The CIA's Black Torture Hole In Poland

Meet Deuce Martinez. Career narcotics agent turned Five-Star CIA interrogator. Credited with getting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi Binalshibh to talk.

Waterboarding, belly slaps, sleep deprivation and more. Martinez didn't like getting his hands dirty with the physical abuse, he waited in the wings while others did it and then conducted the interrogations. If the detainee stopped cooperating, it was back to the torture, then back to Martinez. Ultimately, they talked. The value of their information? The CIA says huge, even accounting for the misinformation they were fed. Of course, there's no way to test that theory.

Where did this all occur? Inside the CIA's black hole of choice -- in Poland. [More...]

Poland was picked because there were no local cultural and religious ties to Al Qaeda, making infiltration or attack by sympathizers unlikely, one C.I.A. officer said. Most important, Polish intelligence officials were eager to cooperate.

“Poland is the 51st state,” one former C.I.A. official recalls James L. Pavitt, then director of the agency’s clandestine service, declaring. “Americans have no idea.”

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 100 times during a two week period.

Where is Martinez now?

Like many other C.I.A. officers in the post-9/11 security boom, Mr. Martinez left the agency for more lucrative work with government contractors.

His life today is quiet by comparison with the secret interrogations of 2002 and 2003. But Mr. Martinez has not turned away entirely from his old world. He now works for Mitchell & Jessen Associates, a consulting company run by former military psychologists who advised the C.I.A. on the use of harsh tactics in the secret program.

Martinez refused to be interviewed for the article.

[H]is role was described by colleagues. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the C.I.A., and a lawyer representing Mr. Martinez asked that he not be named in this article, saying that the former interrogator believed that the use of his name would invade his privacy and might jeopardize his safety.

The New York Times, noting that Mr. Martinez had never worked undercover and that others involved in the campaign against Al Qaeda have been named in news articles and books, declined the request.

Good for the Times. As to why the CIA turned to a narcotics agent who didn't speak Arabic and had no formal interrogation skills -- the Times notes that the CIA had made a sudden decision to use "harsh interrogation techniques" without doing research or having the personnel.

In its scramble, the agency made the momentous decision to use harsh methods the United States had long condemned. With little research or reflection, it borrowed its techniques from an American military training program modeled on the torture repertories of the Soviet Union and other cold-war adversaries, a lineage that would come to haunt the agency.

It located its overseas jails based largely on which foreign intelligence officials were most accommodating and rushed to move the prisoners when word of locations leaked.

Enter Deuce.

After the [9/11] attacks, officials recognized that tracking drug lords was not so different from searching for terrorist masterminds, and Mr. Martinez was among a half dozen or so narcotics analysts moved to the Counterterrorist Center to become “targeting officers” in the hunt for Al Qaeda.

Colleagues say Mr. Martinez, then 36, threw himself into the new work with a passion.

His expertise: analyzing wiretaps and intercepted communications of drug cartels.

On a wall at the American Embassy in Islamabad, he posted a large, blank piece of paper. He wrote Abu Zubaydah’s phone number at the center. Then, over a week or so, he and others added more and more linked phone numbers from the eavesdropping files of the National Security Agency and Pakistani intelligence.

His first conquest was Abu Zubaydah. Found in Pakistan, shot three times during his capture, sent for medical treatment and then to a black hole in Thailand for interrogation.

It was at the Thai jail, not far from Bangkok, that Mr. Martinez first tried his hand at interrogation on Abu Zubaydah, who refused to speak Arabic with his captors but spoke passable English. It was also there, as previously reported, that the C.I.A. would first try physical pressure to get information, including the near-drowning of waterboarding. The methods came from the military’s SERE training program, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, which many of the C.I.A.’s paramilitary officers had themselves completed. A small version of SERE had long operated at the C.I.A.’s Virginia training site, known as The Farm.

President Bush told us the U.S. does not engage in torture. What a liar. Thank goodness he'll be gone soon, 7 months and counting. Worst President Ever. As for Deuce Martinez, goodbye and good riddance. I hope our tax dollars aren't going to pay him a pension.

< Silver Lining | Late Night: Born in the USA >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    It's torture, stupid (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by VicfromOregon on Sat Jun 21, 2008 at 11:23:08 PM EST
    Jeralyn, thanks to you and all who continued to use the word "torture" rather than the euphemism "enhanced interrogation techniques".  This is some of our country's darkest moments becoming just as bad, if not worse, than our "enemies" for the fact that we had ready alternatives and resources at our disposal - years of knowledge to know better being one of these.  What our leadership lacked was the will.  There will always be the Deuce's of the world just as there are always those willing to do the most heinous crimes in pursuit of whatever purpose they believe redeems their crimes, and always fear-driven leaders who will look to all others to blame.   But without a willing propaganda machine, such as our corporately syndicated media, and an even more willing public to be assuaged of any guilt by association for what our government does, the acts you just laid bare would not be possible for any length of time - certainly not have become systematized.  But the repetition of the real name of what acts were committed over and over again on sites like this one helped our consciousness rise, helped us not all go to sleep, and, in the end, helped stop the torture.  You gave voice to the soldiers and generals, and prisoners and victims, and people like me who could recognize the essential wrongs being committed in the name of national security.

    For my own personal reasons, there are few wounds that hurt more deeply, more inarticulately for me than that of the use of torture by our government.

    Thank you for being a light to those who have known that darkness.

    ;makes me sick (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by txpublicdefender on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 01:05:43 AM EST
    I know this stuff happened, but reading about it in such detail, and in the context of such a willing participant just makes me so sick.

    Nice to see that Mr. Martinez not only willingly participated in the torture, but has found a way to make a pretty penny from his experience.  He's living the American dream.  

    I'm pleased that the NYT named him and explained why they did.  This guy deserves no protection of anonymity.  Claiming now that revealing his name would somehow endanger his life is like the proverbial parent-killer asking for mercy on account of his being an orphan.  

    The money quote (none / 0) (#1)
    by shoephone on Sat Jun 21, 2008 at 11:20:04 PM EST
    Colleagues say Mr. Martinez, then 36, threw himself into the new work with a passion.

    Is there any question that some of America's most sociopathic creatures are at the helm of our national security apparatus?

    I'll be relieved when Bush and Cheney are out of the White House, but the legacy they leave, and the contacts they will still have on the "dark side" don't give me much solace. I want every single one the torturers jailed. Beginning, of course, with Cheney.

    Jeralyn what do these revelations do to you (none / 0) (#4)
    by thereyougo on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 01:21:06 AM EST
    as an officer of the court since your livelihood is based on the rule of law? The US tortures prisoner, the president says we don't. Lies to get us into an expensive war threatening our way of life. The president allows treasonous acts go unpunished and reveal the name of a covert officer. Commutes the sentence of  a person responsible for lying about it.

    With each passing crime committed by these people how can we honestly believe that the next guy won't continue doing the same thing?

    This really bothers me.

    Impeach Bush (none / 0) (#6)
    by john horse on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 09:45:16 AM EST
    There is a solution.  Its called impeachment.

    Congressman Dennis Kucinich has introduced articles of impeachment (see  here and here).  


    Et tu quoque.... (none / 0) (#5)
    by Oceandweller on Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 07:00:20 AM EST
    When the planes flew into the Towers I cried, and when we entered Iraq I raged- just like now about torture I want justice.

    Thanks to Bush, we have lost our innocence, our grace. How can we look into the eye, those children of former nazi criminals.

    We have stoopped to their levels. Torture is like pregnancy :either you are or not. Either you are a good guy or you are a shadier one, hence not a  blameless guy. While I understand why we did it and may I say understanding fully what it means to "understand", I also accept that I can no more give lessons, read other people attitudes etc ,in short I have to stop that holier-than thou- attitude.
    When one enters the world of shadows, one cannot say to follow the light anymore.

    Gestapo used torture to break down the european freedom fighters, NKVD-KGB did the same, France used it in the Algerian Fellaghas, China does it. Does it make you feel better to know we got admittance to their exclusive club.
    France is not proud, nor is Germany. Putin does not answer and CHINA SAYS IT IS NONE OF OUR BUSINESS.

    It would seem that honestly admitting to it is the first step of nation recovering. But the stain remains, the shame is unavoidable. Forgiveness is an aim, but forgetfulness is no way to return to the previous stage of innocence.

    Fall from Grace, ostrazised from Paradise, that is how we are standing. Nazi murderers got sentenced , Israel is still hunting for them as getting old means nothing if you dont accept your comeuppance. France swallowed the bitter pill of a Dirty War and those who condoned torture have paid the price in whatever nation who has gotten back to decency; i.e. shame, admittance, acceptance of loss of innocence. It means we shall be less able for a very long time to lecture other faulty countries about their failings.
    e tu quoque said Caesar, and you too my son, you too will fall from Grace.
    As for those who got us into that heavy burden of shame, let Justice rise. Nuremberg it must be for those who committed 9/11 and Abu Graib.
    By welding the sword of Justice, Americans will show the world they may have let fall the scales of Justice , but that was just a bleep. As for Cheny and all those who approved Torture, ...

    ... it may not be the easiest pill to swallow but who committed criminal activities neeeds to be brought to Justice even and especially because he is supposed to be the bearer of that Sword , even if he boasts of the highest Seal, even if he parades in the robes of a Supreme Court Justice.

    We acted in Germany, Iraq has judged the Gas masters, the terrible dynamic Duo who is actually ruling our country will have to answer to Justice...

    ... or all what we stood for is nothing but a tragic farce. It is bad enough to lose one`s innocence without losing one`s soul...

    Torture -anywhere - is abhorrent and wrong (none / 0) (#7)
    by Rothay on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 01:22:46 PM EST
    Using torture against a fellow human being corrupts the one doing it. In my view the "interrogators" such as Martinez derive something from this. He watched on the sidelines as the torture took place. It is difficult to imagine that he did not enjoy what he saw. This article reminds me of 2 books on the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis and the Japanese during World War II. An Englishman, Lord Bertrand Russell, was the author. He came to the conclusion, if one can make a distinction, that the Japanese atrocities were the worst. Why? Because the Japanese viewed their victims as non-human, such was their shame and sense of "honor" about captivity, they didn't see the humanity of their horribly tortured victims. An English classicist, Edith Hamilton, concluded that one of the reasons for the fall of the Mighty Roman Empire was the fact that they also regarded the peoples they enslaved from all the countries they conquered as less than human. No need to mention what they did to Christians. She declared that once you stop seeing your fellow man as such, it is a downhill descent. There is no excuse for these secret hell holes. And there are many and many countries that silently, unknown to their citizens, permitted the CIA to land and transfer prisoners en route to countries that sanctioned torture and to this place in Poland. Now Britain with egg on the face in the form of George Brown's government is apologizing for denying any of its air space was used for this purpose. If you want the details, read "Ghost Plane" by Stephen Grey. It makes you sick. Someone here said the details made him/her sick, well how in heaven's name do you think these tortures made the victims feel? I'd say more than sick. The attitude some here seems to be "survival of the fittest." I'm going to torture you to find out what you may or may not plan to do to harm me, or whom you know who has such plans. I say when you torture anyone, anywhere, for any reason, you leave a piece of your own humanity on the prison floor there with your victim. Selling one's soul to save one's own skin is what it's all about.

    free speach (none / 0) (#8)
    by save the whales on Wed Jun 25, 2008 at 09:51:21 PM EST
    Yes just as you folks want to warp or remove other amendment rights, you wish to remove my right to voice my thoughts on this issue. don't worry Mr. site admin I will never be on your site again. I can see if I have a different point of view than you I must be some crazy right wing nut job. the point I was trying to make was I have been in this fight overseas. I understand what these folks are capable of and I just wanted to shock you to get your radar up and thinking about subjects in a different way instead of the liberal party line. think for yourselves and see the danger that is out there due to these extremists.

    thanks and goodbye

    (not a liberal / not a conservative just a free thinker)

    Setting the Record Straight (none / 0) (#9)
    by Friend of Deuce Martinez on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 08:57:51 PM EST
    Being a newcomer to this site, I have no knowledge of the background of the author of this page.  But clearly, it is not someone with knowledge on the subject.

    If you read the NY Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/22/washington/22ksm.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp), you will see that Deuce refused to participate in "waterboarding".

    Instead of condemning Deuce, posters should be grateful that the intelligence gathered from these killers has likely saved American lives, possibly even the lives of this article's author or those who posted in support.

    Another friend of Deuce Martinez (none / 0) (#10)
    by job314 on Sun May 03, 2009 at 09:16:55 PM EST
    I agree with "setting the record straight". Do you really think that a cup a tea and a back rub would have worked on these guys? Its clear that these people are very much into committing serious and fatal violent acts against humans.  They are violent people and they will not stop. Most of these guys have killed innocent human beings and if set free will do so without hesitation. How can you justify not doing it? The interrogations may not have been a 100% successful in terms of the quality of information- at best we have knowledge about upcoming operations and worst case we get a clear understand of how they operate and their organization which will help us better protect ourselves. So a very few of them experienced some slaps, discomfort and "simulated" drowning for a few months or at least until they realized that we are just as serious about protecting ourselves as they are about killing. They brought this on themselves, we didn't ask them to bomb and kill 3,000 innocent people, they did it all by themselves and now that they are caught they're complaining that their interrogation was too rough. All of them were given an opportunity from the beginning to talk about what they knew, those very few that didn't take that opportunity found out the consequences of that action and they didn't like it. Well, too bad. I can only hope, that all of them will find out the consequences of being involved in killing 3,000 innocent people.