Scathing Report On CIA Techniques Expected
GUY RAZ, host:
Somewhere near the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad at a covert CIA facility, private contractors are attaching bombs to remote-controlled aircraft that are used to kill al-Qaida leaders. Those contractors work for the company formerly known as Blackwater. That's according to a report in the New York Times this week. This news comes just days before the Justice Department will release parts of a classified report on the CIA's secret interrogation program.
In 2004, the CIA's own inspector general carried out an investigation that apparently questioned the legality and effectiveness of harsh interrogations. Newsweek and The Washington Post report that the investigation will show how some CIA officers may have carried out mock executions to intimidate detainees.
On the line is Robert Baer. He was a CIA field officer for almost 20 years, and he left the agency in 1997.
Robert Baer, thanks for joining us.
Mr. ROBERT BAER (Former CIA Field Officer): It's great to be here.
RAZ: Let's start with that story the New York Times broke. Why are outside contractors involved in such a sensitive program?
Mr. BAER: Well, what happened initially was, after 9/11, the CIA didn't have enough people to send overseas and carry out these programs. And what they had to do was turn to contractors. And these contracts early on got locked in at enormous amounts of money. And what I think now is happening is the CIA doesn't know how to get out of them.
RAZ: Are you surprised - were you surprised to learn that contractors from Z Services, formerly known as Blackwater, are involved in attaching bombs that are being used to target Al-Qaida leaders?
Mr. BAER: No. I mean, the lawyers are calling this an inherent government function to carry out war, assassinate, whatever you want to call it. But the CIA that I knew never hired contractors to do sensitive work. They fixed radios, they helped, you know, repaired cars or whatever we needed. But all the core functions were carried out by government employees, civil servants. This is completely unprecedented to turn to contractors like this.
RAZ: I want to ask you about the report on interrogations that is coming out on Monday. It's being released as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU. The former CIA director, Michael Hayden, he is arguing that the release of this report will damage morale.
Do you think that's a strong argument to keep it classified?
Mr. BAER: I don't think it's - I mean, laws were broken. Apparently, there were mock executions during this interrogation, which is against American law. People did break the law. And to say that we need to keep it secret to protect the morale of the CIA, it doesn't wash.
We have to get back to the - the core issue is that torture doesn't work. The report's going to come out on Monday saying, yes, we've got some information here and there. But that's according to the CIA. It's not according to objective observation of what happened. We've really crossed a line on this torture thing. It is very, very bad, and the point is, now everybody knows it. So that release of a couple more details is not going to help - you know, is not going to harm national security and it's not going to make us any worse off. All it is is a reckoning for the American people.
RAZ: I mean, our country, Robert Baer, like other countries, sometimes has to do dirty things, right?
Mr. BAER: No. You know, this goes back to Nuremberg - the Nuremberg defense. And in a time of war, do we suspend laws? And the answer is no. Democracies can win wars without suspending laws. And what we've done with the CIA is suspended laws. And now that we know that these crimes have been committed, you simply can't say, le's put it behind us.
RAZ: What do you think will be the result of all of these revelations and calls for investigations? I mean, will it make the CIA a better place or will it essentially decimate what they do and make it almost impossible for them to function in the way that they ought to function to protect the country?
Mr. BAER: Let me transmit what CIA people are telling me now, that the place is already broken. So it's not like we're going to lose anything by going into an investigation. The CIA is demoralized already. It's locked up in compounds in Kabul and Baghdad. Officers are not going out. They don't know what's going on. The military has largely taken over the two wars in the Middle East. The CIA needs a complete and thorough reform and it needs to get to the point where it follows the rule of law. It works very well when it follows the rule of law.
What happens is when the White House, under pressure, turns to the CIA and manipulates and forces it into doing things it shouldn't be doing. In fact, I can tell you the rank and file that I still talk to disagree with all of these policies that were carried out after 9/11.
I think the CIA, at the end of the day, is going to be better off with a thorough investigation to find out how these happened and not let it happen again.
RAZ: Robert Baer is a former Middle East field officer with the CIA and the author of "The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower."
Robert Baer, thanks so much.
Mr. BAER: Thank you.
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