IraqTortureGate: Powell Denies Knowing He Used Tortured Evidence for UN Case

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IraqTortureGate: Powell Denies Knowing He Used Tortured Evidence for UN Case

The most damning credible allegation to emerge regarding the Bush Administration is arguably that Dick Cheney and other Bush Administration officials ordered the use of torture to produce false evidence of a connection between Iraq and al-Qaida to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff at the State Department under Colin Powell, recently wrote,

as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 - well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion - its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.

Wilkerson cited the case of detainee Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, whose tortured testimony was crucial for building the case for war, and was cited in Powell's speech to the UN.

when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney's office that their detainee "was compliant" (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP's office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa'ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, "revealed" such contacts.

About this case, Human Rights Watch has recently written,

Al-Libi was sent by the CIA to Egypt for interrogation in early 2002. A declassified CIA cable later described how al-Libi told the CIA that the Egyptian interrogators had said they wanted information about al-Qaeda's connections with Iraq, a subject "about which [al-Libi] said he knew nothing and had difficulty even coming up with a story."

The cable went on to say that al-Libi indicated that his interrogators did not like his responses and then "placed him in a small box" for approximately 17 hours. When he was let out of the box, the cable states that al-Libi was given a last opportunity to "tell the truth." When al-Libi's answers did not satisfy the interrogator, al-Libi says he "was knocked over with an arm thrust across his chest and he fell on his back" and was then "punched for 15 minutes." It was then that al-Libi told his interrogators that Iraq had trained al-Qaeda operatives in chemical and biological weapons, information that was later used in Colin Powell's speech to the UN Security Council to justify war with Iraq.

A bipartisan report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found that that al-Libi "lied [about the link] to avoid torture."

The Senate Intelligence Committee knows that al-Libi's false, tortured testimony was part of Colin Powell's speech to the UN. Human Rights Watch knows it. Lawrence Wilkerson knows it. And you know it.

But supposedly Colin Powell doesn't know it. Is this credible?

Journalist Sam Husseini caught Colin Powell outside the Sunday chat shows in DC, and asked him about the al-Libi case and the use tortured evidence to make the case for war, leading to this breathtaking exchange:

Sam Husseini: General, can you talk about the al-Libi case and the link between torture and the production of tortured evidence for war?

Colin Powell: I don't have any details on the al-Libi case.

SH: Can you tell us when you learned that some of the evidence that you used in front of the UN was based on torture? When did you learn that?

CP: I don't know that. I don't know what information you're referring to. So I can't answer.

SH: Your chief of staff, Wilkerson, has written about this.

CP: So what? [inaudible]

SH: So you'd think you'd know about it.

CP: The information I presented to the UN was vetted by the CIA. Every word came from the CIA and they stood behind all that information. I don't know that any of them believe that torture was involved. I don't know that in fact. A lot of speculation, particularly by people who never attended any of these meetings, but I'm not aware of it.

"Speculation by people who never attended meetings"? Who is Powell trying to discredit? The Senate Intelligence Committee? Or his own former chief deputy?

Robert Naiman

Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy. Naiman has worked as a policy analyst and researcher at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. He has masters degrees in economics and mathematics from the University of Illinois and has studied and worked in the Middle East. You can contact him here.

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