Friday, August 10, 2007

Hugo Chaves in Uruguay

It was a working visit, but all the same, he took the time to chat with all the ordinary folks in Montevideo who just showed up to let him know how much they admire him and love what he's doing. In fact, he put them ahead of the journalists and the people with whom the meeting he attended here was scheduled! How's that for class?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Fog of Fame: Pat Tillman as everyone’s political football

Neither the universe nor life is linear. Things weave through one another. The past and future are more than discrete units of time apart from the shifting instant of now. The ripples on a pond crash into and through one another. The political realities of our time are likewise over-determined, complex, irreducible, a splashing, surging, whirling current of evolutions — personal, geographical, institutional, cognitive-and-affective, inter-subjective, and cultural… so we have to circle these phenomena — like a recon team circling an objective — to get the fuller picture of what we observe and try to understand. The patterns that emerge from the totality of these observations we might begin to call a system. And if that system is a horror; then we cannot escape the responsibility for confronting that system and simultaneously escape the consequences of our inaction.

In 1979, after a break in my Army service and having recouped my sergeant’s stripes as a mechanized cavalry scout in Fort Carson, I volunteered for the Rangers. Off to Ranger School I went, and upon completion I was assigned to 3rd Platoon, Company A (Alpha Company), 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Infantry Regiment in Fort Lewis, Washington. Each of the three rifle platoons (organizations of around 40 light infantrymen) had nicknames, in this case, First to Fight, the Blacksheep, and Third Herd. A Company, known for its iron discipline, was called the Alpha-bots. When I left there in 1981 to become a tactics instructor at the Jungle Operations Training Center in Panama, I never had a notion that I might somehow be entangled with Alpha Company again… two-and-a-half decades later.

Brothers Pat and Kevin Tillman were Alpha-bots, assigned to the Blacksheep (2nd Platoon), when Pat was killed by friendly fire on April 22, 2004 near a tiny village called Manah in Paktia Province, Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border. When I was a member of the adjacent platoon in the same building, Pat was a baby.

Neither those who knew baby Pat then, nor I, slogging away in the wilds of Fort Lewis, had crystal balls. They did not know that this precocious child would someday play professional football. Even when he did, so many years later, they never reduced this young man to his identity as an athlete. He was a kid, a whole person, with two brothers, Mom, and Dad, living in the Central California mountains near a old mercury mine, a river, and a state forest.

I wrote a short reflection-piece on the friendly fire incident in April 2006, two years after Pat was killed. Someone read it online and forwarded it to Mary (Dannie) Tillman, Pat’s mom. She found something in it of which she approved, and she contacted me. We talked on the phone, many times, and I went to San Jose to spend a few days with her after I started writing a series about the whole episode. Eventually, the family would allow me to accompany them to the briefing they were given this year by the US Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID). Army representatives lied directly to the family’s face… again.

In the interest of full disclosure, this is personal for me now. Dannie Tillman is my friend. So is Kevin, who was close enough to hear the shots that took his brother’s life on April 22, 2004. I am angry as I write this.

Pat Tillman was a lot more than a football player, and in all the right ways also a lot less — humble when he needed to be, unassuming, tender with loved ones. He joined the Army because he didn’t trust fame. He was afraid it might keep him from growing up and being honest and being responsible. He saw a lot of other young people — and the generations before him — going through this grunt-thing in the military, and had this idea that having a physical gift shouldn’t be some kind of exemption.

Anyone might argue with that for a host of reasons; I would.

But it is something essential about Pat Tillman that needs to be out there… that sense of ethics that will not substitute words for deeds. And he hated idealizations.

He was 26 when he fell. Pretty thoughtful for 26, in this culture especially.

The Congressional Committee investigating Pat’s death, a committee that fawned all over Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Meyers, and John Abazaid on August 1st needs to take note. I’m angry, so I’m saying it. Sometimes invective is appropriate.

Most members of that Committee haven’t the ethical sense to qualify for wiping Pat’s ass. Instead they kissed Donald Rumsfeld’s, Richard Meyers’, and John Abazaid’s. I’ll be coming back to this shameful and anemic display. It’s emblematic of not just Congress, but in particular of Democrats who continue to tip-toe around anything to do with the war as if they’re walking through a rattlesnake pit.

Pat was right to be suspicious of fame.

This craven display by Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike was just the last entry in a growing archive of opportunism that circles around fame like a vulture over a corpse.

Fame in the wrong circumstances can throw up a carrion scent like a thick fog. The scavengers of American political life — elected officials and candidates, crackpot polemicists, and the profit-press — chase the smell along the shifting winds.

That same so-called press that has blood all over its hands for the war in Iraq today was on exhibition again with the recent, and salaciously irresponsible, reporting — excised from context — on a few lines from thousands of pages of documents, igniting the imaginations of every conspiracy-buff in the nation. I’m talking about the Associated Press story in late July that suggested Pat was “fragged.”

The subsequent orgy of rumors and ill-informed speculation, the utter failure of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and the maddening impunity of the War Troika lies that went unchallenged there, compel me to write this.

The Army has insisted that Pat was killed in “the fog of war” by his own comrades; I am insisting that both Pat’s memory and the truth are being murdered in the fog of fame.

Had Pat not been famous, his death would be buried inside the lengthening list of sorrow from this obscenity in Southwest Asia. Had Pat not been famous, the Army might not have lied about the circumstances of his death to press and family.

On the other hand, many families have now discovered that the military covers up fratricides. From The Tillman Files:

Why were at least three other known fratricides reported falsely, and the families deceived, within a two month period of Pat’s death? Kenneth Ballard? Patrick McCaffrey? Jesse Buryj? There was a pattern of deception that corresponded to the toxic combination of April’s tactical debacle in Iraq, the release of the first Abu Ghraib photographs, and Seymour Hersh’s exposé of Donald Rumsfeld and Stephen Cambone’s “Grab whom you must. Do what you want” program.

Kenneth Ballard was killed in Najaf by friendly fire from his own vehicle in May 2004, and the military told his family that he’d been killed by a sniper on a rooftop. Jesse Buryj, killed in May, had his family told that he died defending a checkpoint from an oncoming truck that crashed into him. When they questioned the story months later, they were told that he had in fact been accidentally killed by a Polish soldier. A former member of his unit (66th Military Police Company, the same unit that “command rape” victim Suzanne Swift was assigned to at the time) visited the family and told them that Jesse was, in fact, shot by his own platoon leader, Lieutenant Hogan (who may be implicated for negligence in the Swift case). Patrick McCaffrey was killed exactly two months after Pat Tillman, and his mother was told he died in an ambush. They neglected to say that the “ambush by insurgents” was in fact conducted against him and his fellow team members by the very Iraqi forces they were training, after having reported more than once to the chain of command that the “allies” had shot at them.

When Karen Meredith, Kenneth Ballard’s mother, asked the Army why it was deceiving people about these fratricidal incidents, she was told that there had only been six cases of this happening. She asked, how was it that she knew four of them?

Nadia McCaffrey and Mary Tillman have been told by military representatives that the concealment of fratricide is an act of compassion… that these reports, given too much publicity, might lower the morale of the troops.

But we know that Pat’s case was special to the administration, precisely because of his fame. Claims to the contrary now are disingenuous to the point of stupidity. They just don’t want to answer the questions.

This administration, like the powerful generally, has a sense of entitlement that resents having to answer questions; and when it does, it uses the legal system as a shield. If you can’t prove in court that I did it, then fuck you.

Unfortunately, for reasons I’ll explain below, Congress doesn’t want to ask the questions. When is anyone up there, especially from the Democratic Party, going to quit that godawful speechifying and start a real fight? If Republicans had a case like this against the Democrats, you can bet they’d be sinking their teeth into a carotid artery right now. That’s why they know they can scare people to win elections; and they will again soon enough. We don’t need Dems on Capitol Hill to strategize around the next election cycle like lawyers. Pat’s case is emblematic of what the whole country is going through right now; and for this we don’t need any more lawyers.

We need junkyard dogs.

Now that I have that off my chest, and having read the documents accumulated around this case, often several times, and having stayed in constant contact with Dannie Tillman (who hates the limelight and stays at this as a furious act of love), it’s time to review again not just what we can prove happened, but also what likely happened. There is a lot of information available to make reasonable assumptions on this case.

If Waxman’s Committee had listened to the family, instead of assuming (incorrectly) that they know what they’re doing better than the rest of us rubes, then why didn’t they carefully construct a prosecutorial hypothesis, (1) systematically take each aspect of that hypothesis and subpoena the documents and testimony necessary to rule out said hypothesis or support it, (2) swear in their witnesses, (3) encircle the witnesses with the facts at a distance, (4) hedge the witnesses in with direct questions that carry the threat of perjury charges, (5) offer to hold the witnesses in contempt if they equivocate (as all of those pricks did… and got away with it), and (6) state the obvious when these witnesses were ridiculously disingenuous or suffering selective amnesia.

There is a one-word method for stating the obvious in these cases: bullshit. But Congress is so busy spreading the same substance that its members are generally loathe to call anyone out on it. Congress cannot say that the emperor has no clothes; and as a body — barring a thoroughgoing social revolution — they never will.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ought to be renamed: The House Groveling and Gratitude Committee. Oh thank you thank you thank you Lord Rumsfeld for gracing us with your presence; we shall do what we might to give the appearance of interrogating you while we deflect these troublesome Tillman people.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) at least tried to get at one aspect of this case, but his time expired and he never got an answer nor the opportunity to follow up. The other members pretended he wasn’t there (just as the press pretends he is not running in the Presidential primaries). Nothing embarrasses most of these elected officials like someone who asks, “What is that smell?”

This is the segway into the actual events that Congressional staffers and their bosses avoid like typhoid.

The fog of fame, and the opportunism that came sniffing around it, obscured the context.

Kucinich — the only Democratic candidate worthy of my vote in the 2008 prez-elections — asked about the Rendon Group and the Lincoln Group. These are professional high-dollar propaganda outfits that the Department of Defense and Executive Branch pays for with tax money to pump sunshine up our collective ass. Allow me to lay out this important fact in its own paragraph for special emphasis.

Your government takes your tax revenues and uses them to hire professional prevaricators to intentionally deceive you.

This is an irrefutable fact; and it fails to stimulate us because we seem to be suffering from outrage-fatigue.

Rendon and Lincoln are both propaganda consultants. Their job with the Department of Defense is to sell the war.

Selling war with lies has become one of the most lucrative parasitic industries in Washington DC.

Anyone who has not seen the film, Wag the Dog, is encouraged to do so. The plot revolves around a manufactured crisis by a fictional administration to create a pretext for invading Albania. It is a dark comedy, but watching it now doesn’t elicit belly laughs so much as nervous chuckling at its alarming verisimilitude.

On February 19, 2002, more than a year before the American ground offensive launched out of Kuwait and into its greatest military mire since Vietnam, the New York Times ran a story about a Pentagon outfit called the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI). The purpose of said office was “developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations… to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries.”

Rumsfeld, in a fit of pique at reporters in November of the same year, railed at them:

“There was the Office of Strategic Influence. You may recall that. And ‘Oh, my goodness gracious, isn’t that terrible; Henny Penny, the sky is going to fall.’ I went down that next day and said, ‘Fine, if you want to savage this thing, fine, I’ll give you the corpse. There’s the name. You can have the name, but I’m gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done’ and I have…”

…fuck you very much.

Close my offices, but I’ll do any damn thing I want.

By 2003, the Pentagon propaganda program had been re-packaged, and a secret 74-page directive emanated from Rumsfeld’s office, now struggling with the catastrophic cascade developing in Iraq, where key advisers had assured the administration a year earlier of a “cake walk.” That directive was the “Information Operations Roadmap” (IOR). Using the almost painfully dissociative wordsmithing of good military bureaucrats, IOR was described thus:

“The integrated employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare [EW], computer network operations [CNO], psychological operations [PSYOP], military deception, and operations security [OPSEC], with specified supporting and related capabilities to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp adversarial human and automated decisionmaking while protecting our own.”

This is what Dennis Kucinich was trying to get at. So-called “psychological operations” are not merely employed to fool the “enemy.” They are directed at the US public.

The context for everything that happened after Pat’s death requires this Pentagon propaganda-emphasis be center stage. Some people already understand this. What is not well understood is that this propaganda-emphasis likely played a central role in creating the conditions for Pat’s death in the first place. Let me give that special emphasis, too:

The decision to split the Blacksheep Platoon on April 22nd was forced on a platoon leader who stated to his superiors that splitting the platoon in this terrain would require a half-assed preparation cycle and potentially create a dangerous break in inter-platoon communications. This directive was designed with one purpose in mind: to be able to state that the platoon had reached their “target” on time. A timeline (a bureaucratic checklist) drove this decision — not the intelligence. The push to provide evidence of “progress” in Afghanistan — using the Rumsfeldian “metrics” of quantification — as a counterweight to the bad news from the Fallujah-Najaf rebellions and the breaking Abu Ghraib scandal, created the sense of urgency throughout military commands there to send reports confirming that X number of missions were completed in X amount of time.

Military and Executive Branch perception management consultants develop expensive, detailed programs, employing an army of public relations experts. Just as Rumsfeld has hired more than 20,000 private mercenaries to fill in the gaps in Iraq and to conduct activities that escape Congressional oversight, the Bush administration (like the Clinton administration before it) hired private contractors whose sole purpose in life is to re-construct the war in Southwest Asia as a story – using story conventions with which the American public is familiar and comfortable – conventions that resonate emotionally and mythically with our entertainment-media “social imaginary.” That’s the connection between the Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch sagas. Scriptwriting.

Focusing only on what happened the day Pat was killed, and then only on the minutiae of the actual shooting, and then studying what happened afterward, obscures the deeper context and conceals the fact that there are soldiers and thousands of men, women, and children in other countries dying today for military public relations.

Let’s review the case:

April 22, 2004 — The Blacksheep Platoon was on a zone reconnaissance in Paktia. The “roads” there are little more than eroded wadis, leaving crater-like potholes and exposed boulders. Vehicles have to pick their way through these “roads” very slowly; and the damage to vehicles — even Hummers and Hiluxes (military field vehicles) — is enormous. One Hummer with the platoon was deadlined by this terrain as the platoon pulled into a village named Magarah. Heretofore, I will refer to this vehicle as the Albatross.

Serial communications and repair attempts on this vehicle, including flying out parts, failed to resuscitate the Albatross; and the process stranded the Blacksheep in Magarah for more than six hours. This is not a good security situation in a zone where significant numbers of adversaries are operating. Daylight. Town. Static position. Many highly curious villagers.

Based on accounts of the subsequent combat “contact,” three Afghan guerrillas (understand that these might be three illiterate teenagers) with an RPG and a couple of Kalashnikovs get wind of this clusterfuck in Magarah. The terrain is very steep; and one can observe the platoon from a mile away without difficulty. They sit on the high ground and watch the show.

Concerns about security are voiced within the platoon; and they request an aerial extraction of the vehicle. That request is denied.

Meanwhile, in Khowst, the larger town where the tactical operations center (TOC) is located, the TOC Commander, Major David Hodne was overseeing multiple missions. He tracked them on maps, reviewed situation reports, and maintained communications through a TOC staff — generally a dozen or so people jammed together with the maps, radios, and files inside a tent.

Major Hodne is between his bosses and the multiple platoons in the field. His bosses are not asking for details on every mission. They assess his progress with checklists. This is how things work in the military. There is a fetish for quantification. “Accomplishments” are measured with extreme empiricism, presented in bullet-points that give numbers. This is true of performance evaluations and operational checklists.

The reason this is important in the story of Pat Tillman’s death by fratricide is that the majority of readers — even military veterans of a single enlistment — are not familiar with military culture. The have impressions formed primarily by entertainment media that are generally downright silly.

Descriptions of doctrine, regulations, policies and procedures tell about ten percent of the story of what the military is. The other ninety percent can only be understood culturally.

This numerical fetishism creates a mindset and a relation between supervisor and subordinate that is similar in many respects to standardized testing in public schools.

The numerical fetish in the structure of the test — ostensibly designed to “measure” learning — actually changes the definition of “learning.” The test-tail wags the learning-dog.

Teachers under pressure to show performance through these tests, with schools competing for perqs and funds based on the test scores, are forced to focus on “making the numbers” instead of teaching students to think (they are not the same thing by a long shot). Eventually, administrators, teachers, and students internalize this bass-ackward set of priorities, and the social sum of this internalization is a school culture: the norms of the system are reproduced in a recursive relationship between the internalized ideology of testing and the practice of teaching to the test. People may even play games and sing songs that assist students in learning to take the tests.

This is an analog to the military, with its empiricist performance evaluations and its battlefield “metrics.”

I tried to explain this on the phone to a lawyer with a Congressional office; and she responded the way a cat does when it sees a wristwatch. Lawyers are empiricists, and they have internalized the norms of empiricism (along with the ability to employ logical fallacies to their advantage in courtrooms) to the point where non-linear dynamics are opaque to them. They are — with some remarkable exceptions — great test-takers, and a testament to public schooling.

The Officer Personnel Management System (OPMS) is a series of highly competitive pyramids (one for each branch, converging branches near the top). Lots of 2nd Lieutenants at the bottom of the pyramid, and a few Generals at the top. When a 1st Lieutenant is “passed over” when s/he becomes eligible for Captain, that is not just a delay in promotion.

It is the death sentence of a military career.

Each officer is assessed periodically on an evaluation report, and any officer that receives below the absolute maximum (even by one point) will — with only very rare exceptions, like nepotism or blackmail — be “passed over.” Officer Evaluation Reports (OERs) list bullet-points with lots of numbers in each bullet.

*Captain Nimrod, during this evaluation period, raised his company’s average score on the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) from 210 to 218.

*Captain Nimrod, during combat operations in Afghanistan during this evaluation period, was tasked with 14 missions. All 14 of those missions were completed on time and achieved the commander’s intent.

Understand, that if Captain Nimrod has a bullet that reads, “13 of the 14 missions were competed on time and achieved the commander’s intent,” then Captain Nimrod is in trouble. Some other Captain has a perfect batting average, and Nimrod stands to be passed over. Nimrod knows this, so when Nimrod is running missions, just like the school kid who is taking her standardized test, Nimrod will cut any qualitative corner that is necessary (like exercising prudent tactical judgment or following the lead of subordinate commanders on the ground) to achieve the quantitative results (like arriving on an objective early enough to say a timeline was met). There is not an enlisted person (those who are not commissioned officers) in the military who has not been on the wrong end of this system, when s/he is made to suffer some horrid, senseless goat-screw so an officer can get the numbers (getting the numbers is referred to as the officer punching his ticket). The briefings that are given under this hyper-empiricist regime are often called “dog and pony shows.”

Language reflects culture.

When Cross-Functional Team Commander David Hodne was at the TOC in Khowst, he was a Major — normally a staff rank (as opposed to a command rank). This was his opportunity in a cannibalistic OPMS to shine… the shining demonstrated through bullet-points with numbers. The Blacksheep Platoon was due — according to the mission timeline — to conduct operations in Manah — not a high priority target — “no later than” 22 April 2004. Whether that made sense in the real world, after the unexpected delay of a busted Hummer, was irrelevant.

The threat of missing a mission time is a source of extreme anxiety for any military officer.

To this we must add that this is Rumsfeld’s military in 2004. A nuttier empiricist would be hard to find. Rumsfeld, who stole other people’s ideas then bastardized them in his grandiose imagination, had taken this arithmetic fetish and renamed it as part of the Rumsfeld doctrine, which he called (with typical self-promoting grandiosity) “the Revolution in Military Affairs.”

Rumsfeld’s concept of Network-centric Warfare (NCW, a scalar bastardization of Boyd’s warfighting theories, which were originally applied to individual air combat) measures success with “metrics,” that is, with obsessive quantification. This link to an interview with DoD Deputy Secretary for Public Affairs, Lawrence DeRita (one of Rumsfeld’s closest advisors), gives a good example of this “metrics approach” and how it translates from operations into propaganda. Notice the emphasis on numbers in this quote:

Since it began last week, Victory Bounty has netted nearly 70 former Fedayeen fighters, including several general and field grade officers. The daily raids and patrols that our troops conduct every day are steadily and deliberately building a more stable and secure Iraq. On average, coalition forces are conducting almost 2,000 patrols every day, hundreds of night patrols, and many of those are conducted jointly with the Iraqi police.

This is really just an extrapolation of MacNamaran “body counts,” but Rumsfeld thinks himself a military genius.

The point is — at Donald Rumsfeld’s level, where the war had to be justified to the American populace — the bullet-points showing “accomplishments” were in demand from the highest offices of the military for inclusion into press releases and briefings.

In the psychological operations being directed at the American populace, which have elevated importance when public support for the war is waning, this show-me-the-metrics command emphasis cascades down through the chain of command like an avalanche. It is facilitated by bureaucratic overinterpretation of command guidance. The emphasis from the top does not diminish as it moves further from the source; it is amplified by the desire to please the boss at every level. This process was in turn amplified by the personality of Donald Rumsfeld: autocratic, vengeful, and micromanagerial.

War is seen by officers as a career opportunity — all their posturing to the contrary about hating-war-but-doing-what’s-oh-so-terribly-necessary aside. I’ve seen too many officers slobbering over the opportunity to make their bones to participate in their charade of peace-loving and their feigned gullibilities.

This essential context is not taken up by Congress or the press, because you get into trouble when you deviate from ritual displays of fealty to US militarism. Congress, the press, the entertainment media, and the public have all taken the de facto loyalty oath that says never speak ill of the military. Militarism is our culture, our religion, and our economy.

This is precisely why we had to witness that awful fawning over Rumsfeld, Meyers, and Abazaid by Congress last week; and it is why no one was going to follow up on Dennis Kucinich’s question about public relations firms working for the Department of Defense. He was trying to establish how important managing public perception at home is to the war effort, and how heavy the command emphasis was at this particular time to do two things simultaneously: (1) shift the focus off of Iraq’ serial disasters, and (2) show how glowingly good everything was going in Afghanistan.

On April 22, 2004 — the last day of Pat Tillman’s life — these were the multiply-related institutional pressures that led Major David Hodne, far from the scene with the Blacksheep and their Albatross, to overrule a ground commander and order the platoon split into two sections: one section to drag the Albatross with a hired Afghan truck to the paved highway where it would link up with an Army recovery vehicle, and the other section to arrive in Manah — a location on that mission checklist in the TOC — to get “boots on the ground by dusk” of the appointed day.

First Lieutenant David Uthlaut — the Platoon Leader — had strenuously objected to this plan because it endangered his command, control, and communications (C3). Hodne overruled him, saying that he was not going to let a busted vehicle make him miss a mission time. Uthlaut had mere minutes to organize this foolish, but now mandatory, ad hoc operation in the wake of a six-hour, exposed daylight delay, that would route some of his troops through a deep and highly constricted canyon at the risk of losing inter-platoon communications.

In order to ensure that each section (called a Serial) had a rough parity of weapons and vehicles, the organic chain of supervision in the platoon was broken up and “task organized” around weapons systems… leaving squad leaders and even team leaders in charge of people with whom they hadn’t normally worked.

The three Afghan guerrillas sat and watched from the high ground. The Americans were moving, lining up vehicles, behaving as if they were about to leave.

At a fork in the “road” just outside of Magarah, one section was to mount a steep road to the right, toward the highway, with the Albatross in tow behind a hired Afghan “jinga truck.” The other section was to turn left and go through the canyon — less than two kilometers — to accomplish the “boots on the ground” arrival outside Manah. Then they would radio back to Major Hodne, and Hodne could check off his bullet-point. Pat was assigned to the “boots on the ground” section.

The Boots Section left a few minutes in advance of the Albatross section, and steered into the canyon.

The Afghan guerrillas, it may be presumed, watched this and formed a hasty plan to climb up to the high ridges on either side of the canyon. By the time they got there, the Boots Section was already through the canyon.

Meanwhile, the Albatross Section had encountered an obstacle. The road leading to the main highway was not passable for the jinga truck dragging the Albatross.

Platoon Sergeant Eric Godec — now in charge of the Albatross Section — had to make a decision, and it was late in the day. The only alternative route to the highway was through the same canyon where the Boots Section had just passed. He then discovered — just as the Platoon Leader had feared — that they had lost radio contact with the Boots Section, now fifteen minutes ahead of them.

The three guerrillas on the ridge line had not reached the higher ground in time to hit the Boots Section with harassing fire — the most a small force might consider against heavily-armed US shock infantry. But then the Albatross Section was turning around and lining up to go through the canyon — yes, a target of opportunity after all.

The Rangers themselves were tired, filthy, soggy in their sweaty heavy battle gear, underslept, low on water, and pissed off after the all-day static security they’d pulled in Magarah for a busted Hummer. Change 10 in the all-day clusterfuck. Anyone who is a veteran of any infantry unit will identify. This is a set-stage for over-reaction.

The Albtross Section had to crawl into the canyon single file. The sun was very low, and the canyon getting dark. The walls of the canyon swept up and then steeply out over ridgelines that were 800-1,100 meters away. The “road” was yet another spine-torquing maze of potholes and scree. Clinging to the sides of their vehicles or to their mounted weapons, the weary passengers were agitated like popcorn, sometimes tucking in their elbows to prevent breaking them on the canyon stone.

Kevin Tillman’s mounted 40-mm weapon (MK19) would be torn up by the canyon wall.

One guerrilla shouldered his RPG — a weapon with a maximum effective range of around 250 meters — and elevated it to get a good throw at the channelized Albatross Section more than 800 meters away. He fired. The round arced up and out then wobbled into the opposite canyon wall, where it exploded.

The explosion stopped the crawling Albatross Section. The standard operating procedure for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) — which the Rangers mistakenly believed the explosion was — is to dismount the vehicles. The RPG round had exploded harmlessly, showering a few Rangers far below with gravel and dirt. But the noise inside the canyon was terrific; and it is always followed by people shouting orders and questions back and forth.

I wrote in another venue…

The military has tried to suggest that this was a mortar, because a mortar is a more dangerous and sophisticated weapon than an RPG.

Here is why I disagree.

The explosive rounds that initiated the ambush (1) splashed off the canyon wall and (2) did NOT pepper the convoy with shrapnel.

This strongly suggests that these rounds came from a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG).

A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that sends the round up, so that it may achieve vertical penetration of a target (not horizontal penetration into a wall). Even when used as a direct fire weapon, a method called “direct lay,” a mortar requires support from a baseplate. A mortar can not therefore be aimed below ground level, i.e., at a point below the crew. The firing pin is in the bottom of the mortar tube. It cannot, therefore, be angled down. One cannot get the mortar round to drop upwards. It’s a gravity-thing.

A standard mortar high-explosive (HE) round has an omni-directional explosion, sending its secondary missiles (shrapnel) in all directions. This is called a bursting radius, because the weapon is designed to “burst.”

And RPG is a “shape charge,” which is a uni-directional charge, designed to concentrate the explosion in a frontal “jet” that penetrates vehicles, bunkers, and light armor. It is not designed to burst, but to penetrate. An RPG can be fired downward, because it is shoulder fired. It does not require gravity to drop the round onto the firing pin like a mortar.

The lateral flight of the explosive rounds fired at 2nd Platoon, combined with the lack of either damage to equipment or casualties due to shrapnel, as well as the testimony of the most experienced person there (who stated that it was an RPG, not a mortar), suggest that the three ambushers had an RPG, not a mortar.

A mortar is a more dangerous weapon. It has greater range. It is crew-served, requiring more people. It requires training. An RPG has a maximum effective range of around two football fields, and can be easily operated by one 13-year-old after a 5-minutes orientation

The ambush was ineffectual, but the Ranger response — moments before having been “tired, filthy, soggy in their sweaty heavy battle gear, underslept, low on water, and pissed off… clinging to the sides of their vehicles or to their mounted weapons [and] agitated like popcorn” — was Biblical.

The response to this light, harassing, and ineffectual ambush was highly-channeled aggression. Into this channel, the Rangers poured great lethal streams of tracer-lighted lead and explosives — with a cataclysmic roar inside the canyon. The streams of ordnance leaped up over the canyon walls and scattered like rain across the distant countryside. So much ammunition was fired that many Rangers exhausted their basic loads and had to break into the reserve ammunition to re-load.

Fire control and fire discipline were completely lost.

The canyon was like a funnel, a megaphone. Uthlaut’s Boots Section (Pat included), now on the outskirts of Manah at the far mouth of the canyon — having missed their last turn — were the recipients of a highly-amplified, and highly-alarming acoustics-and-light show. The canyon sounded as if it had erupted into Armageddon. Inter-platoon communications had been lost; so the Boots Section could only deploy into positions hear the mouth of the canyon and wait to see what was going on. Most of the Boots Section remained in a tiny hamlet looking almost directly into the canyon mouth. The sun had set minutes earlier; but in the open the light was good. Staff Sergeant Matthew Weeks took another detachment, which included Pat, and moved onto a topographical finger overlooking the mouth of the canyon. Weeks kept one team on higher ground, and sent Pat, PFC Bryan O’Neal, and an allied Afghan militiaman named Thani to a position closer to the “road.”

This is where there are conflicting stories, partly because of the “fog of war,” but more importantly to evade possible prosecutions… and the Pandora’s box of counter-accusation a recrimination that might be opened by prosecutions.

I won’t belabor the minutiae.

A vehicle under the control of Sergeant Greg Baker, with a driver, an M240B machinegun, an M2 50-caliber machinegun, an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW), and two M4s (the standard assult rifle now used by the infantry) came out of the canyon and fired on both the village and Pat’s position. Pat and Thani were killed; and Uthlaut, along with his radio operator, Jade Lane, were wounded.

What is established is that Baker directed the fires, and that after firing at Pat’s position once, the vehicle advanced and fired on the same position again, probably to regain visibility after Pat threw a smoke grenade in an attempt to alert them that they were firing at “friendlies.” The distance was between 35-85 meters. My own examination of the photo imagery suggests to me that the distance is much closer to the low number. The length of the longest building in the hamlet was 29-feet (iirc), and an extrapolation from the seen-from-above images shows the distance between the shooters’ position and Pat’s to be around four times that (116 feet, or 35 meters). SSG Weeks (now SFC Weeks) supported this estimation when I called him on the phone last year.

In later accounts, Army investigators would attempt to pump up the number of enemy combatants, upgrade an RPG into a mortar, suggest a far more efficacious ambush, equivocate about light conditions, and extend the distance between the shooters and Pat to as much as 200 meters.

Since there is nothing in the actual statements or physical evidence to support these claims, I am assuming there was a motive to mislead. My assumption is that these distortions were designed to introduce “mitigating” circumstances in a homicide.

My contention from having seen the Rules of Engagement (ROE) and from familiarity with the Law of Warfare is that this was a criminal homicide, at least on the part of Greg Baker, and that he intentionally and illegally led him men to kill two other human beings.

It is not my contention that he intended to kill Pat Tillman. His intention was to kill unidentified human beings; which is precisely what he and his subordinates did.

The reason the killings were both intentional and illegal has to do with the rules for firing. It is a violation of the Law of Warfare to fire into a village if one is not receiving fire from that village. Baker’s team did fire into a village from which there was no fire received, and they had not been under enemy fire for several minutes. Criminal violation 1. The Rules of Engagement (ROE), which are theater-specific, and which supercede both doctrine and SOP for firing, required “positive identification” of the target.

The investigators and the Army have consistently thrown sand in the eyes of the public on this account. This is an arcane but crucial point. Doctrine says an infantryman fires at “known, suspected, and likely enemy targets.” Doctrine is highly decontextualized and general. The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in the Ranger Regiment is to orient one’s fires on the fires of the leader (Baker, in this case). SOPs are specific to the unit, but not the theater. Rules of Engagement (ROE) are specific to the theater, contextualized, and in every case become the highest of these three guidelines… superceding all others. ROE has the force of a General Order in the theater of operations. When questioned about why they fired, various Rangers and leaders repeated that they fired at “known, suspected, and likely enemy positions.” This is a legalistic mantra. Unfortunately, this doctrinal criterion was circumscribed by the ROE, which required “positive identification” of targets.

The distance between the shooting vehicle and Pat’s position was easily near enough to make an identification of a standing Pat Tillman and Bryan O’Neal… two American soldiers, wearing distinctive uniforms and battle-gear, to include Kevlar helmets, and waving their arms. (In the lull in fire when Baker’s vehicle moved forward to see past the smoke, Pat and Bryan thought they had been identified as “friendly,” so they stood up… only to be cut down by another volley of machinegun fire.)

QUESTION: Why would investigators and the chain of command conceal this loss of fire discipline and fire control — which led to the death of two men — inside the manufactured premise of “an intense firefight”?

HYPOTHESIS: A “hang-together or hang separately” strategy evolved, in which each member of the chain — from SPC Alders, who admits firing his Squad automatic weapon (SAW) at two men whose hands were raised, to SSG Baker, who directed serial violations of the Rules of Engagement, resulting in the death of two men, to MAJ Hodne, who ordered the platoon split for a daylight movement, in violation of both common sense and a Regimental directive concerning daylight movement (including CPT Saunders, who had to “go on record” with these orders to split and move during daylight), to [fill in the blanks] everyone who was responding to a “show progress” directive from Public Affairs, that resulted in “bureaucratic over-interpretation” by Hodne, i.e., the false sense of urgency to get “boots on the ground before nightfall.”

EXPLANATION: If Baker is prosecuted for ROE violations (firing into a village and failing to make positive identification of Pat and the AMF soldier who were killed), he will then be forced to testify in detail about the split-order, which leads directly to questions about the “sense of urgency” to have “boots on the ground before nightfall.” If Hodne or Company Commander Captain William Saunders (who passed Hodne’s order to Uthlaut by radio, and later received immunity in advance of changing a statement that Hodne gave the order) is relieved, then they are potential disaffected officers who can point out that command emphasis on “showing progress” was the basis of the false sense of urgency that led to this contravention of a Regimental Directive against daylight overland movement and the tactically unsound order to split the unit in order to check the box on a time line.

Now, and only now, can we get to the sequence of events in the subsequent cover-up. The crimes committed in the cover-up include destruction of evidence, perjury, fraud, and conspiracy to commit fraud. First, however, we have to deal with the recent AP story and the flurry of conspiracy theories to which it has given rise.

(Note to readers: Martha Mendoza’s article that is cited and excerpted here — according to reliable sources — is not what the author originally wrote. It was given its salacious spin by editors at AP. This is common practice; and it is why even journalists who want to act like journalists get stepped on and spiked.)

AP News

Jul 27, 2007 01:49 EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman’s forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player’s death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

“The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described,” a doctor who examined Tillman’s body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.

The doctors - whose names were blacked out - said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.

Well, there are doctors and there are doctors.

The proximity of bullet wounds is not sufficient to determine the distance from which a round is fired. Two of the best gunshot wound pathologists in the country (Bux and DiMaio), at Dannie Tillman’s request accompanied me to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Rockville, Maryland earlier this year to examine the autopsy findings and autopsy photographs for Pat Tillman. Both agreed that the trajectories, exit wounds, and proximity of rounds are most consistent with a burst fired from the M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon, like the one fired from around 40 meters away by Specialist Trevor Alders outside Manah on April 22, 2004.

The AP story set the conspiracy theorists alight, and when I dismissed the “assassination theory,” a correspondent told me I was “naive” (this person having never read the documents in the case and never having spent a day in the military).

“I wonder if all the soldiers in that platoon were actually soldiers,” asked the correspondent ominously.

“No,” I replied with a bit of pique. “The Black Ops folks always hire 20-year-olds (one member of the shooter vehicle was 19!), and put them in deep cover — which they study between playing video games and sharing high school lies.

The task organization of the platoon that placed that particular vehicle, with those particular troops, in this situation… with Pat exactly where he was… was decided on an ad hoc basis, less than an hour before it happened, after an all day delay, caused by a busted vehicle. The decision was made by a 1st Lieutenant (was he in on it), and forced on him after an argument by members of the TOC in Khowst (were they all in on it?), and altered at the last minute by an Afghan jinga truck driver (was he in on it?) who’d been randomly hired in Magarah to tow the broken vehicle on that very day, after consultation between the platoon chain of command (were they all in on it?). Pat’s position was decided by Pat, after being released from an earlier position by an acting squad leader (was he in on it, and did he control Pat’s mind in Pat’s selection of exactly that place in the boonies of Paktia Province?), who was himself sent forward in response to gunfire in a canyon. Did the Black Ops people put the ruts in the road that trashed the hummer that caused the delay that stalled the Blacksheep Platooon in Magarah for more than six hours, where they were sussed out by three part-time guerrillas (were they in on it?) who played their role by staging an ineffectual ambush along a last-minute route determined by the inability of the jinga truck that was towing the busted vehicle to climb through the originally planned (less than one hour before) wadi?

I love how conspiracy-affines refer to others as “naive,” when they themselves cannot describe the difference between correlation and causation, and they attach themselves to stories that are only possible in the minds of scriptwriters. Real Black Ops are straightforward affairs, with planning designed to minimize complexity and reduce the number of independent actors and “moving parts”… but that makes a shitty script. But if this is what you want to believe, then we’ll leave you to the Illuminati. In the real world, power has to mobilize such awesome resources on its own behalf precisely because it cannot exercise the kind of control you suggest. No one can.

This kind of grousing does not make me popular with those who are more interested in finding dirt on their political enemies than finding the facts — a tendency that parallels hating the transient leaders more than they hate (and understand) the system.

In response, I received this from another correspondent: “I’m not at all interested in promoting any ‘conspiracy theories,’ I’m just wondering if this new information moves Tillman’s cause of death due to ‘friendly fire’ closer to a possibility of a deliberate fragging.”

From assassination, to fragging.

I replied:

Not unless it occurred in front of at least eight people, all of whom had great respect for him, and who conspired to cover this fragging up together.

Two of the top gunshot specialists in forensic pathology in the nation examined Pat’s autopsy reports and photos and agree with me that this was likely a squad automatic weapon (same caliber as an M-4). The army dummied up the distances, then drew them down to 85 meters to support a “fog of war” thesis (as opposed to the actual serial violations of the ROE that did occur… more likely at around 40 meters. The three shots that killed Pat were actually two tight, and one flyer, all head shots and each instantly fatal on its own account.

Now think in slow motion. Let me begin with the terminal ballistics one never sees in films and on tv.

Destruction of the connection between the brain stem and the rest of the body caused a body to fall… straight down. No, people do not fly through the air like the stunt-people in Hollywood (unless shot from an extremely close distance). Straight down. This happens instantly. The new theory proposed by some so-called expert, says that this tight shot-group (less than 4 inches) could only have been fired by someone shooting on semi-automatic (one shot at a time, in rapid succession). A fully-automatic weapon, like the Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) that is presumed (by two of the top forensics experts in the country) to be the lethal weapon, according to this theory, cannot fire this shot group because automatic weapons can not be controlled for this tight a shot-group.

This premise is the basis of the presumed distance (10 meters) and mode of fire (semi-auto)/weapon (M-4) in the new AP-inspired theory. Two problems: (1) the theory about auto fire is wrong, and (2) Pat was shot in the face three times, while facing downhill, and standing on a steep incline dropping to his front.

Number (2) first.

For this to have been an M-4 fiing on semi, the shooter would have had to fire, re-aquire [aim], fire, re-aquire, and fire again, before Pat fell to the ground (straight down, on a steep forward-inclining piece of terrain, with a large stone in front of him to prevent him tumbling down the hill). Even a very good rapid-fire shooter could not have placed all three shots together (from a standing or other non-prone-supported position at 35-40 meters) quickly enough to fire the second and third shots before Pat fell away from the sight alignment.

The only 5.56 mm weapon on the scene that could have placed those shots that quickly in the same place was the SAW… cyclic rate of auto-fire: 850 rounds per minute (14 rounds per second, ergo, three rounds in 2/10 of a second).

Physics and physiology matter; now add on the statistical probability that a bunch of enlisted people would willingly participate as accessories after the fact in a cold-blooded murder (that just happened to coincide with an unplanned [but ineffectual] ambush)… and we begin to appreciate how unlikely this scenario is.

Now for number (1). I’ll happily go to the range with anyone who cares to set it up today (or chose anyone who has been trained to fire the SAW), and demonstrate that these tight groups very well can be fired from a SAW, when they are part of a continuous firing cycle that allows the gunner to first walk the fire onto a target, then tighten down on the weapon as he orients on the impact signature (The rock in front of Pat was covered with bullet strikes.).

There are family members who will not easily dismiss this, and who can blame them after the government has lied and covered up again and again and again on this case. I don’t fault them; and in fact I have great affection for them. The depth of their sense of betrayal would make anyone think the worst, and want someone to prove otherwise. More than this… if this case becomes about a conspiracy to murder, the focus is taken off the likely suspects for the real cover-up and crime, and the ones who all these sacrifices of Generals have been designed to protect… Donald Rumsfeld, Lawrence DeRita, and probably George W. Bush. They are all loving this right now.

From an article I did on this very subject last year:

Let me say for the record, again, that I do not believe that Pat Tillman was targeted for assassination.

A second lieutenant and an infantry sergeant are not tasked with anything as politically sensitive as assassination. I am speaking as an alumnus of Delta Force, one of the few organizations that actually might be entrusted with this kind of operation (and then only very rarely). It doesn’t matter what you see in the movies.

The decisions that placed Pat Tillman at exactly the place and exactly the time of his death were made ad hoc, on the spot, at a series of junctures that could not have been controlled, including a vehicle that unexpectedly broke down, one key decision made by an Afghan jinga truck driver and Pat’s own decision (following two on-the-spot decisions by members of his platoon in direct response to a completely unexpected situation) to move forward into the position where he was shot.

The mystique of Special Operations (including the Rangers, who are the Special Operations’ shock infantry component) is useful as a deterrent, but it is not reflective of a reality. The Pentagon and others want you and the rest of the world to believe this mystique, because your fear and the fear of the rest of the world is what maintains the efficacy of a huge bluff. This government wants us to spin out as many scary fantasies as possible, because it serves the dual purpose of either portraying opponents of the military as “conspiracy nuts” or promoting precisely the myth of spooky invincibility that keeps us in line.

I came straight from the bowels of this system, and I have written three books exposing the worst aspects of the military. If they haven’t cut my brake lines or shot me when I’m out fishing yet, then they didn’t kill Pat Tillman because he criticized the war in Iraq and read a book by Noam Chomsky…

…Key facts, as presented in this series … have already “escaped,” e.g., the Scott investigation and the fraudulence of awarding a Silver Star as part of a cover story. These facts are now, for the Administration and the Pentagon, inescapable. All that is missing right now is someone with a little integrity and courage, and subpoena authority, to use these facts to tear the rest of the mask away.

All that is required, however, to discredit those asking the questions is our own insistence on the least plausible scenario, no doubt inspired by a righteous mistrust and loathing of people like Donald Rumsfeld and Lawrence Di Rita, when the existing facts do not support that scenario.

There is nothing the Pentagon would rather do with this case, aside from making it evaporate, than turn it into a debate about whether Pat was assassinated or not. He wasn’t, and so they can not only poke fun at any of us who propose that hypothesis, they can relax as we all bark up the wrong tree.

What they do not want is a rigorous examination of the motives, decisions, and events that might lead a larger public to see how they have been spinning prevarications to call an imperial Oil War democracy-building.

Pat Tillman, and many who knew and cared for him, at some point believed, based on the evidence before them, that he was bound for a place in history of some kind… in football. What neither he nor they could know was that football fame would emerge as just a stepping stone to a far more significant role in history: contributing to the end of an illegal war, and bringing down (hopefully) a dangerous clique of international scofflaws.

The crimes of this Administration are more serious and vile by orders of magnitude than the mere imagined assassination of one young man.

And now, at last, I will briefly describe the cover-up.

Pat Tillman was the most well-known enlisted man in the entire military. When he enlisted, Pat received a personal letter from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld thanking Pat for his enlistment. So Pat was on Rumsfeld’s radar immediately. The fog of fame began then as the spin on Pat’s enlistment was that he took a break from a lucrative football career because of 9-11. That’s not how it was. Pat saw young men being marched off to war; and he didn’t want to use his talent as an exemption. It’s different.

The day Pat was killed outside Manah, officialdom developed a multiple personality disorder. On the one hand, there was bureaucrat’s panic, because it was known almost at once that this was a case of “fratricide.” On the other hand, the scriptwriters smelled a story with Pat’s corpse propped up like a Greek statue that would draw all eyes away from the debacle of Fallujah-Najaf and the wanton racist cruelty of Abu Ghraib. So there was the bureaucrat’s instinct to hide the facts in a period of waning legitimation; and there was the flak’s instinct to tell a lie. Hiding a thing and lying about it are two different things, and they can be contradictory. That’s how both the hiding and the lying began to unravel.

At the highest levels, there was a decision to be made about how far one could get away with the lie in the short term, and hide their own complicity in case the lie was exposed in the long term.

On April 29th, Major General Stanley McChrystal — commander of the task force that the Rangers served in Afghanistan, and head of the most secretive joint-service force in the US military — sent a memo to John Abazaid, telling him to warn everyone all the way to Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush, an investigation “will find that it is highly possible Cpl. Tillman was killed by friendly fire… I felt that it was essential that you received this information as soon as we detected it in order to preclude any unknowing statements by our country’s leaders which might cause public embarrassment if the circumstances of Cpl. Tillman’s death become public.”

No reference to telling the truth… “which might cause public embarrassment if the circumstances of Cpl. Tillman’s death become public.”

According to an unnamed source, Abazaid lied to Congress on August 1, 2007, when he stated that this memo — from the General in theater who directed the most politically-sensitive and secret operations in the military, which include units like Delta Force (now operating under a new name) — did not “reach him” for “10 to 20 days.”

This memo, it must be assumed, was a living organism that had to exercise its own initiative to “reach” its intended recipient.

Pat Tillman’s death by friendly fire –instead of the enemy fire described in a fraudulent Silver Star citation drafted by officers who knew how Pat was killed — was explosive news. Yet on August 1, 2007, Rumsfeld, his twit former-Joint Chiefs Chair Meyers, and the ex-CENTCOM Commander John Abazaid — not one of them — could remember when, where, or how they learned of this explosive news. The contagious amnesia of the Justice Department appears to have originated with the Defense Department.

Blasts from the past:

• Since the day he took command of the Pentagon, Rumsfeld has been using his famous “8,000-mile screwdriver” to tilt the civil-military balance his way. According to his critics, he is Robert McNamara reborn—an arrogant micromanager, contemptuous of soldierly expertise and certain of his own infallibility. (Andrew Bacevich, Los Angeles Times)

• To counter critics’ description of Rumsfeld as a micromanager who did not listen to military leaders, the Pentagon circulated a one-page memo late last week detailing the defense secretary’s frequent contacts with numerous uniformed and civilian advisers. (Associated Press)

• If a civilian such as Donald Rumsfeld seeks to exercise from Washington functions that were traditionally those of soldiers, he should take the customary consequences. (Max Hastings, Washington Post, entitled “To the Micromanager Goes the Blame”)

• It says Mr Rumsfeld has held 139 meetings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff since the beginning of 2005, and 208 meetings with the senior field commanders. The retired generals complained that Mr Rumsfeld was a “micromanager” who often ignored the advice of senior commanders. (Mark Mazzetti and Jim Rutenberg, Sydney Morning Herald)

• Was Donald Rumsfeld a micromanager? Yes. Did he want to be involved in all of the decisions? Yes. (Michael DeLong, New York Times)

• DoD lawyers deny the allegation, but Rumsfeld’s management style, the infamous micromanagement, lends credibility to it. It’s logical that a micromanager would utilize the tools of technology available to him to direct interrogations from a distance. (Daily Kos)

• Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong, former deputy commander of the U.S. Central Command during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, said Monday he suspected Rumsfeld’s critics simply didn’t like Rumsfeld’s management style and personality. “His management style is a tough management style,” DeLong said on NBC’s “Today” show. “He’s tough to work with. He is a micromanager, but he’s very effective. He’s very competent but very dogmatic and tough when he deals with people.” (Albuquerque Tribune)

But little Donnie Rumsfeld can’t remember when, where, or how he learned of Pat Tillman’s death, and he doesn’t interfere in the business of his officers, and I am the rightful King of Connecticut.

Since I’m not bearing that ridiculous pretense of objectivity that “journalists” so audaciously lay claim to, and since I am not a lawyer schooled in absolute empiricism, I can only say what seems to be apparent to me from this testimony… which Congress left unchallenged.

They pissed on our legs and told us it was raining. Liars, every goddamn one of them. Liars, con-men, and criminals. Based on the evidence, this is what I believe. Someone has to say this out loud. Dannie Tillman has been trying to tell us this for three years.

There is the cover-up (of the fratricide). There is the original lie (that Pat was killed in an intense combat engagement). There is the layering of plausible denial in case the stories unravel.

The motives of the spin-meisters were to construct a recruiting poster on Pat’s coffin. The motive of the cover-up (at least one of them) was to preserve the mystique of the US Army Rangers — the elite of the infantry — as flawless, disciplined, steely-eyed commandos. This was part of a larger narrative that included “precision” bombing and other such horseshit, that in turn supported (with ample help from the compliant. bloody-handed press) the denial that civilians were being slaughtered in droves by US forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Of course, the fact is, they were… and are… being slaughtered in droves, that is. The military just calls the dead people suspected insurgents, and the press dutifully repeats this criminal malarkey. No questions asked.

Motives for covering up? Which part?

Now there is the lie that “we didn’t know until late May.” Finally, there is the highly probable lie that President George W. Bush didn’t know until late May either.

The Waxman Committee was advised by the family to subpoena every scrap of paper from Rumsfeld’s or DeRita’s office beginning April 15th and ending May 15th 2004. Therein is the likely paper trail of command directives to show the metrics of “progress in Afghanistan,” and therein is the paper trail of notification about the circumstances of Pat’s death and the further directives on how to handle it. The subpoenas, as far as we can tell, were never issued. I can only assume they don’t want to know. What else are we to make of it?

The first key mistake in covering up was a paper trail to the false script: the Silver Star award, with its false narrative and its construction in violation of the process required by Army Regulations.

Silver Star citation:

During a ground assault convoy in Afghanistan Tillman’s platoon was split into two sections. Tillman was the team leader of the lead section when the trail section began receiving suppressive mortar and small arms fire. The nature of the cavernous terrain made it extremely difficult to target enemy positions and there was no room for the trail element to maneuver out of the kill zone.

Although Tillman’s element was already safely out of the area under fire Tillman ordered his team to dismount and maneuver his team up a hill towards the enemy’s location. As Tillman crested the hill he maneuvered his team into positions and himself with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) returned suppressive fire.

Through the firing Tillman’s voice was issuing fire commands to take the fight to the enemy on the dominating high ground.

Only after his team engaged a well-armed enemy did it appear their fires diminished.

While Tillman focused his efforts, and those of his team members without regard to his personal safety he was shot and killed.

The second key mistake was the attempt to conceal the original investigation, conducted by Captain Richard Scott.

At the US Army Criminal Investigation Division briefing that I attended with the Tillman family in March this year, Army officials stated categorically that a report from the original investigation by Captain Scott “does not exist.” They said that more than once, and they were emphatic.

Dannie Tillman now has a copy of the Scott Report, and so do I.

AORG-SN-CO (15-6) 29 April 2004

MEMORANDUM FOR Commander. 2nd Battalion. 75th Ranger Regiment

SUBJECT: AR 15-6 Final Report

Purpose: To investigate the events and circumstances surrounding the death of CPL Patrick D. Tillman

etc etc etc

When the Tillmans left that briefing calling them liars, the Army CID officials acted like Dannie Tillman had just shot their favorite dog. Amazing… like they were being victimized by this little woman.

The Army was perfectly justified in doing a second “AR-15-6 investigation.” Scott’s report stated:

Serial Two [the Albatross Section, in particular Staff Sergeant Baker’s vehicle] continued to fire their weapons systems without positively identifying enemy forces once they got out of the enemy’s kill zone and mistakenly fired on friendly forces on the ridgeline Most notable was the lead GMV [ground mobility vehicle] led by SSG Baker. By the time they were approaching the ridgeline where friendly forces were positioned; [sic] Serial Two was not receiving enemy fire. In fact, Serial Two never received effective enemy fire throughout the entire enemy contact.

He states clearly that Baker violated the ROE at a minimum, resulting in the deaths of two men. He later uses the radioactive word “negligent.” ROE violations and negligent homicide are charges that could result in a General Court Martial; and that requires by regulation an investigation by a minimum O-5 (Lieutenant Colonel). No rank below LTC can act as something called a General Court Martial Convening Authority (GCMCA). So tasking Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich (the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Executive Officer) with a subsequent investigation is strictly according to Hoyle.

The problem was that Kauzlarich and his boss, Colonel James Nixon, were already up to their necks in the phony Silver Star citation (where the cover-up and lie converged on paper). They then participated in a conspiracy… that’s where more than one person collude to commit a crime. They “disappeared” the original report, and when the new report was finished, statements had been changed to “mitigate” for the shooters, and the “fog of war” fabrications about light conditions, combat intensity, and distances.

The entire 2nd Ranger Battalion in Khowst (at least 400 men) knew before May Day — via the Ranger grapevine — what had happened. The whole unit was then given an order to speak to no one at any time under any circumstances about “the Tillman incident.” They were threatened with jail if they did. The notice was even posted in the rear at Fort Lewis to silence rear detachment personnel. This battalion was due to rotate back to Fort Lewis, Washington (near Tacoma) in late May; and it finally dawned on the chains of command that this was an untenable secret. Rangers (mostly kids between 19-25) come home and vent to wives. They drink in local bars. They have loud conversations in public places. Anyone possessed of a bad conscience can make an anonymous call to the press.

This is likely when a certain panic began to set in. Anyone with a brain could figure out two things: (1) the Army was going to have to ‘fess up before the Rangers returned, and (2) the Silver Star award narrative was already out there, irretrievable… like a blood trail leading back to its authors.

Bush and Rumsfeld were already looking for some distance. The backup plan that developed was to announce the fratricide, then shut up and ride it out.


MEDIA ADVISORY: USASOC to release Tillman investigation results during May 29 press statement,
U.S. Army Special Operations Command Public Affairs Office

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, May 28, 2004) — The U.S. Army Special Operations Command will announce information about the death of Cpl. Patrick D. Tillman during a press statement here May 29.

Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger, USASOC’s commanding general, will address the media at Stryker Golf Course at 9 A.M. The statement will concern a completed military investigation into the circumstances of Tillman’s April 22 death in Afghanistan.

Kensinger will depart after concluding his statement and will not be available to take questions.


FOR THE MEDIA: Members of the media who wish to attend the ceremony should arrive at Fort Bragg’s Stryker Golf Course no earlier than 8 a.m. Parking for media personnel will be reserved on the left side of Stryker’s parking lot, with the row closest to the clubhouse set aside for live trucks.

Live feeds will be permitted during the press statement. However, organizations wishing to conduct a live stand-up must depart Stryker prior to doing so.

Live stand-up locations are located at either end of Bragg Boulevard, in front of the “Welcome to Fort Bragg” signs. Media will not be allowed to remain at Stryker Golf Course, as this will disrupt golf course operations.



PRESS STATEMENT: USASOC announces Tillman investigation results

U.S. Army Special Operations Command Public Affairs Office

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, May 29, 2004) — The U.S. Army Special Operations Command announced information about the death of Cpl. Patrick D. Tillman during a press statement here May 29.

Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., USASOC’s commanding general, addressed the media at Stryker Golf Course at 9 A.M. The statement concerned a completed military investigation into the circumstances of Tillman’s April 22 death in Afghanistan and is presented below in transcript format.


KENSINGER: Good morning. I would like to make a brief statement on the events surrounding the death of Corporal Pat Tillman April 22 in Afghanistan. I will not be taking questions.

A military investigation by U.S. Central Command into the circumstances of the 22 April death of Corporal Patrick Tillman is complete.

While there was no one specific finding of fault, the investigation results indicate that Corporal Tillman probably died as a result of friendly fire while his unit was engaged in combat with enemy forces.

The results of this investigation in no way diminish the bravery and sacrifice displayed by Corporal Tillman. [This is a bald-faced effort to grandfather in a cover for the fraudulent Silver Star award narrative. -SG] Corporal Tillman was shot and killed while responding to enemy fire without regard for his own safety. He focused his efforts on the elimination of enemy forces and the protection of his team members. There is an inherent degree of confusion in any firefight, particularly when a unit is ambushed, and especially under difficult light and terrain conditions which produce an environment that increases the likelihood of fratricide.

Corporal Tillman’s platoon was ambushed with small arms and mortar fire at about 7:30 p.m. local time while conducting combat operations in the vicinity of Khowst, Afghanistan. The enemy ambush was immediately responded to by a coalition patrol including Corporal Tillman with direct fire, and an intense firefight lasting approximately 20 minutes ensued.

The ambush was conducted by 10 to 12 enemy personnel from multiple locations over approximately one kilometer in very severe and constricted terrain with impaired light conditions. Following initial contact, Corporal Tillman disembarked from his vehicle and, in support of his unit, moved into position to suppress enemy fire.

We regret the loss of life resulting from this tragic incident. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Tillman family.

Thank you all for being here this morning.


May 29th. The die is cast. Kensinger is placed in the center. Sworn statements in the investigative documents suggest the Kensinger kicked and screamed not to be the one to deliver this press briefing. But he was given his orders; he recited dutifully; and now he will be looking for his out.

Meanwhile, Kevin Tillman was reassigned to Headquarters Company in his battalion. He is no longer comfortable working in Alpha Company, knowing that one or more of his fellow Alphabots took his brother’s life. Headquarters Company Commander is none other than Captain Richard Scott.

Kevin had begun to interrogate anyone and everyone about what happened. He had been separated from his unit on the scene — before what had happened was sorted out — and redeployed stateside. His unit was commanded not to talk to him about what happened. Neither he nor his family knew Pat had been killed by fratricide until five weeks after the fact; and he was livid. In a casual conversation with Captain Scott, Kevin repeated a remark he had heard about the investigation. Captain Scott, before he thought, commented, “That’s not what I found in my investigation.”

Kevin was stunned.

“Your investigation?!”

Another cat was out of the bag.

Cats every damn where.

The tough cat, however, was “Mama T.” Dannie. Now that her mistrust of the government was aroused, she sank her teeth into the investigation and has not to this day let go of it. She won’t either. In May last year, she asked me if I would help “interpret” the military documents. Shortly afterwards, she sent me two news stories she’d tracked down.

General Myers Visits Afghanistan

Associated Press
April 16, 2004

KABUL, Afghanistan - Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, headed to Afghanistan on Friday amid a stepped up campaign to kill or capture Osama bin Laden and a growing urgency to stabilize the country for historic elections.

His visit comes one day after an audiotape purportedly recorded in the past few weeks by bin Laden offered European nations a truce if they pull troops out of Muslim countries and vowed violence against the United States and Israel.

The al-Qaida chief and his right-hand man, Egyptian surgeon Ayman al-Zawahri, are believed hiding in the craggy mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but a 2 1/2 year dragnet has failed to catch them. The military recently pulled back from predictions that bin Laden would be caught sometime this year.

In the past month, Washington has sent 2,000 Marines to Afghanistan to beef up a U.S.-led force that had already numbered 13,000 soldiers. The military has vowed a sweeping spring offensive to crush Taliban and al-Qaida holdouts ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for September.

The United Nations and others have warned that the elections will fail if security cannot be improved.

Taliban insurgents attacked Afghan soldiers in eastern Khost province, along the border with Pakistan, killing two soldiers and injuring two others, Gen. Khial Bas, the local Afghan military commander, told The Associated Press on Friday. He said nine militants were killed in the exchange of rocket and machine-gun fire on Wednesday…

Okay, pay attention here. Taliban insurgents attacked Afghan soldiers in eastern Khost province, along the border with Pakistan, killing two soldiers and injuring two others, Gen. Khial Bas, the local Afghan military commander, told The Associated Press on Friday. He said nine militants were killed in the exchange of rocket and machine-gun fire on Wednesday…

Now read this:

Ex-NFL star Tillman makes ‘ultimate sacrifice’
Safety, who gave up big salary to join Army, killed in Afghanistan

NBC, MSNBC and news services
Updated: 3:39 a.m. ET April 26, 2004

WASHINGTON - Pat Tillman, who gave up the glamorous life of a professional football star to join the Army Rangers, was remembered as a role model of courage and patriotism Friday after military officials said he had been killed in action in Afghanistan.

“Pat Tillman was an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror. His family is in the thoughts and prayers of President and Mrs. Bush,” Taylor Gross, a spokesman for the White House, said in a statement.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the author of a recent book about courage, said he was “heartbroken” and raised the prospect that “the tragic loss of this extraordinary young man” could be a “heavy blow to our nation’s morale, as it is surely a grievous injury to his loved ones.”

Tillman, 27, was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, based at Fort Lewis, Wash. The battalion was involved in Operation Mountain Storm in southeastern Afghanistan, part of the U.S. campaign against fighters of the al-Qaida terror network and the former Taliban government along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, military officials told NBC News.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Matthew Beevers said Saturday that Tillman was killed Thursday night in a firefight at about 7 p.m. on a road near Sperah, about 25 miles southwest of a U.S. base at Khost.

After coming under fire, Tillman’s patrol got out of their vehicles and gave chase, moving toward the spot of the ambush. Beevers said the fighting was “sustained” and lasted 15-20 minutes.

Beevers said Tillman was killed by enemy fire, but he had no information about what type of weapons were involved in the assault, or whether he died instantly.

An Afghan militiaman fighting alongside Tillman also was killed, and two other U.S. soldiers were wounded.

A local Afghan commander, Gen. Khial Bas, told The Associated Press that nine enemy fighters were killed in the confrontation.

Bas said six other enemy fighters were believed to have escaped. Beevers said he had no information about any enemy fighters killed.… …

Did you get that?

April 16, 2004, six days before Pat Tillman was killed, Afghan militia General Khial Bas is in contact, when two “allies” are killed along with two wounded, and nine “insurgents” are killed in the confrontation.

April 22, 2004, Afghan militia General Khial Bas was not only with Pat Tillman and the Black Sheep Platoon, but the two wounded are 1LT Uthlaut and RTO Jade Lane, the two killed are Pat Tillman and an Afghan militiaman – who even the Department of Defense hasn’t seen fit to identify with his actual name, and the intrepid militia of said General Bas prove again that they have the remarkable ability to kill exactly nine enemy in each confrontation.

The latter story was given out by the Public Affairs Officer in Kabul, Matthew Beevers. Some overworked, under-slept E-5 writing that day’s scripted message slipped up and mixed the boilerplates. The point is, there was no attention being paid to real events except to re-script them. The “official” statement is always, first and last, designed to prop up a public perception, not inform or educate the public… far from it.

This kind of thing happens when too many cooks are in the kitchen and supper is late. There were already a lot of cooks in the kitchen in April 2004, and Pat’s death by fratricide constituted a major emergency for them all.

This was triage by committee.

Bas was not with Pat; and nine enemy were not killed during the engagement on April 22nd.

Dannie Tillman was now onto them, and onto them good.

I want to reiterate and summarize here by re-printing (with a few light edits) some of what what I’d written in an earlier account:

We cannot claim perfect accuracy for this account any more than any other journalistic organ can, because the witnesses themselves were making eyewitness accounts, the original statements by the participants were not made for days after the incident, and the original investigation was torn up when it proved too politically sensitive to ever see the light of day. The statements taken during the second investigation, where the investigating officer had a tremendous conflict of interest, had been altered.

The case that we are making here is – in legal jargon – circumstantial. The case for which the Department of Defense has settled so far is based on eyewitness statements, some of which have changed and many of which were obviously being coached and led when one reads the transcripts of the interviews – and we have all of them from the second and third iteration of investigation. It needs to be pointed out, since the military is hiding behind legal customs and cultural biases about evidence, that the record of accuracy for circumstantial evidence is acutely stronger than that for eyewitness testimony.

The association of physical evidence with time-space correlations is what circumstantial evidence is. If I have purchased a gun at store X at 3:15 PM on a given day, twenty miles from my home, and an ATM machine records a withdrawal by me one block from the store at 3 PM, that does not “prove” that I bought the gun… but it sure as hell places me within range of the gun store at the right time. If the gun store owner is asked who was at the store at 3:15 on that day, and can he identify me, when even a few days have passed, what exactly will he remember… really? How many readers can remember exactly what happened yesterday at 3:15 PM?

In fact, studies suggest that as many as 5,000 wrongful convictions happen in the US each year based on eyewitness testimony.

That is why… I made the provocative claim that law – and the legalism that is used as a cover by public officials – is not science-based. It is the manifestation of custom and precedent, and it has a deeply religious character – complete with church-like courtrooms designed to inspire awe and obedience, oye-oye incantations to ritualize its activity, and even priestly robes for the presiding judges.

A trial, for example, is one exercise of the law. The so-called objectivity of the law, which pretends it has no point of view, renders the law a mirror of the status-quo. Every assumption that holds sway, with or without the formal recognition of the law, enters the courtroom, then, as a fact of nature – a universality, something above and immune from the actual living bodies and all their turbulent histories in the courtroom. This is why every trial that purports to be objective is a lie. This reflection of the status quo that calls itself objectivity, and pretends it has no point of view, reflects power… then surrounds that power in a force field of invisibility.

[I want] to look behind that legalism, to establish, as far as possible, what the circumstances were before, during, and after the actual firefight, and give the public a peek at the muttering functionaries behind the legal curtain of the Great Oz.

There is no way to understand what happened once Pat Tillman fell on April 22 without tearing down that curtain, without rejecting the myth of legal “objectivity.”

We will begin, instead, with the denied reality that Pat Tillman’s death was an “emergency” on multiple scales. We will not begin with the disingenuousness [and selective amnesia] of the boss.

What were these emergencies, and for whom?

On April 22nd, the day Pat was killed, Rumsfeld was chastising the press for not telling the public the “good news” about what was happening in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said that because there was no good news… unless you were a partisan of the Iraqi resistance or an opium farmer in Afghanistan.

Lawrence Di Rita will be remembered, if at all, by history as the guy who was selected to publicly deny that there was any evidence available to the Pentagon that desecration of the Koran, including putting them in the toilet, was a regular part of detainee abuse in the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp.

Di Rita is the Principle Deputy Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs; but he is also one of Rumsfeld’s closest advisors, a veteran of the Heritage Foundation, one of the premier neo-con think-tanks leading the charge to invade Iraq. Di Rita is a very influential character. There is little doubt that he was intimately involved in the damage control over Pat Tillman being killed by fellow Rangers. Rumsfeld runs the entire Department of Defense; and Lawrence Di Rita is specifically assigned to the chief coordinator of Pentagon perception management.

“In the battle of perception management,” said Di Rita said in December 2004, “where the enemy is clearly using the media to help manage perceptions of the general public, our job is not perception management but to counter the enemy’s perception management.” This was Di Rita’s defense of the Information Operations Roadmap referenced in Part 3 of this series – the same program that replaced the Office of Strategic Influence, the first Pentagon program to plant false stories in the news as part of “operations.”

Our job is not to lie, but to tell counter-lies – the modern day equivalent of the Devil made me do it.

When Pat Tillman was killed on April 22, 2004, the stories about detainee abuse at Guantanamo Bay were already boiling over, and Di Rita was putting in a lot of late nights on this story. The four “civilians” that were killed and burned in the ambush at Fallujah were not having the desired effect of mobilizing outrage so much as they were drawing attention to the extensive use of brutal mercenaries by the Department of Defense.

That incident then obliged the Rumsfeld Pentagon to demonstrate its collective masculinity by attempting the destruction of the entire city of Fallujah. The attack failed, and a second front opened up in Najaf after US troops killed Shia demonstrators protesting the Coalition Provisional Authority that had arbitrarily shut down one of their newspapers. The Abu Ghraib scandal was to be broken by 60 Minutes on April 28th, though the televised news magazine had informed the Pentagon of their intent to air two weeks prior… around April 15th.

By the time the news that Pat Tillman had been killed by friendly fire arrived at Di Rita’s and Rumsfeld’s offices, presumably around April 24th, the Public Affairs Office was overwhelmed, and the issue had to be triaged. In fact, two forms of triage were in demand: (1) they had to step on bad news – especially anything that ran counter to the tale of ubiquitous professionalism they needed to counter the recurring stories of US abuse, and (2) they needed, as Rumsfeld noted on the fateful day, “good news.”

John Abazaid, commander of Central Command, was embroiled in the breaking Abu Ghraib scandal even as he was losing a two-front campaign in Najaf and Fallujah. Someone who was not similarly tangled up would have to handle the Tillman episode for the moment, with only general guidance: no reports on fratricide, not right now, and turn this into something that re-kindles American patriotic feeling for the war.

General Kensinger, presumably, was given the guidance from Abazaid’s staff. Kensinger passed it along to the logical person. Colonel Nixon, who passed it along to the second investigator, his XO, LTC Ralph Kauzlaurich. Before the after-action review was even conducted… commanders had worked out the outlines. A Silver Star and a tale of American heroism. It wouldn’t be until CPT Richard Scott, the HHC/2-75 Company Commander, filed his Article 15-6 investigation findings that people would begin to appreciate how bad this was going to make the entire chain of command look.

He had an emergency. And with that emergency, another troop had one, too. SSG Greg Baker, the NCO in charge of the killer vehicle outside of Manah on April 22nd. Hodne’s creation of a “false sense of urgency” amid the pressure from Rumsfeld’s Pentagon to “show success,” was now paired with Baker’s fate under the cloud of a criminal negligence charge that could spread to his whole crew that day, in one report – written by Captain Richard Scott. That report – which was the result of an Article 15-6 investigation that was completed – had to disappear. And disappear it did.

Until Dannie Tillman, after three years of relentless badgering, choked the “non-existent” report out of the Army. And after three years, Dannie continues to hang on.

Of all the things the Army, the Department of Defense, and the Bush administration didn’t see through the fog of fame that drifted in around the broken body of Pat Tillman, the most formidable danger to their fraudulence, their criminal ambition, and their skulking evasions of responsibility, was a woman. One woman, who could not rescue her son, but who still has it in her power to rescue his memory as the actual person she once pushed into the world.

My rambling here is a rushed and feeble attempt to protect and support her efforts. It’s not tidy. But I had to put some of these things out there. I hope it helps.

Neither the universe nor life is linear. Things weave through one another. The past and future are more than discrete units of time apart from the shifting instant of now. The ripples on a pond crash into and through one another. The political realities of our time are likewise over-determined, complex, irreducible, a splashing, surging, whirling current of evolutions — personal, geographical, institutional, cognitive-and-affective, inter-subjective, and cultural… so we have to circle these phenomena — like a recon team circling an objective — to get the fuller picture of what we observe and try to understand. The patterns that emerge from the totality of these observations we might begin to call a system. And if that system is a horror; then we cannot escape the responsibility for confronting that system and simultaneously escape the consequences of our inaction.

Posted by stan in Analysis-Synthesis


“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” - Eduardo Galeano

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. -- Edward R. Murrow

THE BLACK SITES - A rare look inside the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program.

by Jane Mayer
AUGUST 13, 2007

In March, Mariane Pearl, the widow of the murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, received a phone call from Alberto Gonzales, the Attorney General. At the time, Gonzales’s role in the controversial dismissal of eight United States Attorneys had just been exposed, and the story was becoming a scandal in Washington. Gonzales informed Pearl that the Justice Department was about to announce some good news: a terrorist in U.S. custody—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Al Qaeda leader who was the primary architect of the September 11th attacks—had confessed to killing her husband. (Pearl was abducted and beheaded five and a half years ago in Pakistan, by unidentified Islamic militants.) The Administration planned to release a transcript in which Mohammed boasted, “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head.”

Pearl was taken aback. In 2003, she had received a call from Condoleezza Rice, who was then President Bush’s national-security adviser, informing her of the same news. But Rice’s revelation had been secret. Gonzales’s announcement seemed like a publicity stunt. Pearl asked him if he had proof that Mohammed’s confession was truthful; Gonzales claimed to have corroborating evidence but wouldn’t share it. “It’s not enough for officials to call me and say they believe it,” Pearl said. “You need evidence.” (Gonzales did not respond to requests for comment.)

The circumstances surrounding the confession of Mohammed, whom law-enforcement officials refer to as K.S.M., were perplexing. He had no lawyer. After his capture in Pakistan, in March of 2003, the Central Intelligence Agency had detained him in undisclosed locations for more than two years; last fall, he was transferred to military custody in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. There were no named witnesses to his initial confession, and no solid information about what form of interrogation might have prodded him to talk, although reports had been published, in the Times and elsewhere, suggesting that C.I.A. officers had tortured him. At a hearing held at Guantánamo, Mohammed said that his testimony was freely given, but he also indicated that he had been abused by the C.I.A. (The Pentagon had classified as “top secret” a statement he had written detailing the alleged mistreatment.) And although Mohammed said that there were photographs confirming his guilt, U.S. authorities had found none. Instead, they had a copy of the video that had been released on the Internet, which showed the killer’s arms but offered no other clues to his identity.

Further confusing matters, a Pakistani named Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh had already been convicted of the abduction and murder, in 2002. A British-educated terrorist who had a history of staging kidnappings, he had been sentenced to death in Pakistan for the crime. But the Pakistani government, not known for its leniency, had stayed his execution. Indeed, hearings on the matter had been delayed a remarkable number of times—at least thirty—possibly because of his reported ties to the Pakistani intelligence service, which may have helped free him after he was imprisoned for terrorist activities in India. Mohammed’s confession would delay the execution further, since, under Pakistani law, any new evidence is grounds for appeal.
A surprising number of people close to the case are dubious of Mohammed’s confession. A longtime friend of Pearl’s, the former Journal reporter Asra Nomani, said, “The release of the confession came right in the midst of the U.S. Attorney scandal. There was a drumbeat for Gonzales’s resignation. It seemed like a calculated strategy to change the subject. Why now? They’d had the confession for years.” Mariane and Daniel Pearl were staying in Nomani’s Karachi house at the time of his murder, and Nomani has followed the case meticulously; this fall, she plans to teach a course on the topic at Georgetown University. She said, “I don’t think this confession resolves the case. You can’t have justice from one person’s confession, especially under such unusual circumstances. To me, it’s not convincing.” She added, “I called all the investigators. They weren’t just skeptical—they didn’t believe it.”

Special Agent Randall Bennett, the head of security for the U.S. consulate in Karachi when Pearl was killed—and whose lead role investigating the murder was featured in the recent film “A Mighty Heart”—said that he has interviewed all the convicted accomplices who are now in custody in Pakistan, and that none of them named Mohammed as playing a role. “K.S.M.’s name never came up,” he said. Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. officer, said, “My old colleagues say with one-hundred-per-cent certainty that it was not K.S.M. who killed Pearl.” A government official involved in the case said, “The fear is that K.S.M. is covering up for others, and that these people will be released.” And Judea Pearl, Daniel’s father, said, “Something is fishy. There are a lot of unanswered questions. K.S.M. can say he killed Jesus—he has nothing to lose.”

Mariane Pearl, who is relying on the Bush Administration to bring justice in her husband’s case, spoke carefully about the investigation. “You need a procedure that will get the truth,” she said. “An intelligence agency is not supposed to be above the law.”

Mohammed’s interrogation was part of a secret C.I.A. program, initiated after September 11th, in which terrorist suspects such as Mohammed were detained in “black sites”—secret prisons outside the United States—and subjected to unusually harsh treatment. The program was effectively suspended last fall, when President Bush announced that he was emptying the C.I.A.’s prisons and transferring the detainees to military custody in Guantánamo. This move followed a Supreme Court ruling, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which found that all detainees—including those held by the C.I.A.—had to be treated in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions. These treaties, adopted in 1949, bar cruel treatment, degradation, and torture. In late July, the White House issued an executive order promising that the C.I.A. would adjust its methods in order to meet the Geneva standards. At the same time, Bush’s order pointedly did not disavow the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” that would likely be found illegal if used by officials inside the United States. The executive order means that the agency can once again hold foreign terror suspects indefinitely, and without charges, in black sites, without notifying their families or local authorities, or offering access to legal counsel.

The C.I.A.’s director, General Michael Hayden, has said that the program, which is designed to extract intelligence from suspects quickly, is an “irreplaceable” tool for combatting terrorism. And President Bush has said that “this program has given us information that has saved innocent lives, by helping us stop new attacks.” He claims that it has contributed to the disruption of at least ten serious Al Qaeda plots since September 11th, three of them inside the United States.

According to the Bush Administration, Mohammed divulged information of tremendous value during his detention. He is said to have helped point the way to the capture of Hambali, the Indonesian terrorist responsible for the 2002 bombings of night clubs in Bali. He also provided information on an Al Qaeda leader in England. Michael Sheehan, a former counterterrorism official at the State Department, said, “K.S.M. is the poster boy for using tough but legal tactics. He’s the reason these techniques exist. You can save lives with the kind of information he could give up.” Yet Mohammed’s confessions may also have muddled some key investigations. Perhaps under duress, he claimed involvement in thirty-one criminal plots—an improbable number, even for a high-level terrorist. Critics say that Mohammed’s case illustrates the cost of the C.I.A.’s desire for swift intelligence. Colonel Dwight Sullivan, the top defense lawyer at the Pentagon’s Office of Military Commissions, which is expected eventually to try Mohammed for war crimes, called his serial confessions “a textbook example of why we shouldn’t allow coercive methods.”

The Bush Administration has gone to great lengths to keep secret the treatment of the hundred or so “high-value detainees” whom the C.I.A. has confined, at one point or another, since September 11th. The program has been extraordinarily “compartmentalized,” in the nomenclature of the intelligence world. By design, there has been virtually no access for outsiders to the C.I.A.’s prisoners. The utter isolation of these detainees has been described as essential to America’s national security. The Justice Department argued this point explicitly last November, in the case of a Baltimore-area resident named Majid Khan, who was held for more than three years by the C.I.A. Khan, the government said, had to be prohibited from access to a lawyer specifically because he might describe the “alternative interrogation methods” that the agency had used when questioning him. These methods amounted to a state secret, the government argued, and disclosure of them could “reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage.” (The case has not yet been decided.)

Given this level of secrecy, the public and all but a few members of Congress who have been sworn to silence have had to take on faith President Bush’s assurances that the C.I.A.’s internment program has been humane and legal, and has yielded crucial intelligence. Representative Alcee Hastings, a Democratic member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said, “We talk to the authorities about these detainees, but, of course, they’re not going to come out and tell us that they beat the living daylights out of someone.” He recalled learning in 2003 that Mohammed had been captured. “It was good news,” he said. “So I tried to find out: Where is this guy? And how is he being treated?” For more than three years, Hastings said, “I could never pinpoint anything.” Finally, he received some classified briefings on the Mohammed interrogation. Hastings said that he “can’t go into details” about what he found out, but, speaking of Mohammed’s treatment, he said that even if it wasn’t torture, as the Administration claims, “it ain’t right, either. Something went wrong.”

Since the drafting of the Geneva Conventions, the International Committee of the Red Cross has played a special role in safeguarding the rights of prisoners of war. For decades, governments have allowed officials from the organization to report on the treatment of detainees, to insure that standards set by international treaties are being maintained. The Red Cross, however, was unable to get access to the C.I.A.’s prisoners for five years. Finally, last year, Red Cross officials were allowed to interview fifteen detainees, after they had been transferred to Guantánamo. One of the prisoners was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. What the Red Cross learned has been kept from the public. The committee believes that its continued access to prisoners worldwide is contingent upon confidentiality, and therefore it addresses violations privately with the authorities directly responsible for prisoner treatment and detention. For this reason, Simon Schorno, a Red Cross spokesman in Washington, said, “The I.C.R.C. does not comment on its findings publicly. Its work is confidential.”

The public-affairs office at the C.I.A. and officials at the congressional intelligence-oversight committees would not even acknowledge the existence of the report. Among the few people who are believed to have seen it are Condoleezza Rice, now the Secretary of State; Stephen Hadley, the national-security adviser; John Bellinger III, the Secretary of State’s legal adviser; Hayden; and John Rizzo, the agency’s acting general counsel. Some members of the Senate and House intelligence-oversight committees are also believed to have had limited access to the report.

Confidentiality may be particularly stringent in this case. Congressional and other Washington sources familiar with the report said that it harshly criticized the C.I.A.’s practices. One of the sources said that the Red Cross described the agency’s detention and interrogation methods as tantamount to torture, and declared that American officials responsible for the abusive treatment could have committed serious crimes. The source said the report warned that these officials may have committed “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions, and may have violated the U.S. Torture Act, which Congress passed in 1994. The conclusions of the Red Cross, which is known for its credibility and caution, could have potentially devastating legal ramifications.

Concern about the legality of the C.I.A.’s program reached a previously unreported breaking point last week when Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat on the intelligence committee, quietly put a “hold” on the confirmation of John Rizzo, who as acting general counsel was deeply involved in establishing the agency’s interrogation and detention policies. Wyden’s maneuver essentially stops the nomination from going forward. “I question if there’s been adequate legal oversight,” Wyden told me. He said that after studying a classified addendum to President Bush’s new executive order, which specifies permissible treatment of detainees, “I am not convinced that all of these techniques are either effective or legal. I don’t want to see well-intentioned C.I.A. officers breaking the law because of shaky legal guidance.”

A former C.I.A. officer, who supports the agency’s detention and interrogation policies, said he worried that, if the full story of the C.I.A. program ever surfaced, agency personnel could face criminal prosecution. Within the agency, he said, there is a “high level of anxiety about political retribution” for the interrogation program. If congressional hearings begin, he said, “several guys expect to be thrown under the bus.” He noted that a number of C.I.A. officers have taken out professional liability insurance, to help with potential legal fees.

Paul Gimigliano, a spokesman for the C.I.A., denied any legal impropriety, stressing that “the agency’s terrorist-detention program has been implemented lawfully. And torture is illegal under U.S. law. The people who have been part of this important effort are well-trained, seasoned professionals.” This spring, the Associated Press published an article quoting the chairman of the House intelligence committee, Silvestre Reyes, who said that Hayden, the C.I.A. director, “vehemently denied” the Red Cross’s conclusions. A U.S. official dismissed the Red Cross report as a mere compilation of allegations made by terrorists. And Robert Grenier, a former head of the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center, said that “the C.I.A.’s interrogations were nothing like Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo. They were very, very regimented. Very meticulous.” He said, “The program is very careful. It’s completely legal.”

Accurately or not, Bush Administration officials have described the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo as the unauthorized actions of ill-trained personnel, eleven of whom have been convicted of crimes. By contrast, the treatment of high-value detainees has been directly, and repeatedly, approved by President Bush. The program is monitored closely by C.I.A. lawyers, and supervised by the agency’s director and his subordinates at the Counterterrorism Center. While Mohammed was being held by the agency, detailed dossiers on the treatment of detainees were regularly available to the former C.I.A. director George Tenet, according to informed sources inside and outside the agency. Through a spokesperson, Tenet denied making day-to-day decisions about the treatment of individual detainees. But, according to a former agency official, “Every single plan is drawn up by interrogators, and then submitted for approval to the highest possible level—meaning the director of the C.I.A. Any change in the plan—even if an extra day of a certain treatment was added—was signed off by the C.I.A. director.”
On September 17, 2001, President Bush signed a secret Presidential finding authorizing the C.I.A. to create paramilitary teams to hunt, capture, detain, or kill designated terrorists almost anywhere in the world. Yet the C.I.A. had virtually no trained interrogators. A former C.I.A. officer involved in fighting terrorism said that, at first, the agency was crippled by its lack of expertise. “It began right away, in Afghanistan, on the fly,” he recalled. “They invented the program of interrogation with people who had no understanding of Al Qaeda or the Arab world.” The former officer said that the pressure from the White House, in particular from Vice-President Dick Cheney, was intense: “They were pushing us: ‘Get information! Do not let us get hit again!’ ” In the scramble, he said, he searched the C.I.A.’s archives, to see what interrogation techniques had worked in the past. He was particularly impressed with the Phoenix Program, from the Vietnam War. Critics, including military historians, have described it as a program of state-sanctioned torture and murder. A Pentagon-contract study found that, between 1970 and 1971, ninety-seven per cent of the Vietcong targeted by the Phoenix Program were of negligible importance. But, after September 11th, some C.I.A. officials viewed the program as a useful model. A. B. Krongard, who was the executive director of the C.I.A. from 2001 to 2004, said that the agency turned to “everyone we could, including our friends in Arab cultures,” for interrogation advice, among them those in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, all of which the State Department regularly criticizes for human-rights abuses.

The C.I.A. knew even less about running prisons than it did about hostile interrogations. Tyler Drumheller, a former chief of European operations at the C.I.A., and the author of a recent book, “On the Brink: How the White House Compromised U.S. Intelligence,” said, “The agency had no experience in detention. Never. But they insisted on arresting and detaining people in this program. It was a mistake, in my opinion. You can’t mix intelligence and police work. But the White House was really pushing. They wanted someone to do it. So the C.I.A. said, ‘We’ll try.’ George Tenet came out of politics, not intelligence. His whole modus operandi was to please the principal. We got stuck with all sorts of things. This is really the legacy of a director who never said no to anybody.”

Many officials inside the C.I.A. had misgivings. “A lot of us knew this would be a can of worms,” the former officer said. “We warned them, It’s going to become an atrocious mess.” The problem from the start, he said, was that no one had thought through what he called “the disposal plan.” He continued, “What are you going to do with these people? The utility of someone like K.S.M. is, at most, six months to a year. You exhaust them. Then what? It would have been better if we had executed them.”

The C.I.A. program’s first important detainee was Abu Zubaydah, a top Al Qaeda operative, who was captured by Pakistani forces in March of 2002. Lacking in-house specialists on interrogation, the agency hired a group of outside contractors, who implemented a regime of techniques that one well-informed former adviser to the American intelligence community described as “a ‘Clockwork Orange’ kind of approach.” The experts were retired military psychologists, and their backgrounds were in training Special Forces soldiers how to survive torture, should they ever be captured by enemy states. The program, known as SERE—an acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape—was created at the end of the Korean War. It subjected trainees to simulated torture, including waterboarding (simulated drowning), sleep deprivation, isolation, exposure to temperature extremes, enclosure in tiny spaces, bombardment with agonizing sounds, and religious and sexual humiliation. The SERE program was designed strictly for defense against torture regimes, but the C.I.A.’s new team used its expertise to help interrogators inflict abuse. “They were very arrogant, and pro-torture,” a European official knowledgeable about the program said. “They sought to render the detainees vulnerable—to break down all of their senses. It takes a psychologist trained in this to understand these rupturing experiences.”

The use of psychologists was also considered a way for C.I.A. officials to skirt measures such as the Convention Against Torture. The former adviser to the intelligence community said, “Clearly, some senior people felt they needed a theory to justify what they were doing. You can’t just say, ‘We want to do what Egypt’s doing.’ When the lawyers asked what their basis was, they could say, ‘We have Ph.D.s who have these theories.’ ” He said that, inside the C.I.A., where a number of scientists work, there was strong internal opposition to the new techniques. “Behavioral scientists said, ‘Don’t even think about this!’ They thought officers could be prosecuted.”

Nevertheless, the SERE experts’ theories were apparently put into practice with Zubaydah’s interrogation. Zubaydah told the Red Cross that he was not only waterboarded, as has been previously reported; he was also kept for a prolonged period in a cage, known as a “dog box,” which was so small that he could not stand. According to an eyewitness, one psychologist advising on the treatment of Zubaydah, James Mitchell, argued that he needed to be reduced to a state of “learned helplessness.” (Mitchell disputes this characterization.)

Steve Kleinman, a reserve Air Force colonel and an experienced interrogator who has known Mitchell professionally for years, said that “learned helplessness was his whole paradigm.” Mitchell, he said, “draws a diagram showing what he says is the whole cycle. It starts with isolation. Then they eliminate the prisoners’ ability to forecast the future—when their next meal is, when they can go to the bathroom. It creates dread and dependency. It was the K.G.B. model. But the K.G.B. used it to get people who had turned against the state to confess falsely. The K.G.B. wasn’t after intelligence.”

As the C.I.A. captured and interrogated other Al Qaeda figures, it established a protocol of psychological coercion. The program tied together many strands of the agency’s secret history of Cold War-era experiments in behavioral science. (In June, the C.I.A. declassified long-held secret documents known as the Family Jewels, which shed light on C.I.A. drug experiments on rats and monkeys, and on the infamous case of Frank R. Olson, an agency employee who leaped to his death from a hotel window in 1953, nine days after he was unwittingly drugged with LSD.) The C.I.A.’s most useful research focussed on the surprisingly powerful effects of psychological manipulations, such as extreme sensory deprivation. According to Alfred McCoy, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, who has written a history of the C.I.A.’s experiments in coercing subjects, the agency learned that “if subjects are confined without light, odors, sound, or any fixed references of time and place, very deep breakdowns can be provoked.”

Agency scientists found that in just a few hours some subjects suspended in water tanks—or confined in isolated rooms wearing blacked-out goggles and earmuffs—regressed to semi-psychotic states. Moreover, McCoy said, detainees become so desperate for human interaction that “they bond with the interrogator like a father, or like a drowning man having a lifesaver thrown at him. If you deprive people of all their senses, they’ll turn to you like their daddy.” McCoy added that “after the Cold War we put away those tools. There was bipartisan reform. We backed away from those dark days. Then, under the pressure of the war on terror, they didn’t just bring back the old psychological techniques—they perfected them.”

The C.I.A.’s interrogation program is remarkable for its mechanistic aura. “It’s one of the most sophisticated, refined programs of torture ever,” an outside expert familiar with the protocol said. “At every stage, there was a rigid attention to detail. Procedure was adhered to almost to the letter. There was top-down quality control, and such a set routine that you get to the point where you know what each detainee is going to say, because you’ve heard it before. It was almost automated. People were utterly dehumanized. People fell apart. It was the intentional and systematic infliction of great suffering masquerading as a legal process. It is just chilling.”

The U.S. government first began tracking Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 1993, shortly after his nephew Ramzi Yousef blew a gaping hole in the World Trade Center. Mohammed, officials learned, had transferred money to Yousef. Mohammed, born in either 1964 or 1965, was raised in a religious Sunni Muslim family in Kuwait, where his family had migrated from the Baluchistan region of Pakistan. In the mid-eighties, he was trained as a mechanical engineer in the U.S., attending two colleges in North Carolina.

As a teen-ager, Mohammed had been drawn to militant, and increasingly violent, Muslim causes. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood at the age of sixteen, and, after his graduation from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, in Greensboro—where he was remembered as a class clown, but religious enough to forgo meat when eating at Burger King—he signed on with the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, receiving military training and establishing ties with Islamist terrorists. By all accounts, his animus toward the U.S. was rooted in a hatred of Israel.

In 1994, Mohammed, who was impressed by Yousef’s notoriety after the first World Trade Center bombing, joined him in scheming to blow up twelve U.S. jumbo jets over two days. The so-called Bojinka plot was disrupted in 1995, when Philippine police broke into an apartment that Yousef and other terrorists were sharing in Manila, which was filled with bomb-making materials. At the time of the raid, Mohammed was working in Doha, Qatar, at a government job. The following year, he narrowly escaped capture by F.B.I. officers and slipped into the global jihadist network, where he eventually joined forces with Osama bin Laden, in Afghanistan. Along the way, he married and had children.

Many journalistic accounts have presented Mohammed as a charismatic, swashbuckling figure: in the Philippines, he was said to have flown a helicopter close enough to a girlfriend’s office window so that she could see him; in Pakistan, he supposedly posed as an anonymous bystander and gave interviews to news reporters about his nephew’s arrest. Neither story is true. But Mohammed did seem to enjoy taunting authorities after the September 11th attacks, which, in his eventual confession, he claimed to have orchestrated “from A to Z.” In April, 2002, Mohammed arranged to be interviewed on Al Jazeera by its London bureau chief, Yosri Fouda, and took personal credit for the atrocities. “I am the head of the Al Qaeda military committee,” he said. “And yes, we did it.” Fouda, who conducted the interview at an Al Qaeda safe house in Karachi, said that he was astounded not only by Mohammed’s boasting but also by his seeming imperviousness to the danger of being caught. Mohammed permitted Al Jazeera to reveal that he was hiding out in the Karachi area. When Fouda left the apartment, Mohammed, apparently unarmed, walked him downstairs and out into the street.

In the early months of 2003, U.S. authorities reportedly paid a twenty-five-million-dollar reward for information that led to Mohammed’s arrest. U.S. officials closed in on him, at 4 A.M. on March 1st, waking him up in a borrowed apartment in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The officials hung back as Pakistani authorities handcuffed and hooded him, and took him to a safe house. Reportedly, for the first two days, Mohammed robotically recited Koranic verses and refused to divulge much more than his name. A videotape obtained by “60 Minutes” shows Mohammed at the end of this episode, complaining of a head cold; an American voice can be heard in the background. This was the last image of Mohammed to be seen by the public. By March 4th, he was in C.I.A. custody.

Captured along with Mohammed, according to some accounts, was a letter from bin Laden, which may have led officials to think that he knew where the Al Qaeda founder was hiding. If Mohammed did have this crucial information, it was time sensitive—bin Laden never stayed in one place for long—and officials needed to extract it quickly. At the time, many American intelligence officials still feared a “second wave” of Al Qaeda attacks, ratcheting the pressure further.

According to George Tenet’s recent memoir, “At the Center of the Storm,” Mohammed told his captors that he wouldn’t talk until he was given a lawyer in New York, where he assumed he would be taken. (He had been indicted there in connection with the Bojinka plot.) Tenet writes, “Had that happened, I am confident that we would have obtained none of the information he had in his head about imminent threats against the American people.” Opponents of the C.I.A.’s approach, however, note that Ramzi Yousef gave a voluminous confession after being read his Miranda rights. “These guys are egomaniacs,” a former federal prosecutor said. “They love to talk!”

A complete picture of Mohammed’s time in secret detention remains elusive. But a partial narrative has emerged through interviews with European and American sources in intelligence, government, and legal circles, as well as with former detainees who have been released from C.I.A. custody. People familiar with Mohammed’s allegations about his interrogation, and interrogations of other high-value detainees, describe the accounts as remarkably consistent.

Soon after Mohammed’s arrest, sources say, his American captors told him, “We’re not going to kill you. But we’re going to take you to the very brink of your death and back.” He was first taken to a secret U.S.-run prison in Afghanistan. According to a Human Rights Watch report released two years ago, there was a C.I.A.-affiliated black site in Afghanistan by 2002: an underground prison near Kabul International Airport. Distinctive for its absolute lack of light, it was referred to by detainees as the Dark Prison. Another detention facility was reportedly a former brick factory, just north of Kabul, known as the Salt Pit. The latter became infamous for the 2002 death of a detainee, reportedly from hypothermia, after prison officials stripped him naked and chained him to the floor of his concrete cell, in freezing temperatures.

In all likelihood, Mohammed was transported from Pakistan to one of the Afghan sites by a team of black-masked commandos attached to the C.I.A.’s paramilitary Special Activities Division. According to a report adopted in June by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, titled “Secret Detentions and Illegal Transfers of Detainees,” detainees were “taken to their cells by strong people who wore black outfits, masks that covered their whole faces, and dark visors over their eyes.” (Some personnel reportedly wore black clothes made from specially woven synthetic fabric that couldn’t be ripped or torn.) A former member of a C.I.A. transport team has described the “takeout” of prisoners as a carefully choreographed twenty-minute routine, during which a suspect was hog-tied, stripped naked, photographed, hooded, sedated with anal suppositories, placed in diapers, and transported by plane to a secret location.

A person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry, referring to cavity searches and the frequent use of suppositories during the takeout of detainees, likened the treatment to “sodomy.” He said, “It was used to absolutely strip the detainee of any dignity. It breaks down someone’s sense of impenetrability. The interrogation became a process not just of getting information but of utterly subordinating the detainee through humiliation.” The former C.I.A. officer confirmed that the agency frequently photographed the prisoners naked, “because it’s demoralizing.” The person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry said that photos were also part of the C.I.A.’s quality-control process. They were passed back to case officers for review.

A secret government document, dated December 10, 2002, detailing “SERE Interrogation Standard Operating Procedure,” outlines the advantages of stripping detainees. “In addition to degradation of the detainee, stripping can be used to demonstrate the omnipotence of the captor or to debilitate the detainee.” The document advises interrogators to “tear clothing from detainees by firmly pulling downward against buttoned buttons and seams. Tearing motions shall be downward to prevent pulling the detainee off balance.” The memo also advocates the “Shoulder Slap,” “Stomach Slap,” “Hooding,” “Manhandling,” “Walling,” and a variety of “Stress Positions,” including one called “Worship the Gods.”

In the process of being transported, C.I.A. detainees such as Mohammed were screened by medical experts, who checked their vital signs, took blood samples, and marked a chart with a diagram of a human body, noting scars, wounds, and other imperfections. As the person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry put it, “It’s like when you hire a motor vehicle, circling where the scratches are on the rearview mirror. Each detainee was continually assessed, physically and psychologically.”

According to sources, Mohammed said that, while in C.I.A. custody, he was placed in his own cell, where he remained naked for several days. He was questioned by an unusual number of female handlers, perhaps as an additional humiliation. He has alleged that he was attached to a dog leash, and yanked in such a way that he was propelled into the walls of his cell. Sources say that he also claimed to have been suspended from the ceiling by his arms, his toes barely touching the ground. The pressure on his wrists evidently became exceedingly painful.

Ramzi Kassem, who teaches at Yale Law School, said that a Yemeni client of his, Sanad al-Kazimi, who is now in Guantánamo, alleged that he had received similar treatment in the Dark Prison, the facility near Kabul. Kazimi claimed to have been suspended by his arms for long periods, causing his legs to swell painfully. “It’s so traumatic, he can barely speak of it,” Kassem said. “He breaks down in tears.” Kazimi also claimed that, while hanging, he was beaten with electric cables.

According to sources familiar with interrogation techniques, the hanging position is designed, in part, to prevent detainees from being able to sleep. The former C.I.A. officer, who is knowledgeable about the interrogation program, explained that “sleep deprivation works. Your electrolyte balance changes. You lose all balance and ability to think rationally. Stuff comes out.” Sleep deprivation has been recognized as an effective form of coercion since the Middle Ages, when it was called tormentum insomniae. It was also recognized for decades in the United States as an illegal form of torture. An American Bar Association report, published in 1930, which was cited in a later U.S. Supreme Court decision, said, “It has been known since 1500 at least that deprivation of sleep is the most effective torture and certain to produce any confession desired.”

Under President Bush’s new executive order, C.I.A. detainees must receive the “basic necessities of life, including adequate food and water, shelter from the elements, necessary clothing, protection from extremes of heat and cold, and essential medical care.” Sleep, according to the order, is not among the basic necessities.

In addition to keeping a prisoner awake, the simple act of remaining upright can over time cause significant pain. McCoy, the historian, noted that “longtime standing” was a common K.G.B. interrogation technique. In his 2006 book, “A Question of Torture,” he writes that the Soviets found that making a victim stand for eighteen to twenty-four hours can produce “excruciating pain, as ankles double in size, skin becomes tense and intensely painful, blisters erupt oozing watery serum, heart rates soar, kidneys shut down, and delusions deepen.”

Mohammed is said to have described being chained naked to a metal ring in his cell wall for prolonged periods in a painful crouch. (Several other detainees who say that they were confined in the Dark Prison have described identical treatment.) He also claimed that he was kept alternately in suffocating heat and in a painfully cold room, where he was doused with ice water. The practice, which can cause hypothermia, violates the Geneva Conventions, and President Bush’s new executive order arguably bans it.

Some detainees held by the C.I.A. claimed that their cells were bombarded with deafening sound twenty-fours hours a day for weeks, and even months. One detainee, Binyam Mohamed, who is now in Guantánamo, told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, that speakers blared music into his cell while he was handcuffed. Detainees recalled the sound as ranging from ghoulish laughter, “like the soundtrack from a horror film,” to ear-splitting rap anthems. Stafford Smith said that his client found the psychological torture more intolerable than the physical abuse that he said he had been previously subjected to in Morocco, where, he said, local intelligence agents had sliced him with a razor blade. “The C.I.A. worked people day and night for months,” Stafford Smith quoted Binyam Mohamed as saying. “Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and doors, screaming their heads off.”

Professor Kassem said his Yemeni client, Kazimi, had told him that, during his incarceration in the Dark Prison, he attempted suicide three times, by ramming his head into the walls. “He did it until he lost consciousness,” Kassem said. “Then they stitched him back up. So he did it again. The next time, he woke up, he was chained, and they’d given him tranquillizers. He asked to go to the bathroom, and then he did it again.” This last time, Kazimi was given more tranquillizers, and chained in a more confining manner.

The case of Khaled el-Masri, another detainee, has received wide attention. He is the German car salesman whom the C.I.A. captured in 2003 and dispatched to Afghanistan, based on erroneous intelligence; he was released in 2004, and Condoleezza Rice reportedly conceded the mistake to the German chancellor. Masri is considered one of the more credible sources on the black-site program, because Germany has confirmed that he has no connections to terrorism. He has also described inmates bashing their heads against the walls. Much of his account appeared on the front page of the Times. But, during a visit to America last fall, he became tearful as he recalled the plight of a Tanzanian in a neighboring cell. The man seemed “psychologically at the end,” he said. “I could hear him ramming his head against the wall in despair. I tried to calm him down. I asked the doctor, ‘Will you take care of this human being?’ ” But the doctor, whom Masri described as American, refused to help. Masri also said that he was told that guards had “locked the Tanzanian in a suitcase for long periods of time—a foul-smelling suitcase that made him vomit.” (Masri did not witness such abuse.)

Masri described his prison in Afghanistan as a filthy hole, with walls scribbled on in Pashtun and Arabic. He was given no bed, only a coarse blanket on the floor. At night, it was too cold to sleep. He said, “The water was putrid. If you took a sip, you could taste it for hours. You could smell a foul smell from it three metres away.” The Salt Pit, he said, “was managed and run by the Americans. It was not a secret. They introduced themselves as Americans.” He added, “When anything came up, they said they couldn’t make a decision. They said, ‘We will have to pass it on to Washington.’ ” The interrogation room at the Salt Pit, he said, was overseen by a half-dozen English-speaking masked men, who shoved him and shouted at him, saying, “You’re in a country where there’s no rule of law. You might be buried here.”

According to two former C.I.A. officers, an interrogator of Mohammed told them that the Pakistani was kept in a cell over which a sign was placed: “The Proud Murderer of 3,000 Americans.” (Another source calls this apocryphal.) One of these former officers defends the C.I.A.’s program by noting that “there was absolutely nothing done to K.S.M. that wasn’t done to the interrogators themselves”—a reference to SERE-like training. Yet the Red Cross report emphasizes that it was the simultaneous use of several techniques for extended periods that made the treatment “especially abusive.” Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who has been a prominent critic of the Administration’s embrace of harsh interrogation techniques, said that, particularly with sensory deprivation, “there’s a point where it’s torture. You can put someone in a refrigerator and it’s torture. Everything is a matter of degree.”

One day, Mohammed was apparently transferred to a specially designated prison for high-value detainees in Poland. Such transfers were so secretive, according to the report by the Council of Europe, that the C.I.A. filed dummy flight plans, indicating that the planes were heading elsewhere. Once Polish air space was entered, the Polish aviation authority would secretly shepherd the flight, leaving no public documentation. The Council of Europe report notes that the Polish authorities would file a one-way flight plan out of the country, creating a false paper trail. (The Polish government has strongly denied that any black sites were established in the country.)

No more than a dozen high-value detainees were held at the Polish black site, and none have been released from government custody; accordingly, no first-hand accounts of conditions there have emerged. But, according to well-informed sources, it was a far more high-tech facility than the prisons in Afghanistan. The cells had hydraulic doors and air-conditioning. Multiple cameras in each cell provided video surveillance of the detainees. In some ways, the circumstances were better: the detainees were given bottled water. Without confirming the existence of any black sites, Robert Grenier, the former C.I.A. counterterrorism chief, said, “The agency’s techniques became less aggressive as they learned the art of interrogation,” which, he added, “is an art.”

Mohammed was kept in a prolonged state of sensory deprivation, during which every point of reference was erased. The Council on Europe’s report describes a four-month isolation regime as typical. The prisoners had no exposure to natural light, making it impossible for them to tell if it was night or day. They interacted only with masked, silent guards. (A detainee held at what was most likely an Eastern European black site, Mohammed al-Asad, told me that white noise was piped in constantly, although during electrical outages he could hear people crying.) According to a source familiar with the Red Cross report, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed claimed that he was shackled and kept naked, except for a pair of goggles and earmuffs. (Some prisoners were kept naked for as long as forty days.) He had no idea where he was, although, at one point, he apparently glimpsed Polish writing on a water bottle.

In the C.I.A.’s program, meals were delivered sporadically, to insure that the prisoners remained temporally disoriented. The food was largely tasteless, and barely enough to live on. Mohammed, who upon his capture in Rawalpindi was photographed looking flabby and unkempt, was now described as being slim. Experts on the C.I.A. program say that the administering of food is part of its psychological arsenal. Sometimes portions were smaller than the day before, for no apparent reason. “It was all part of the conditioning,” the person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry said. “It’s all calibrated to develop dependency.”

The inquiry source said that most of the Poland detainees were waterboarded, including Mohammed. According to the sources familiar with the Red Cross report, Mohammed claimed to have been waterboarded five times. Two former C.I.A. officers who are friends with one of Mohammed’s interrogators called this bravado, insisting that he was waterboarded only once. According to one of the officers, Mohammed needed only to be shown the drowning equipment again before he “broke.”

“Waterboarding works,” the former officer said. “Drowning is a baseline fear. So is falling. People dream about it. It’s human nature. Suffocation is a very scary thing. When you’re waterboarded, you’re inverted, so it exacerbates the fear. It’s not painful, but it scares the shit out of you.” (The former officer was waterboarded himself in a training course.) Mohammed, he claimed, “didn’t resist. He sang right away. He cracked real quick.” He said, “A lot of them want to talk. Their egos are unimaginable. K.S.M. was just a little doughboy. He couldn’t stand toe to toe and fight it out.”

The former officer said that the C.I.A. kept a doctor standing by during interrogations. He insisted that the method was safe and effective, but said that it could cause lasting psychic damage to the interrogators. During interrogations, the former agency official said, officers worked in teams, watching each other behind two-way mirrors. Even with this group support, the friend said, Mohammed’s interrogator “has horrible nightmares.” He went on, “When you cross over that line of darkness, it’s hard to come back. You lose your soul. You can do your best to justify it, but it’s well outside the norm. You can’t go to that dark a place without it changing you.” He said of his friend, “He’s a good guy. It really haunts him. You are inflicting something really evil and horrible on somebody.”

Among the few C.I.A. officials who knew the details of the detention and interrogation program, there was a tense debate about where to draw the line in terms of treatment. John Brennan, Tenet’s former chief of staff, said, “It all comes down to individual moral barometers.” Waterboarding, in particular, troubled many officials, from both a moral and a legal perspective. Until 2002, when Bush Administration lawyers asserted that waterboarding was a permissible interrogation technique for “enemy combatants,” it was classified as a form of torture, and treated as a serious criminal offense. American soldiers were court-martialled for waterboarding captives as recently as the Vietnam War.

A C.I.A. source said that Mohammed was subjected to waterboarding only after interrogators determined that he was hiding information from them. But Mohammed has apparently said that, even after he started coöperating, he was waterboarded. Footnotes to the 9/11 Commission report indicate that by April 17, 2003—a month and a half after he was captured—Mohammed had already started providing substantial information on Al Qaeda. Nonetheless, according to the person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry, he was kept in isolation for years. During this time, Mohammed supplied intelligence on the history of the September 11th plot, and on the structure and operations of Al Qaeda. He also described plots still in a preliminary phase of development, such as a plan to bomb targets on America’s West Coast.

Ultimately, however, Mohammed claimed responsibility for so many crimes that his testimony became to seem inherently dubious. In addition to confessing to the Pearl murder, he said that he had hatched plans to assassinate President Clinton, President Carter, and Pope John Paul II. Bruce Riedel, who was a C.I.A. analyst for twenty-nine years, and who now works at the Brookings Institution, said, “It’s difficult to give credence to any particular area of this large a charge sheet that he confessed to, considering the situation he found himself in. K.S.M. has no prospect of ever seeing freedom again, so his only gratification in life is to portray himself as the James Bond of jihadism.”

By 2004, there were growing calls within the C.I.A. to transfer to military custody the high-value detainees who had told interrogators what they knew, and to afford them some kind of due process. But Donald Rumsfeld, then the Defense Secretary, who had been heavily criticized for the abusive conditions at military prisons such as Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, refused to take on the agency’s detainees, a former top C.I.A. official said. “Rumsfeld’s attitude was, You’ve got a real problem.” Rumsfeld, the official said, “was the third most powerful person in the U.S. government, but he only looked out for the interests of his department—not the whole Administration.” (A spokesperson for Rumsfeld said that he had no comment.)

C.I.A. officials were stymied until the Supreme Court’s Hamdan ruling, which prompted the Administration to send what it said were its last high-value detainees to Cuba. Robert Grenier, like many people in the C.I.A., was relieved. “There has to be some sense of due process,” he said. “We can’t just make people disappear.” Still, he added, “The most important source of intelligence we had after 9/11 came from the interrogations of high-value detainees.” And he said that Mohammed was “the most valuable of the high-value detainees, because he had operational knowledge.” He went on, “I can respect people who oppose aggressive interrogations, but they should admit that their principles may be putting American lives at risk.”
Yet Philip Zelikow, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission and later the State Department’s top counsellor, under Rice, is not convinced that eliciting information from detainees justifies “physical torment.” After leaving the government last year, he gave a speech in Houston, in which he said, “The question would not be, Did you get information that proved useful? Instead it would be, Did you get information that could have been usefully gained only from these methods?” He concluded, “My own view is that the cool, carefully considered, methodical, prolonged, and repeated subjection of captives to physical torment, and the accompanying psychological terror, is immoral.”

Without more transparency, the value of the C.I.A.’s interrogation and detention program is impossible to evaluate. Setting aside the moral, ethical, and legal issues, even supporters, such as John Brennan, acknowledge that much of the information that coercion produces is unreliable. As he put it, “All these methods produced useful information, but there was also a lot that was bogus.” When pressed, one former top agency official estimated that “ninety per cent of the information was unreliable.” Cables carrying Mohammed’s interrogation transcripts back to Washington reportedly were prefaced with the warning that “the detainee has been known to withhold information or deliberately mislead.” Mohammed, like virtually all the top Al Qaeda prisoners held by the C.I.A., has claimed that, while under coercion, he lied to please his captors.

In theory, a military commission could sort out which parts of Mohammed’s confession are true and which are lies, and obtain a conviction. Colonel Morris D. Davis, the chief prosecutor at the Office of Military Commissions, said that he expects to bring charges against Mohammed “in a number of months.” He added, “I’d be shocked if the defense didn’t try to make K.S.M.’s treatment a problem for me, but I don’t think it will be insurmountable.”

Critics of the Administration fear that the unorthodox nature of the C.I.A.’s interrogation and detention program will make it impossible to prosecute the entire top echelon of Al Qaeda leaders in captivity. Already, according to the Wall Street Journal, credible allegations of torture have caused a Marine Corps prosecutor reluctantly to decline to bring charges against Mohamedou Ould Slahi, an alleged Al Qaeda leader held in Guantánamo. Bruce Riedel, the former C.I.A. analyst, asked, “What are you going to do with K.S.M. in the long run? It’s a very good question. I don’t think anyone has an answer. If you took him to any real American court, I think any judge would say there is no admissible evidence. It would be thrown out.”

The problems with Mohammed’s coerced confessions are especially glaring in the Daniel Pearl case. It may be that Mohammed killed Pearl, but contradictory evidence and opinion continue to surface. Yosri Fouda, the Al Jazeera reporter who interviewed Mohammed in Karachi, said that although Mohammed handed him a package of propaganda items, including an unedited video of the Pearl murder, he never identified himself as playing a role in the killing, which occurred in the same city just two months earlier. And a federal official involved in Mohammed’s case said, “He has no history of killing with his own hands, although he’s proved happy to commit mass murder from afar.” Al Qaeda’s leadership had increasingly focussed on symbolic political targets. “For him, it’s not personal,” the official said. “It’s business.”

Ordinarily, the U.S. legal system is known for resolving such mysteries with painstaking care. But the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program, Senator Levin said, has undermined the public’s trust in American justice, both here and abroad. “A guy as dangerous as K.S.M. is, and half the world wonders if they can believe him—is that what we want?” he asked. “Statements that can’t be believed, because people think they rely on torture?”

Asra Nomani, the Pearls’ friend, said of the Mohammed confession, “I’m not interested in unfair justice, even for bad people.” She went on, “Danny was such a person of conscience. I don’t think he would have wanted all of this dirty business. I don’t think he would have wanted someone being tortured. He would have been repulsed. This is the kind of story that Danny would have investigated. He really believed in American principles.” ♦