America torturing again…never, ever, ever…I pwomise (sic). All I hear is his assurance that we are right back in 2000 again and that nothing has change to make our reclaimed nobility any less likely to come crashing down under the right circumstances.

I am no more in favor of an Abu Ghraib redux than you are, Mr. Carle. Rather than digging up Torquemada so he can terrorize the rank and file and make them scapegoats, I’d rather do nothing at all. Yet, somehow, some way, we must examine and come to terms with how WE AS A NATION (not just a few of us) went so tragically astray. It will surely mean confronting ghastly and poisonous elements of our society and our system, but the pain we will endure is nothing compared to the folly of refusing to realize that without “truth and reconciliation” we will remain poised to undertake even greater atrocities.

An investigation with the possibility of prosecutions seems to be the only instrument available to us to do what we must do. Not unlike an emetic, it will bring everything up and permit a close look. As flawed as it is, our justice system does provide for what is essential here—a thorough discovery and contemplation of the circumstances of a transgression and a tendency to be moved to mercy by them. Moreover, drawing on my knowledge of some experiences of my father, a clandestine op in Jakarta during the Sukarno years, I suggest an investigation would provide for many of your former colleagues what writing your book gave to you—a chance to confess, be understood, and find some kind of peace.

thatvisionthing July 11th, 2011 at 2:03 pm
In response to nusayler @ 138

Hi, I can imagine a defense Carle might make, or that anyone could make, which is that the DOJ and the courts are now as screwed up as every other branch of government, and that in fact no fair trial or trial to find truth is possible anymore. But I don’t know how you fix an atrophied muscle except by exercising it again.

Along with what you and I posted, I would add something I heard on a TomDispatch podcast interview with Chase Madar about Bradley Manning and the need for public oversight, if Mr. Carle will still check in and give his response:

CHASE MADAR: I think foreign governments are getting a lot of pressure from their own citizens, and people around the world see what Bradley Manning has allegedly released to the public through WikiLeaks and they don’t see this as a crime, they don’t see this as something that deserves punishment. They watch the Collateral Murder video of an American Apache helicopter gun crew gunning down and killing over a dozen civilians on a Baghdad street and they think if anyone should be prosecuted it should be the helicopter gun crew that’s gunning down civilians, not the US Army private who released that information, information which Americans should have had access to all along. We very badly need to know what our government is doing abroad, now more than ever.

The past 10 years have seen our US foreign policy establishment just move from disaster to disaster in our long and unfortunately unfinished chain of self-defeating responses to 9/11, from Afghanistan, which is a complete mess now, to Iraq and onward to Pakistan and Somalia and Yemen. Our foreign policy – plainly cannot be left to their own devices. They very badly need public supervision. I think Americans see this, and people around the world see this, and they wonder why Bradley Manning is being punished.

…The idea that foreign policy and government in general needs public supervision is not something that was invented last week by Julian Assange or by Noam Chomsky’s graduate students. It is a very old American tradition, a tradition that’s very badly in need of renewal. James Madison put it very succinctly when he said that “A popular government without public information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both.” John F. Kennedy made the same point in 1961: “The very word secrecy is repugnant in a free and open society.” And then there’s Hugo Black, the great Alabama justice of the 20th Century Supreme Court, who said that “The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our republic.” We badly need to regain public oversight over our foreign policy, and what Bradley Manning has allegedly done is praiseworthy. He deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom for the gift he has given his country at very great personal cost.

He contrasts that to the Presidential Medal of Freedoms given to Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Robert McNamara, Tommy Franks, George Tenet, L. Paul Bremer and Tony Blair.

I would love to hear Glenn Carle’s opinion on any or all of that. Thanks again.

Glenn L. Carle July 11th, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Hello, this is Glenn. It’s late, and I’m tired, but I’ll try a brief response, at least:

I do not think that our courts are so screwed up that a fair trial and the truth are unattainable. I disagree with that.

I strongly agree with you that we have coarsened as a nation since 2000, and what are now “normal” subjects of discussion, and practices, were until 9/11 totally “un-American.” This is one of the reasons i wrote my book: to say, Look what we have done to OURSELVES. We must reject these views and practices. They darken what we believe we are, and yet we do not even seem to realize what we have become and done to ourselves.

But, this is why I argue in my last chapter not to prosecute; but rather to take steps to strengthen the values and social contract which we have frayed. It was not our laws which failed us. Nor was it our civil servants. I believe I show in the book how honorable, selfless, dedicated men and women can find themselves in near impossible situations, where honoring their oaths pervert the oaths they took. These are supreme dilemmas–De Gaulle faced one in June 1940. He chose to commit treason–and he was right to do it. But, this is extraordinarily difficult for anyone to do, particularly in the circumstances in which my colleagues and I found ourselves post-9/11. See my discussion on this in the chapter that I believe I title, “When to Say No.”

I am much less condemnatory of the American system of conducting foreign policy, or intelligence work, or waging war, than the Tompatch podcast. It is simply impossible, impractical, to have intelligence, war-fighting, and much of government run like a small town public meeting. This is simply naive. Transparency is good, of course. These functions cannot be run by the public, in real time, however. That is simply puerile and naive.

The problem was not our laws, nor excessive secrecy leading to corruption. The problem that led to the errors and excesses, the corrosion of our interrogation and detention policies, was that a miniscule number of men–perhaps ten, quite literally–willfully subverted our laws and co-opted our institutions. As I wrote in my last chapter: unbelievably, we had been subjected to a de facto and de jure usurpation of the executive power of the government. We became a government of about ten men, and were, literally, in many important ways, no longer a government of laws.

This was astounding, grave, shocking, terrifying, even. It was so easy to subvert the constitution, shunt our laws aside, and make ourselves no longer the democracy we believed ourselves to be. This, too, is why I wrote my book. What?! NO American should accept this. Almost no American was aware of it. Almost no one believed me when I said that this is what was happening.

So, the solution to me is not to divide us further, nor to punish officers who almost without exception did their best to act in accordance with their orders–legally-constituted ones!, in a government that all believed to be a moral, legal, democracy. The solution is to purge ourselves of these practices, and repudiate them (again); to strengthen ALL American’s commitment to our laws, and our values–which reject torture and affirm habeas corpus; to understand through open discussion of what happened, what we have done to ourselves; and–AND–to repudiate the small number of individuals who did this to our government and society. So, I would accept that Yoo and Addington be disbarred; that Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith be publicly shamed, and made so that America considered them our generation’s Quislings and Copperheads. But, the most important thing is not to punish wrongdoing; but to affirm right practices and values, and to foster broader acceptance of these values, now so tarnished since 9/11. Punishment doesn’t move us forward. A nation is great and strengthened by its reconciliations, and by looking ahead; not by retribution, punishment, or carrying the evils of the past (even if very recent) into the present. That would poison the present, without strengthening the future.

So, I oppose all but a very, very limited number of punishments. To me the blame is narrowly located: the small number of men I note above. And, in the end, Bush was the man in charge. I was asked during his presidency, when I was Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Transnational Threats, if I would take part in an effort to impeach Bush. I declined. I considered that he merited impeachment; but I felt that impeachment would harm our nation more than it would preserve it. I wanted him out, and forgotten. I didn’t want the ills and tensions prolonged, the wounds kept open, by trying to impeach the man, even though he undermined our constitution and wounded our system of laws, checks, and balances.

– Glenn

Glenn L. Carle July 11th, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Oh, finally: I do not consider my book a confession, nor an effort to be understood, nor a way to find peace. I was and am angry at what happened to our country. I felt and feel it was my duty to inform the American people what we have done to ourselves. But, I felt that I did my best, and did good within the limits of the possible, in an extraordinarily difficult situation. I fought to embody our laws and to act honorably. I feel no need to apologize for or expiate any of my acts. It is easy to condemn and find fault from outside. I was inside, by choice, so that I could try to do right. I chose to fight the battles, not to walk away, retaining my theoretical purity, but in fact refusing to assume the responsibilities and to try to make our acts embody our ideals. So, to the extent one can feel “good” in what was a profoundly disturbing and mishandled situation and operation, I feel good. I did my best, I fought hard, and I did good to the extent I was able to do so. Which is better than having been a morally pure outsider and passive, not-involved armchair moralist, calling for punishment without ever having risked one’s own judgment or dirtied one’s own hands, condemning those who were on the inside and who were trying to act honorably and effectively in extremely difficult circumstances. It’s easy to call for punishment as a solution; it’s hard to get it right from the inside; punishment, overall, does not affirm good practices; it punishes. Overall, it is better to get things right going forward, rather than to act in retribution for that which was done wrong. Exception made for the small number of men (six? seven? ten?) who did this to us.

Ken Hardy July 12th, 2011 at 2:45 pm

It is easy to condemn and find fault from outside.

No, it is not easy. In an attempt to fulfill our obligations as citizens of a free democracy many of us have tried our my best to learn the truth about some of the things this country has been responsible for in the last decade. We have each drawn our own conclusions about what this knowledge means in terms of the health and legitimacy of our democracy, its future, and our obligations, if any to seek change. Many of us choose to come together at places like Firedoglake as one means for a “average citizen” to hear about and discuss ideas about problems and solutions. I believe none of us do this easily. I can only speak for myself when I say this whole process has been the most gut-wrenching, despairing, and fear-making undertaking of my life.

I can only hope you will believe me when I say my heart, support, and respect are with you and your many colleagues like you. In fact, I find few things more appalling and infuriating than the thought of the extremities to which our government subjected good, decent, patriotic men and women like yourself, Mr. Carle, when, behind a screen of deceit, they took advantage of your loyalty and commitment and compelled you to do certain inhumane and unethical acts. My outrage is equal if not greater at the thought of the similar treatment of our military especially our enlisted men and women.

I do not want you or anyone like you to go to jail, apologize,or even be punished—retribution is NOT the point. We are not so callow as you may think, and many of us are “on your side” more than you realize. I simply believe the goals you say we must necessarily achieve are impossible until all of America is made to see, in horrifying detail and specificity, what was undertaken in the name of “freedom” and the dishonorable and destructive way it was accomplished.

reader July 12th, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Thank you for your astonishing authenticity and remarkable honesty, Glenn.

This is surely a most important book. And I think I understand how the convoluted narrative occurred and how it conveys significant meaning about your whole experience.

All the best with your book and your future endeavors.

thatvisionthing July 12th, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Hi Glenn Carle! So glad you replied, at length and so thoughtfully. I’m afraid comments are going to close before I can answer with the care your comments deserve. Big thoughts, little brain, tiny window. Sorry, but I’m trying:

We disagree on secrecy and the courts, especially, but we agree that the top guys should be exposed and prosecuted, I think:

Overall, it is better to get things right going forward, rather than to act in retribution for that which was done wrong. Exception made for the small number of men (six? seven? ten?) who did this to us.

You focus on the courts as means of punishment/retribution. I think I look at their purpose a bit differently — that they are there to try facts and law, where the accused faces their accusers, motivations and presumptions are challenged, and a jury weighs all the information and reaches a decision. That’s where we all meet and engage on the same page. Examine, cross examine. Charge, defend. Truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Get wise. And as Jeff Kaye said @98 and you sort of agreed to @104, the victims have to be included. We haven’t heard the whole truth yet, so that’s where I think things should go. But can they?

I need to see a big picture, understand things as a story. What I thought of as I read your two comments were two shows: 24, and The Wire. 24, which I have never seen a minute of, because of something Slavoj Zizek said July 2 in the Demoncracy Now livestream event out of London. I’ll bold my point; the rest is context:

SLAVOJ ZIZEK: We have the usual Hollywood left. All this to raise our spirits, left liberal pseudo-Hollywood Marxist thrillers: Pelican’s Brief, All the President’s Men, which may appear very critical “Oh my God, the president himself is corrupted, connected to certain corporations and so on”.

But, nonetheless this is all ideology. Why? Why do you exit the movie theater in such high spirits after seeing, I don’t know —? The message is look at what a great country we are, an ordinary guy can topple the mightiest men in the world and so on and so on. On the other hand, let me take an equivalent in TV programming of Fox News . . . please don’t take me for being crazy, 24. Yeah, yeah, Jack Bauer and all that. The last series of 24, I watched it with pleasure. For me, my God, again I approach it as you approached those shots. It’s, for me, much more consequential in criticism.

You get Jack Bauer who is in total despair. His whole worth crumbles down. He has to admit this way what he tried do in previous seasons, this idea of someone has to do this dirty job, torture the prisoners, I will do it. He says, no I cannot live with it. It has to come public. His liberal counter-part, Allison Taylor, the president, steps down. You know what the true message is? The message is simply that within the existing ethical, political coordinates, you are just stuck in a deadlock and there is no way. It’s a very pessimistic message, much more honest than all that uplifting Hollywood Marxism, what a great country we are and so on and so on.

So, yes, at all levels, not only in journalism as such, I agree with you and I’d even say that all leftist tradition knows this. For example, already Marx said, I’m no fetishist of Marx, but nonetheless — he said we can often learn more from honest conservatives than liberals, because what honest conservatives do is that they don’t sell you at the end some uplifting bullshit, they’re willing to confront some deadlock and that’s what’s important today.

Was that the end of 24? Jack Bauer realizes all the torture crap means of the earlier seasons was in the end ultimately futile? Maybe I should have watched. More Zizek:

Here, I would say that things are even more complex than they may appear. What I find really terrifying is that concepts of “unlawful combatants” are becoming legal categories. I’m not a utopian here. And, maybe I’ll shock some of you here. Let me be brutally open. I can well imagine a situation where I could not promise you in advance that I will not torture someone. Let’s imagine this ridiculous situation where a bad guy has my young daughter and I have in my hands a guy who knows where my daughter is. Well, maybe, out of despair I would have tortured her, him, whatever. What I absolutely opposed to is to legalize this.

I think, if out of despair I do something like this, it should remain something unacceptable, you know, that I did out of despair. What I’m afraid of is that this system that gets institutionalized as it were because we know what’s at the end of the road. I had a polemic exchange in the New York Times with Alan Dershowitz who wants legalization of tortures. And I read one of his proposals — it’s an obscenity. You would have doctors – let’s say, just a friendly example to scare you a little bit – Amy, Amy and me are the torturers and you – someone has to play this role – will be tortured. Let’s say we call a doctor who…

AMY GOODMAN: Speak for yourself, Slavoj. You are the sole torturer.

SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK: Yeah, yeah, ok. You know what I’m saying. Who investigates and determines that you can torture him to that degree if, and so on and so on. For me what is horrible is, of course, torture at such. But it is even more obscene this normalization of torture, which is why even more than you — I mean this respectful — Manning is the hero. You had this certain moment of glory and so on and so, but that more guy who, for me, did something extraordinary. You know how difficult are these decisions when simple elementary morality prevails over legal considerations and so on.

And he would nominate Bradley Manning for the Nobel Peace Prize, if Manning did what he is accused of:

I hope that I am not a utopian. Don’t you have any of these organs that propose candidates for Nobel Peace Prize? That would be a nice, crazy movement. If there is a person who deserves Nobel Peace Prize today, it’s Manning and people like him. No, no, I’m not laughing. Simple, ordinary people – and I’m not even idealizing him. There are many examples of people who I know who are not anything special, they are not saints. But, all of a sudden, they see something like probably – if he’s the one – he saw all these documents and something told him, “Sorry, I will not be pushed more, I have to do something here.”

This is so precious today because it also goes against a note, which is in a way true but exploited by our enemies, this idea today that ideology is cynical, people are totally duped and so on. No they are not, I prefer her to play a little bit of simple moralism. From time to time there are ethnical miracles. There are people that still care and so on and so on.

This is very important because, you know, let us not leave this domain of simple dignified, ethical acts to agencies such as Catholic church and so on. Who are they to talk about it? We, the left, should rehabilitate this – I don’t it doesn’t sound very post-modern or cynical — this idea that there are out there are quite ordinary guys who all of a sudden as if in a miracle do something wonderful. That’s almost, I would say, our only hope today.

So for all your efforts to help CAPTUS and tell the truth, consider that you, like Manning, are an ethical miracle. :-)

Other thing, The Wire. I’ve seen two seasons now, on DVD. When you write this:

I felt that I did my best, and did good within the limits of the possible, in an extraordinarily difficult situation. I fought to embody our laws and to act honorably. I feel no need to apologize for or expiate any of my acts. It is easy to condemn and find fault from outside. I was inside, by choice, so that I could try to do right. I chose to fight the battles, not to walk away, retaining my theoretical purity, but in fact refusing to assume the responsibilities and to try to make our acts embody our ideals. So, to the extent one can feel “good” in what was a profoundly disturbing and mishandled situation and operation, I feel good. I did my best, I fought hard, and I did good to the extent I was able to do so. Which is better than having been a morally pure outsider and passive, not-involved armchair moralist, calling for punishment without ever having risked one’s own judgment or dirtied one’s own hands, condemning those who were on the inside and who were trying to act honorably and effectively in extremely difficult circumstances. It’s easy to call for punishment as a solution; it’s hard to get it right from the inside; punishment, overall, does not affirm good practices; it punishes.

I think of The Wire. Which in a way is like the moral of 24 above. Thirteen episodes a season. The first twelve you get to see the chase from both sides, Baltimore PD and the crime they’re chasing, meet all the characters, understand where they’re coming from, see the game played. And in the thirteenth both sides lose because there’s a game outside the game, and the game you’ve been watching is rigged from beyond.

So what you wrote above is great for who you are and how you were playing the game. But all those guys you were up against, like CAPTUS or anyone on the scale from the most innocent, anonymous victim all the way up to (I guess) Osama bin Laden? What’s to say that they don’t also have a story that is the mirror of yours? They were playing in the game too.

OMAR: The game is out there, and it’s either play or get played.

I’m remembering when Omar, who robs drug dealers, testified in court against Bird, another street guy, and was cross examined by Bird’s lawyer, Levy:

LEVY: So you rob drug dealers? This is what you do.
OMAR: Yes, sir.
LEVY: You walk the streets of Baltimore with a gun, taking what you want, when you want it, willing to use violence when your demands aren’t met. This is who you are.
Omar shakes his head in agreement, fingering his tie.
LEVY: Why should we believe your testimony then? Why believe anything you say?
OMAR: That’s up to y’all, really.
LEVY: You say you aren’t here testifying against the defendant because of any deal you made with police.
OMAR: True that.
LEVY: That you’re here because you want to tell the truth about what happened to Mr. Gant in that housing project parking lot.
OMAR: Yep.
LEVY: When in fact you are exactly the kind of person who would, if you felt you needed to, shoot a man down on a housing project parking lot and then lie to the police about it, would you not?
OMAR: Hey look, I ain’t never put my gun on no citizen.
LEVY: You are amoral, are you not? You are feeding off the violence and the despair of the drug trade. You’re stealing from those who themselves are stealing the lifeblood from our city. You are a parasite who leeches off…
OMAR: Just like you, man.
LEVY: …the culture of drugs– excuse me?
OMAR: I got the shotgun. You got the briefcase. It’s all in the game, though, right?
Levy looks at judge, stunned.

So I guess my point to you is, I appreciate your sincerity in playing the game as best you could, but when you say…

It is simply impossible, impractical, to have intelligence, war-fighting, and much of government run like a small town public meeting. This is simply naive. Transparency is good, of course. These functions cannot be run by the public, in real time, however. That is simply puerile and naive.

…can I suggest that secrecy perpetuates war and what you call (but I don’t) “intelligence.” And that transparency would perpetuate understanding — and peace, in the first place, and not always beyond the horizon? Whole new game.

The creator of The Wire, David Simon, told Bill Moyers in an interview that The Wire as a love story to Baltimore–all of Baltimore:

BILL MOYERS: But I want to close with some poetry. Some poetry that I don’t know whether you created or whether you discovered. But it’s that unforgettable moment in THE WIRE when we hear “Goodnight Moon.” Tell me about that before I play it for the audience.

DAVID SIMON: You know, I’m going to– I’m going to tell you that that is straight from a book that I totally admire. CLOCKERS by Richard Price. And Price wrote that episode. And he recreated it right out of the novel. It’s almost a benediction for the city. And it is the thing that, you didn’t get it if you were a politician or a police commander or a school superintendent, and you were running on your rep. You didn’t get that THE WIRE was actually a love letter to Baltimore. From your point of view, what it was, was just this nightmare that you had to like argue against.

But if you were a schoolteacher or a kid on a corner or a cop walking the beat. If you– if you were, our sentiments were always with labor, it was always at the street level. If you were one of those people, you couldn’t help but hear the affection. That this was– it may have been a conflicted lover. But it was a love letter nonetheless. And I thought that scene really caught it.

BILL MOYERS: We’ll hear it now, this love letter. Thank you, David Simon, for being with me on the Journal.

DAVID SIMON: Thank you.

DETECTIVE KIMA GREGGS: Let’s say goodnight to everybody. Goodnight moon. You say it.
CHILD: Goodnight moon.
DETECTIVE KIMA GREGGS: There you go. Goodnight stars.
CHILD: Goodnight stars.
DETECTIVE KIMA GREGGS: Goodnight po-po’s.
CHILD: Goodnight po-po’s.
DETECTIVE KIMA GREGGS: Goodnight fiends.
CHILD: Goodnight fiends.
DETECTIVE KIMA GREGGS: Goodnight hoppers.
CHILD: Goodnight hoppers.
DETECTIVE KIMA GREGGS: Goodnight hustlers.
CHILD: Goodnight hustlers.
DETECTIVE KIMA GREGGS: Goodnight scammers.
CHILD: Goodnight scammers.
DETECTIVE KIMA GREGGS: Goodnight to everybody.
CHILD: Goodnight to everybody.
DETECTIVE KIMA GREGGS: Goodnight to one and all.
CHILD: Goodnight to one and all.

In your world, your game, can’t you substitute appropriately? It’s just a different insane war, the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. The writers of The Wire, described the War on Drugs to Time Magazine. Sound familiar?

What the drugs themselves have not destroyed, the warfare against them has. And what once began, perhaps, as a battle against dangerous substances long ago transformed itself into a venal war on our underclass. Since declaring war on drugs nearly 40 years ago, we’ve been demonizing our most desperate citizens, isolating and incarcerating them and otherwise denying them a role in the American collective. All to no purpose. The prison population doubles and doubles again; the drugs remain.

Our leaders? There aren’t any politicians — Democrat or Republican — willing to speak truth on this. Instead, politicians compete to prove themselves more draconian than thou, to embrace America’s most profound and enduring policy failure.

Of note, you and the writers of The Wire end up at a similar place: Don’t convict the little guys. They said their best answer is civil disobedience and jury nullification, as a means to regain national sanity:

If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun’s manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens.

Jury nullification is American dissent, as old and as heralded as the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger, who was acquitted of seditious libel against the royal governor of New York, and absent a government capable of repairing injustices, it is legitimate protest. If some few episodes of a television entertainment have caused others to reflect on the war zones we have created in our cities and the human beings stranded there, we ask that those people might also consider their conscience. And when the lawyers or the judge or your fellow jurors seek explanation, think for a moment on Bubbles or Bodie or Wallace. And remember that the lives being held in the balance aren’t fictional.

Again, from The Wire:

KIMA: You heroic motherfuckers kill me. Fighting a war on drugs, one brutality case at a time. (shakes head)
CARV: Girl, you can’t even call this shit a war.
HERC: Why not?
CARV: Wars end.

Thanks again, and apologies for this, the most monstrous mess of a comment I’ve ever left. Big thoughts, little brain, tiny window, no time. Great appreciation for all you tried to impart and do. And for making me try to think it through.

Best wishes.

thatvisionthing July 14th, 2011 at 1:44 pm

late edit (I can’t believe comments are still open!) — adding link — hmmm, blue on blue, it’s the “but I don’t”:

…can I suggest that secrecy perpetuates war and what you call (but I don’t) “intelligence.” And that transparency would perpetuate understanding — and peace, in the first place, and not always beyond the horizon? Whole new game.

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