A top al Qaeda expert who remains in a senior position at the CIA was a key architect of the agency’s defense of its detention and “enhanced interrogation” program for suspected terrorists, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report released last week. Supposedly, the person had developed talking points that misrepresented and overstated its effectiveness.
The report singles out the female expert as a key proponent for the program, stating that she repeatedly told her superiors and others — including members of Congress — that the “torture” was working and producing useful intelligence, when it was not. She wrote the “template on which future justifications for the CIA program and the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques were based,” it said.
According to NBC News, the expert also participated in “enhanced interrogations” of self-professed 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, witnessed the waterboarding of terror suspect Abu Zubaydah and ordered the detention of a suspected terrorist who turned out to be unconnected to al Qaeda, according to the report.
The expert was criticized after 9/11 terrorist attacks for supporting a subordinate’s refusal to share the names of two of the hijackers with the FBI prior to the terror attacks.
Instead of being sanctioned, she was promoted.
The expert was not identified by name in the unclassified 528-page summary of the report, but U.S. officials confirmed that her name was redacted at least three dozen times in an effort to avoid publicly identifying her.
NBC News is withholding her name at the request of the CIA, which cited a climate of fear and retaliation in the wake of the release of the Senate report.
While the two psychologists who developed the “enhanced interrogation techniques,” Dr. James Mitchell and Dr. Bruce Jessen, quickly became well-known in media as a result of the report, scathing criticism of the expert’s role in defending the program went nearly unmentioned.
The expert — one of several female CIA employees on whom “Maya,” the lead character in the movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” was based — has previously been identified in the media as a CIA officer involved in the rendition program.
The Senate report offers the first detailed account of the depth of her involvement. It quotes from emails, memos and congressional testimony, to document her unique role in what it says were misrepresentations about the effectiveness of the CIA’s program, which President Barack Obama has said included torture. The report does not give any motive for the alleged misrepresentations.
In one instance recounted in the report, CIA Director Michael Hayden brought the expert with him on Feb. 14, 2007, to brief members of the Senate intelligence oversight committee on the interrogation program. The expert forcefully defended the program in the classified hearing.