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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  June 6, 2017 2:30am-3:01am BST

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fifisfiflfifig headlines for you on bbc news: police say one of the three london bridge attackers was a well—known supporter of an islamist extremist group. he appeared in a tv documentary last year about a radical group which supports islamic state jihadists. all those detained by police following the killings have been released without charge. the mayor of london, sadiq khan, says he will not allow donald trump to divide communities in the wake of saturday's attack after the us president again criticised him on twitter. mr trump mocked the mayor for telling londoners they should not be alarmed. but it was a misquote. australian police are treating a deadly siege in melbourne as a terrorist incident. the siege in an apartment building ended with two people dead. police shot dead a gunman who had been holding a woman hostage inside the building. a second man died earlier in the siege. it is time now for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk with me,
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zeinab badawi, from florida, where i am speaking psychologist james mitchell. he helped draw up and carry out the cia's enhanced interrogation programme after the september 11 attacks. he personally interrogated suspects using techniques like waterboarding. his critics say that he is a torturer. he says he has nothing to apologise for, and what he did was harsh, but legal, and necessary. so this is your study? yes. the thing that is useful about a library like this is, like, for example, this is reliance of the traveller, it's a book of sharia law from a salafist position. i've got a couple of versions of the quran, because the translations are not always the same. what sort of insights, based on their knowledge from these books, as well as your training as a psychologist, about what motivates the kind of people you have interrogated into carrying out the deeds
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or wanting to carry out the deeds that we know about? i've heard people say that these terror attacks that we're seeing in europe, great britain, and the united states had nothing to do with islam. but having spent years with men like khalid sheikh mohammed, and abu zubaydah, and al—nashiri, i can tell you, in their minds, it has everything to do with islam. everything to do with... their interpretation. their salafist islamist interpretation of islam. james mitchell, welcome to hardtalk. thank you for having me on.
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so there you were, after more than 20 years in the us air force, you'd retired, you were working as a consultant for the cia. the september 11 attacks happen, you say to the cia, "i want to be part of the solution." why? it was an attack on our homeland. you know? the main thing that influenced me to want to volunteer to help out was the death and destruction. the critical thing when they asked me if i would be willing to become involved in the interrogation programme really was the falling man, and the people jumping off the building. i thought it was inappropriate and wrong for them to have to choose which way they died as a result of this cowardly attack that was done by these islamists who were trying to destroy our way of life. so you, obviously using your experience as a clinical psychologist, working with the american military for many years, could help identify — recommend — techniques that would work as part of the enhanced interrogation programme. but how would you make the leap from that to actually carrying out, personally, some of those interrogation techniques? well, by the time they asked me
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if i would do the interrogations myself, i'd received over 90 intel briefings about the impending catastrophic attacks that were in the works. you know? there was a lot of reliable intelligence to suggest that that second wave of attacks might involve a nuclear weapon. when they asked me, i was initially reluctant to do it, you know? but someone said... why were you reluctant? because i knew that i wasn't going to be a psychologist anymore. i have no illusions about that. i'm not going to practice mental health. and i'd invested a lot of my time in education into developing those skills, which were useful for what i did do, but i knew i wasn't going to use them again. and one of the senior people, along with jose rodriguez, who was the chief of the counterterrorism center at the time, leaned over and said "if you're not willing to help,
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how can we ask somebody else to?" because i had been, like said, i had received these very in—depth intel briefings about these pending catastrophic attacks. but you knew was being asked of you, that you are actually being asked whether you could personally carry out techniques such as waterboarding, slapping a terror suspect around the face, putting them in a small, confined space, that kind of thing. well, i'd seen those techniques used for for at least 11 years, in my military career, and i knew that they didn't result in permanent harm, you know, either mentally or physically. i'd been trained to apply to them myself. in addition to that, i'd — i'd experienced all of them. so to me, it didn't seem like a big a jump as it might be to someone you just stopped on the street and asked him them do that. would you grit your teeth when you had to do these techniques?
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i — ifound them difficult to do morally, but it was always a moral choice between trying to save lives and allowing people who were trying to withhold information, that could potentially stop those attacks, to continue to do it. especially since they had voluntarily taken up arms against us. those eits were used in very short periods of time. you know, abu zubaydah was subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques for iii days. abu zubaydah, of course, was working with al qaeda, and he was one of their facilitators. he was the first senior person that we had captured. he wasn't a bin laden, but was the same as they were. he had given the money for 9/11, and he had moved money and people for them, and was running a training camp that they sometimes relied on. not all the time, but
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sometimes relied on. so he was a person of interest, and the first person who had enhanced interrogation techniques used on him. waterboarding was one of the techniques that you also recommended. just describe to us what it's like to... i was water boarded myself. and in fact, i water—boarded almost as many attorneys as i have terrorists. you know, in the run—up to decide whether water—boarding was legal, and didn't violate any of the us laws or the constitution, or the treaties, i actually water boarded an assistant attorney general. it sucks, you know? it's uncomfortable. it feels like you could potentially suffocate. you know you are not going to, but it — you know, it's hard hard to keep that out of your mind. so it's not painful in the sense that you do not experience a loss of pain, but it's frightening. because it makes the person think that they are suffocating or drowning.
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you feel as though you could, you don't feel as though you are. what do you actually express yourself as the person who is carrying out the waterboarding? —— experience. you know, we would prefer that people just volunteer the information. and in fact, it's — one of the deceptive things, abu zubaydah, who we were just talking about, was kept in custody for 1623 days. of that, he received iii days of eits. and the rest of the time, the entire rest of the time, 1609 days, he cooperated with us and did not receive any mistreatment. or even any physical coercion, or any of that sort of stuff. so what we wanted to do was to take these people who were withholding information and put them in a situation where they would try to find some solution. and as soon as they tried to find a solution, then we could switch to social influence stuff.
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you know, the kinds of things he would know as a psychologist, or an interrogator or any other kind of investigator. so to ask which and stick and move and passes. but initially especially a man like abu zubaydah, who was taught resistance to interrogation, they know how to withhold information. so we're not talking about the run—of—the—mill islamist jihadi who has been caught up on the battlefield, we are talking about the top tier of people. but — but still, how do you feel? i mean, you've explained... i felt like it was my duty. you know, my preference was, all along, my preference was to simply ask the question and get the answer. and in fact, we started that way. anyone who is familiar with the way it was done, knows that we would, in every — in every time, we would start with a neutral assessment of whether or not the person was going to talk. and then, in those cases when we used eits, we used eits, and then as soon as it was over, we told them what we were going to ask them about the next time, and then the next time, we started with a neutral assessment.
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so as soon as they began to co—operate, we stopped eits. eit, i should say, of course — enhanced interrogation techniques. khalid sheikh mohammed, who was the mastermind of the september 11 attacks, was also one of the people you interrogated. you also water—boarded him. but he had a technique to resist water—boarding, somehow. it looked like magic to me. i don't — i don't... you know, he could — i don't know what was going on with his sinuses, but he swallowed some of the water, so the physicians required that we needed to switch to saline, so that he didn't suffer water intoxication. the thing he would do was pass it through his nose and out his mouth. so water—boarding, although he came to dread it, wasn't really as effective on him as it was on the others. because with abu zubaydah, when you were — one session, you describe that he
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actually vomited. that was the very first session, before that they had — the physicians said you needed to give him 12 hours or 1a hours or something like that. but he actually, sort of, temporarily became unconscious, or you weren't sure if he was breathing or not. and you were concerned. right, it was a couple of — we were talking about heartbeats, though. yeah, sure. so he did vomit at one point, but he vomited up his food. i mean, i have to say, of course, as you outline in your book, enhanced interrogation, waterboarding was something that was authorised by the bush administration, from the very top, you know, from the department of defence, and the department ofjustice, had said that this was authorised. not once, but four different times. and vice president dick cheney said water—boarding is fine, it does not constitute torture. so i want to make that clear. however, there is alternative point of view that says water—boarding does constitute torture — we know, for example, barack obama said it did constitute torture. so, by extension, therefore, your critics would say, that you are a perpetrator
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of torture, or, to put it another way, you are a torturer, yourself. what is your response to that? well, fortunately, what matters is what the justice department says. the office of legal counsel is the highest law enforcement agency in terms of making these decisions. torture has a legal definition. right? and so the colloquial way that we use the word torture, i can see why people might think that. and that's the way that barack obama used it. i, personally, think late term abortions are torture. but it doesn't matter whatjim mitchell thinks is or isn't torture. it matters what the justice department thanks. and it matters what the people who have done the investigations think. you know, there was a several year—long criminal investigation into whether or not anyone involved in the enhanced interrogation programme had tortured anyone. and in the end, a career prosecutor came back and said there was no case to be made. so what do you say when people say
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to you "jim mitchell, james mitchell, you are a torturer, because you carried out waterboarding." i say you are entitled to your opinion. it is not mine. we live in the united states. in the united states, people can have different opinions. that's the point... you don't feel you need to apologise or... you know, we stopped that attack. we stopped that second wave of attacks. and i don't — i don't feel that the, like the temporary discomfort of a person like khalid sheikh mohammed outweighs the moral requirement that, if i can, i save lives. khalid sheikh mohammed voluntarily decided to attack us. voluntarily decided to attack us a second time. and he's not a us citizen. he wasn't captured inside the united states. he is not really someone who should be given the constitutional rights of an american citizen, right? and so i owe my fellow countrymen more than i owe khalid sheikh mohammed, given that, at any point, he could have simply said "i will
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tell you and stop the attack". you know, one of the criticisms is that there has not been a safe word. but in fact, there is a safe word, and the safe word is "i'll answer that question". mm. president donald trump, on the campaign trail, said he wanted to bring back waterboarding. what he said is "i'd bring back a hell of a lot worse than water boarding". however, he has since said that he'd go with what his secretary of defence, general mattis, and cia director mike pompeo think. would you like to see waterboarding brought back? because of course, barack obama stopped the enhanced interrogation techniques in 2009. some form of legal co—operation is necessary. at the very top, people like abu zubaydah, they are not going to freely give up that information. general mattis said, and i have a lot of respect
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for the man, but he said gimme some beer and a pack of cigarettes and i could get more out of them. that is the rapport approach. but you have to ask yourself, would he himself give up information that would allow america to be attacked in an instant? he would not do that. the only thing standing between another catastrophic attack with some senior person is whether or not that person is willing to voluntarily give that information. you feel that because america no longer uses enhanced interrogation techniques that it is a less safe place? we used law—enforcement techniques. the local mall cop has more choices for interrogation techniques. america is less safe as a result in your view?
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yes. notjust this, but many of the things that happened in the last eight years. republican senatorjohn mccain, a vietnam war veteran. he wrote in the washington post in 2011, "i know from personal experience that abusing prisoners sometimes gives good intelligence but sometimes bad intelligence, because under torture, someone will say anything he believes his captors want to hear." that is a response to your points. sometimes coercion does not yield the right response. that is true in some ways. if you ask leading questions and you, umm, tell the person or lead the person to believe that the only way to stop that is to, umm, to tell you what you want to hear, then you do get that kind of information, you do get misinformation. that is not how it is done. let me be clear with you.
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what happens is that we would say to the person we want information to stop operations. "we know you do not have all of that, but we have some of that." that is what we want to talk about. and so the point would not be to tell them where we wanted them to go. there was the senate intelligence committee report, of course, into the practices of... yes. i want to pick up on that, chaired by the democratic senator, dianne feinstein. she said this is a stain on our values. do you not have sympathy with that? what you said was authorised and approved, but nevertheless it was a stain. i have sympathy for it. but i reject the idea that it is a stain. you have to understand...
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we are talking about a matter of days with the use of eits. one of the ways i think about this is that we do, as do other countries, drone strikes. when we do a drone strike, we send a cruise missile or a hellfire missile into a family and kill the grandmother, we kill the kids, we kill the neighbours, whoever happens to be around this place. that is not a stain? in my mind, questioning someone, even with some temporary discomfort, where you do not harm them, and then you go out and capture these other people, it does a lot more than these other things. she also said in the foreword to the report that it amounts to cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. that was the violation
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of international law. what you did, arguably, waterboarding, the other techniques, it did amount to cruel and inhumane or degrading treatment. do you accept that criticism? i accept there are people that think that way, i will not try to argue about their position. here is the thing to remember. it is that in those circumstances where there are catastrophic attacks coming, and there were catastrophic attacks coming, and people are withholding information, we were under no obligation to allow them to withhold that information and kill thousands of americans. we just are not. and the way the current set—up is that we are dependent entirely on voluntary statements. you see it as entirelyjustifiable? i am not saying the entire cia programme was justifiable. you warned yourself of the risk of techniques, and some people
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were interrogating with a handgun, a power drill. they did things that were completely not authorised, like keeping people's elbows together and taking them to their head and taping them up. in my view, that violates the law because it does not go along with thejustice department. and then the detainees, iraqi detainees, being leashed up in guantanamo bay and people being detained without legal process and so on. obviously you are not part of that. but nevertheless you could be seen as part of this whole programme which, in some people's minds, really does denote... i can understand people thinking that way. and i accept there are people that think that way. you know? i don't know how to respond
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to it beyond that. i believe there are people who think that way. a lot of it comes from ignorance. some of it is based on the mistaken notion that we can somehow make the islamists who are attacking us like us. that if we just spent more time with the islamists, trying to convince them that... i mean, i spent years with khalid sheikh mohammed and other high—level, the 1a other terrorist that were captured, and it was clear talking to them that there was nothing we were going to do that would allow them to accept western democracy. in fact, they said western democracy and true shariah cannot coexist. this man said of his time in iraq, when you become the torturer, something happens.
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it has a corrosive effect over time. it chases you and changes you. the reason waterboarding was not done more than it was was because the interrogators did not want to do it. we agreed to do it to these people to stop catastrophic attacks. once we had enough information that we did not need to use it, we were not interested in it anymore. waterboarding is not the first or best choice. we went out of our way to avoid doing that. and so i think if you... you know? it is one thing to burn people in cages and nail people to trees and crucify children and bury people and throw rocks at them.
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it is difficult to come back from that. was it for you? i rely on legality. i am convinced that we did things in a way that did not produce permanent harm, mentally or physically. that is my obligation when i do get. i don't have any control over how people do it. you said you wondered about whether you should actually carry out these things that it would change your life as you knew it. do you regret going down that path? well, the only thing that i actually regret is that in doing that, you know, i am not likely to be a college professor, you know, i am not still doing consultation for some of the things
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i was involved in, i would, to the extent that having done those things sort of blackballed me from doing other stuff, i had regrets about that. but no regrets about doing it. because i do not think you need to be ashamed of trying to save american lives. i travel quite a bit in the us. and i have not personally run into one single person who was critical of me. i have run into people who disagree about the use of eits, saying i prefer it did not happen, but i can understand that you did it to stop these attacks. but the vast majority of people i run into are grateful that somebody was willing to do what needs to be done to protect them. james mitchell, thank you very much for coming in hardtalk. thank you. hello there.
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we've got some pretty unsettled weather in the forecast, not just for the next 2a hours, some wet and windy weather. but really, for much of the week ahead. here was scene on monday taken by one of our weather watchers in twickenham. a lot of grey clouds, rain and strong winds. courtesy of this area of low pressure which has been pushing its way slowly northwards and eastwards across the country over the past few hours. during tuesday, the low pressure will bring at times heavy rain, strong winds that could lead to potential travel disruption. tuesday morning — the bulk of rain across parts of northern england, wales, stretching down towards the south—east, too. clearer weather with showers behind it but we are seeing strong gale—force gusts of wind at times. in more detail, 8am, cloud and patchy outbreaks of rain across the south—east of england and east anglia, brighter skies for the south—west of england, channel islands, up towards south—west wales with heavy showers and strong winds particularly around the coasts for the bristol channel and the irish sea coast.
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some dry weatherfor northern ireland, but for northern wales, northern england and across scotland, we have the cloud and fairly persistent outbreaks of rain. there is likely to be a lot of lying surface water and spray for the morning rush—hour. through the day on tuesday, we have the strong winds gusting at times up to 50 mph. particularly strong across england and wales, around the coasts as well. we could see small trees down, for instance, with the strength of the wind. a lot of wet weather pushing northwards and eastwards across the country. clearer conditions with sunshine and showers heading in from the south—west. temperatures at best between 13—18 degrees. heading into tuesday evening, the rain pushes across parts of north—east england, eastern scotland, too. but elsewhere, clearer skies as we head into the early hours of wednesday morning. to start your day on wednesday, relatively mild underneath the cloud and with the breeze, too. nine or 10 degrees ar the temperatures first thing wednesday morning. during wednesday, the low pressure
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clears slowly to the north—east. the isobars are still tightly packed together particularly across eastern parts of the country so it is still a breezy day. the winds ease and the rain will become confined to eastern scotland later in the day. a bit of respite during wednesday, many of us dry. but then the next batch of wet weather works in to the south—west of england later in the afternoon. we could see 20 degrees so a pleasant enough day in the south—east. then through the day on thursday, we see the next area of low pressure working its way from west to east, slowly across the country. all in all, looking like a pretty unsettled week ahead. bye for now. a very warm welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to our viewers in north america and around the globe. my name is mike embley. our top stories: police say one of the three london bridge attackers was a well—known supporter of an islamist extremist group. we report from the southern philippines — hundreds of civilians are trapped in marawi, as the government fights to retake the city
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from islamist militants. australian police are treating a deadly siege in melbourne as a terrorist incident. president trump attacks the mayor of london again on twitter. the white house insists he's not picking a fight. hello.
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