CIA cites Israeli model to justify torture

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Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (C), a Democrat from California, speaks to reporters about the committee's report on CIA interrogations at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, December 9, 2014. AFP/Saul Loeb

By: Ali Haydar

Published Friday, December 12, 2014

This is no joke. The United States relied on Israeli precedents and Tel Aviv’s violation of human rights to justify the torture of detainees by its own intelligence agencies, as was revealed in a report issued by the US Senate Intelligence Committee. Israeli media outlets have published highlights of the report.

Revelations about the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) use of torture are not over. A report issued by the US Senate Intelligence Committee reveals new information that was published yesterday by the Times of Israel website, stressing that torture is legitimate and legally based on the Israeli torture of detainees.

This is how Israel became an international legal authority that the CIA referred to in order to legitimize the torture it was practicing. According to the Times of Israel website, after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the CIA started looking at legal justifications for coercive interrogation techniques. Despite previous findings that these methods were ineffective because they could “result in false answers,” a memo issued by the CIA in November 2001 referred to the Israeli model, which justifies torture under the pretext that it is “necessary to prevent imminent… harm..., when there is no other available means to prevent harm.”

The CIA invoked the Israeli High Court ruling issued in 1999 allowing interrogators from Israel’s internal security service – the Israel Security Agency (ISA), aka Shin Bet or Shabak – to use certain techniques as long as they were a by-product of the interrogation and not a means in and of themselves.

More importantly, the court ruled that interrogators who exceed designated limits during interrogations, could avoid legal prosecution by invoking “necessity defense,” which is a common-law principle allowing one to break the law in urgent situations, such as an impending attack that might result in a large number of casualties.

The Israeli website pointed out that this ruling overturned the findings of the 1987 Landau Commission which recommended that Shin Bet interrogators be allowed to use “a moderate measure of physical pressure” under supervision and in certain cases where interrogators assume that the detainees have knowledge of impending attacks.

The Times of Israel added that in 2005, facing pressure from Congress over interrogation techniques, a CIA attorney working in the Director of National Intelligence office referred to the Israeli High Court ruling on the “necessity defense,” under the pretext that it is justified in the case of ticking-bomb scenarios.

The Israeli website indicated that two years later, an internal CIA memo argued that enhanced interrogation techniques are “authorized and justified by legislative authority,” based on rulings issued in Israel, according to the Senate report. It also revealed that the CIA looked to Israeli precedents to provide a legal and legislative cover in this regard. It argued that “‘several… techniques were possibly permissible, but require some form of legislative sanction’ and that the Israeli government ‘ultimately got limited legislative authority for a few specific techniques,'” stated the report.

In an attempt to mobilize more justifications, but from a security standpoint, the report indicated the CIA claimed that information extracted from detainees “provided a wealth of information about al-Qaeda plots,” including the mastermind behind the September 2001 attacks who divulged a “terrorist plot in Saudi Arabia against Israel.” The Israeli website, however, pointed out that Senate investigators accused the CIA of practicing torture beyond legal limits and of deceiving the nation with stories about interrogations that supposedly saved lives but that actually were not corroborated, not even by US intelligence records.

Former CIA officials and Senate Republicans challenged the findings of the report and accused Democrats of inaccuracies, sloppy analysis and cherry-picking evidence to arrive at a predetermined conclusion.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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