One of the big revelations to come out of the Senate Armed Services Committee report on so-called aggressive interrogation techniques is an early July 2002 training session where officials from the military’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA)—the agency that oversees the SERE training program—provided “assistance to another government agency.” Much of this section of the report is blacked out, so I’ll connote blacked out sections with asterisks [***], but the report says JPRA was assisting this agency “on topics such as ‘*** deprivation techniques,’ ‘exploitation and questioning techniques,’ and ‘developing countermeasures to resistance techniques.’” According to the report, “[t]he training was intended to “prepare *** officers for rotations in Afghanistan and elsewhere.”
Spencer Ackerman reported on this section in detail when the report was first released, noting what has long been reported, but never officially acknowledged. Spencer writes, “a JPRA team assisted a squad from ‘another government agency’ during the first six months of 2002 that would be ‘sent to interrogate a high level al Qaeda operative.’”
“‘Another government agency’,” Spencer writes, “is a widespread euphemism for the CIA.”
Sadly for the government officials who cleared this document for release, they inadvertently acknowledged the name of this other government agency just two pages later.
“The July 16, 2002 after action memo stated that two agency legal personnel were also present for the training. According to the memo, *** personnel ‘requested and were granted time to present the legal limits of physiological and psychological pressures that were acceptable at present time.’”
The JPRA instructors who conducted the training did not recall *** lawyers providing any further guidance about how to seek approval for use of the waterboard in an interrogation.
However, Chief Counsel to the *** Jonathan Fredman later described an approval process for the use of aggressive interrogation techniques reportedly explaining that “[t]he CIA makes the call internally on most of the types of techniques,” but that “[s]ignificantly harsh techniques are approved through the DoJ.”
Emphasis mine. Odd that the Pentagon would black out Fredman’s title, but not his name. His job at the time is a matter of public record—he was Chief Counsel for the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. And his memo makes clear that the agency concerned about the legality of enhanced interrogation techniques at that training is the CIA.
Note, the fact that the CIA used SERE techniques in its interrogations has long been known, and, as Spencer’s article makes clear, it would have been pretty obvious which agency was involved even if the Defense Department had blacked out all identifying information. But they didn’t. So can we drop the ruse already.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.