CIA Director Mike Pompeo defends ‘State Secrets Privilege’ in high profile torture case

“Many details surrounding the program remain highly classified due to the damage to national security that reasonably could be expected to result from disclosure of that information. For this reason, the CIA has withheld or objected to the disclosure of certain information implicated in discovery in this case.”

CIA Director Mike Pompeo

Vice President Mike Pence swears in Mike Pompeo as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, Jan. 23, 2017. Pompeo’s wife Susan holds the Bible for the swearing in. (White House Photo by Ben Applebaum)

Last week, the Central Intelligence Agency formally asserted the ‘State Secrets Privilege’ in order to prevent disclosure of seven categories of information concerning the ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques’ program, and to prevent the deposition of several CIA officers involved in the  post-9/11 controversial interrogation program. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

In a March 2 declaration, CIA director Michael Pompeo explained the CIA’s justification for asserting the state secrets privilege.

“Over time, certain information about the [CIA interrogation] program has been officially declassified and publicly released.”

“For example, the enhanced interrogation techniques employed with respect to specific detainees in the program, and their conditions of confinement, are no longer classified.”

“Nonetheless, many details surrounding the program remain highly classified due to the damage to national security that reasonably could be expected to result from disclosure of that information. For this reason, the CIA has withheld or objected to the disclosure of certain information implicated in discovery in this case.”

RELATED POST: CIA Director Mike Pompeo — Who Is Who in World Intelligence and Security Agencies?

The “State Secrets Privilege” is often used to terminate litigation — altogether by barring introduction of essential evidence. But, in this case, the US Government is not seeking dismissal. Interesting…

So, even if the state secret privilege claims are granted by the court — a pretty safe bet — the lawsuit could still move forward.

The legal Case

In 2015, two former detainees at C.I.A. secret prisons overseas and the representative of a third man who died in custody filed a lawsuit against two former military psychologists — James E. Mitchell and Bruce Jessen — who helped design and run the ‘Enhanced Interrogation techniques’ program.

Bruce Jessen and James E. Mitchell

For the first time ever, an American civilian court could hold someone accountable for a role in the highly controversial program.

Legal trick

Basically, the executive branch — the CIA —  is asking the judge in the case to keep information out of court.  The Agency argues that its disclosure would damage ‘National Security.

RELATED POST: Beneath the Lie of “National Interests”

At the same time, the CIA wishes to prevent some of its top-ranking officials from being forced to testify’.

CIA officers involved

Gina Haspel  — CIA current Deputy Director

Gina Haspel is the first female career CIA officer to be named deputy director. Haspel has extensive overseas experience, including several stints as chief of station at outposts abroad.

In Washington, she has held several top senior leadership positions, including deputy director of the National Clandestine Service.

Haspel ran a “black site” CIA prison located in Thailand in 2002. In his memoir, Rodriguez wrote that Haspel had “drafted a cable” in 2005 ordering the destruction of dozens of videotapes made at the black site in Thailand.

“Ms. Haspel was centrally involved in the events alleged in plaintiffs Sulaiman Abdulla Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and Obaid Ullah, on behalf of Gul Rahman’s … suit against Defendants for actions they purportedly took while contractors for the CIA.” [Brian Paszamant, an attorney for ex-contractors Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell]

RELATED POST: Gina Haspel Selected to be Deputy Director of CIA

RELATED POST: CIA D/NCS — Test your ‘Spy’ knowledge with our quiz!

John Rizzo — CIA former top lawyer

John A. Rizzo (born 1947) was a lawyer in the Central Intelligence Agency for 34 years. He was the Deputy Counsel or Acting General Counsel of the CIA for the first nine years of the War on Terror, during which the CIA held dozens of detainees in black site prisons around the globe.

Enhanced interrogation techniques were approved by the George W. Bush administration’s Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice in memos to Rizzo for use by CIA interrogators at the black sites. Rizzo signed off on all CIA-directed drone strikes from September 2001 until October 2009.


José Rodriguez  — Former CIA chief of the Counterterrorism Center

In 2005, while head of the Clandestine Service, Rodriguez ordered that videotape recordings of two 2002 CIA interrogations be destroyed.

Rodriguez thought that “the heat from destroying [the video tapes] is nothing compared with what it would be if the tapes ever got into public domain.”

“We knew that if the photos of CIA officers conducting authorized EIT (enhanced interrogation techniques) ever got out, the difference between a legal, authorized, necessary, and safe program and the mindless actions of some MPs (military police) would be buried by the impact of the images.”

[NOTE: Like many officers in the Latin American Division, during the Iran–Contra affair, Rodriguez was questioned by the FBI about his role in the scandal after allegations of CIA involvement emerged. No charges or actions were brought against him in connection with Iran–Contra.

Much later, in 1997, Rodriguez interceded in the drug-related arrest of a friend in the Dominican Republic, trying to get the Dominican government to drop the charges. According to the New York Times, the CIA’s inspector general criticized Rodriguez for a “remarkable lack of judgment.”]

James Cotsana — CIA former official

Alleged to have overseen the activities former military psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen who helped devise and run the interrogation program

RELATED POST: Enhanced Interrogation: CIA Psychologist’s Book Defends The Program

“John/Jane Doe”  — CIA unidentified official

This individual is only described as Mr. Cotsana’s successor as chief of special missions for the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center and chief of the C.I.A.’s renditions group.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo acknowledged that there had been “public speculation” that Ms. Haspel and Mr. Cotsana been involved in the program, but said the agency had never officially confirmed whether that was true.

“The absence of official confirmation from the C.I.A. leaves an important element of doubt about the veracity of the information and, thus, carries with it an additional layer of protection and confidentiality.”

“That protection would be lost, however, if the government were forced to confirm or deny the accuracy of speculation or unauthorized disclosures,” so “the agency could not permit these individuals to answer any questions pertaining to the program.”

Ex CIA Official: Pelosi, Dems ‘Fully Aware’ of CIA’s Interrogation Methods

Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA’s Clandestine Service, defends the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used on high-level al Qaeda detainees, saying he has no regrets.


Ex-CIA Officer John Kiriakou: “The Government Turned Me Into a Dissident”

In 2007, John Kiriakou became the first Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official to publicly confirm that agency interrogators waterboarded a high-value detainee, terrorism suspect Abu Zubaydah — a revelation that had previously been a closely guarded secret.

Five years after this unauthorized disclosure to ABC News, the veteran CIA officer pleaded guilty to leaking to journalists the identity of certain individuals who were involved with the CIA’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program. He was sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison.


CIA Asserts State Secrets Privilege in Torture Case — Secrecy News

State Secrets Privilege Invoked to Block Testimony in C.I.A. Torture Case — NYT


CIA Director Mike Pompeo defends ‘State Secrets Privilege’ in high profile torture case

This entry was posted in CIA, CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, Torture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s