The Senate’s Silly So-Called “Torture” Report


Editor’s note:  This is one of those unusual times when I find my own ideas at odds with Mr. Shrimpton

I have just read your comments in the London Daily Telegraph under the heading “The CIA’s work was just and effective” and agree with everything that you have written. I know this may cause you to reconsider your views on the dodgy Senate Intelligence Committee report, but please don’t!

I also find myself in sympathy with much of what Director Brennan said in the famous televised press conference from Langley, not something you see every day. This observation is also bound to cause upset and alarm, this time in the Director’s office, but I speak as I find. I am no supporter of Director Brennan, as he well knows with respect (he yanked a defense witness from my trial), and he is no supporter of mine.

If however Director Brennan acts in the US national security interest and defends his people, as he did this week, then he gets my support. I don’t personalise things, unlike Thames Valley Police or the Crown Prosecution Service, no offense intended. I would have General David Petraeus back at CIA in a heartbeat, but John Brennan has done good over this shameful Senate report.

CIA and I have had a mixed relationship over the years, and goodness knows I’ve had my battles with them, but on this one I am happy to go to into bat for the Company. They are the Home Team after all, and they have done some wonderful work in the Global War on Terror, preventing a second 9-11 style mass casualty attack on the United States and saving more than a few lives over here too. The problem with the CIA is not the CIA at all, of course, but the Correa Group in Frankfurt (note my revised spelling – that’s down to some outstanding research by a reader of this column).

Director Petraeus and I have never met by the way – I wouldn’t want to harm his career prospects! We did have proximity talks at an Army conference in DC, at least I think we did. Obama had come in – it was 2009 – and a full bird colonel was shuttling between us, at least that was the general idea. The general was in the hospitality room, but goodness only knows what he was told. The conversations may have been with an aide, or a DIA officer who happened to be sharing the hospitality suite, or with a janitor in the broom cupboard. Face to face is much easier!

If the discussion is what I thought it was then it was very well set up, conferring complete deniability. “What were you doing talking to Michael Shrimpton at the AUSA conference? Who’s he? Never met the man. Oh yeah, didn’t he once play cricket for New Zealand?” (That’s the OTHER Mike Shrimpton – much more handsome, with a very much more elegant cover drive) (I usually miss with my cover drive, which tends to be executed after the ball has gone through to the keeper!).

The foregoing paragraph by the way includes a couple of examples of self-deprecation. I only mention this in case any of my psychological profilers happens to be reading this week’s column. Some of them have apparently been saying that Michael Shrimpton does not do self-deprecation. Huh.

The Silly Senate Report

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report was well-trailed. It was even less of a surprise than Lewis Hamilton winning the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Award (well done he, by the way). The Feinstein report is not a serious document. All it amounts to is a settling of scores by the left wing of the Democratic Party against the brilliant Bush-Cheney Administration (well, brilliant in the first term anyway – the second term, sadly, was strangled by Bush 41 and his acolytes).

It is nice to see Vice-President Cheney putting up such a principled defense of the policy he supported in office. He was correct then, with respect, and he’s right now.

The CIA does not do torture

The CIA has never tortured anyone. The idea that it does is just a left-wing conspiracy theory, recycled by the Senate without ever taking evidence from anyone in the program.

What the media are calling torture is nothing of the sort. I have friends in the intelligence community who have been waterboarded. Many readers will have too – in the past it has been used in training. It’s not quite a drinks break, but it does not meet any sensible definition of torture.

It’s certainly not what the Iraqis would call torture, not in Saddam’s time at any rate. When those boys got going with drills and chainsaws you knew you were being tortured. So far as I know the CIA have never chopped any bits off.

There are several reasons why no one sensible would ever ask the CIA to do torture. For starters, you guys are the Good Guys. The CIA are just too nice to torture people.
Secondly, the US does not have a tradition of torture, unlike say Egypt, Turkey or Jordan. Torture is a skilled art – an unpleasant art, admittedly, like politics, but a necessary one. The tricks are not to kill the suspect before he answers your questions and not to leave too many marks. The Turks are particularly good at this – they are past masters of the art of falaka (whacking the soles of the feet).

It sounds like the sort of thing you might have to pay for in a good SM bar, but it’s exceedingly painful. Once the swelling has gone down only a skilled psychologist would pick up the fact the suspect has been tortured, as the signs are psychological, not physical. I had enough Kurdish survivors of falaka in my courtroom in the old days to be able to tell the difference between the fakers and the psychologically-damaged survivors.

Only an idiot would ask an American to torture anyone. If people have needed torturing in the War on Terror we have sent them round to the Egyptians, or whatever. Of course, if they answered the officers’ questions fully and frankly there would be no need to torture them at all.

Effectiveness of the CIA’s sub-torture routines

There is no doubt that the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques introduced as a response to 9-11 were effective. They saved lives and property, which at the end of the day is the only ethical and moral justification for them. They worked. On this I back the CIA and Vice-President Cheney 100%.

UK Participation

I am proud to say that my country participated fully and knowingly in the program. We gave CIA rendition flights access into Mildenhall, Diego Garcia and other UK-owned bases. MI5 provided questions for detainees undergoing enhanced interrogation where there was a UK interest, and CIA kindly kept MI6 fully in the loop.

Lord West, the security minister in Gordon Brown’s government, might have been just a little more frank in his public comments this week, with respect (this is the same Alan West who put the boot into me during the Vulcan Trial, unfairly, with respect). There is no way the UK government did not know what was going on, and approve of it, too.

Alan West is what the CIA might call a fairweather friend, no offense intended. The CIA doesn’t need friends when the going is good. It needs them when the going starts to get a bit rough. Trust me on this. Langley will know in future who they can count on and who they can’t. Everybody wants to be the CIA’s friend when the going is easy.
America needs to get behind the CIA right now. If you know anyone in CIA give them a hug. Intelligence is a tough business. We (yes, you heard that right!) in the intelligence community need thick skins, and not just if Johnny Turk happens to tickling your tootsies. We are still human however. A kind word when you’re under attack is always appreciated.

My fit-up by Thames Valley Police

Many thanks to the kind reader who responded to my request for assistance last week. I have now learned things about WX hard drives I did not know before. For one thing they are so easy to manipulate that you don’t need to swap them. The serial number for the hard drive TVP have is a WX serial number.

With my limited computer knowledge (I just use them to write books, I don’t program them!) I had assumed that GO2 had either swapped the laptop itself or the hard drive. In the magistrates’ court trial and on appeal to the Crown Court I was never permitted to examine the laptop out of its exhibit bag, even though I had nitrile gloves. You read that right – at no time was I ever allowed to examine the exhibits which I said might have been swapped. It might be my old laptop, but until I see it I have no way of telling.
The next thing I learnt was that WX Western Digital hard drives are not normally supplied to Dell. They get the WD model, which happens to be harder to manipulate. Now it so happens that in 2010, when my original laptop was made, Western Digital were having some problems with their WDs, and Dell got some WXs instead. So, the drive the rozzers (no offense, boys) have MIGHT be my original drive.

However the drive TVP have turns out to be made in Thailand. That was a surprise. At no stage in either the trial or the appeal was any mention ever made of Thailand. My laptop was made in China. Yes, the hard drive might have been exported from Thailand to China in 2010, but if so where’s the audit trail? The onus of proof is on the prosecution, remember.

The memory stick onto which the allegedly underage images of male models were dumped (there was no actual proof of their ages, merely an invitation from the Crown Prosecution Service to the court to find as a fact that they were under 18 because they looked under 18) was a Sandisk 4 GB Cruzer Edge. It has a batch number, BH1107VWHB. According to Anthony Kavanagh, a witness from Sandisk, who was unhappy about giving evidence and whose statement was read as hearsay, against my opposition, in the trial before District Judge (MC) Vickers in February, “1107” means it was made in July 2007. That makes sense, and I agreed it at the appeal, having failed to have Kavanagh called as a witness, even by video link. I would be grateful for confirmation, however.

I am also in the market for information about batch # BH1107VWHB. Where did it go? The CPS say New Zealand, in a matter of weeks, but again there is no audit trail. Sandisk use regional distribution and regional packaging, but where is their distribution center for New Zealand and who does the packaging? Do they use wood-based packaging material (the Kiwis, sensibly, quarantine goods imported in wood-based packing, for bio-security reasons)? None of this work was done by Sandisk or the CPS. The CPS relied totally upon TVP’s exhibit storage procedures, which turned out to be worthless, as GO2 have a duplicate set of their tamper-proof exhibit bags. Yes, the bags will show evidence of tampering, so you don’t tamper with the bag. You just cut it open with a pair of scissors and do a computer-generated facsimile of the label (no forensic tests at all were done on the label). You then have your very own exhibit bag and can put whatever you want in it. I am surprised that TVP didn’t claim to have discovered some cocaine (that’s not an invitation, guys!)

Kavanagh claims that the “traceability of the unit to the final destination is limited”. What does that mean? I think it unlikely that memory stick batches are broken up, or cannot be traced. What is the point of having a batch number in the first place if they can’t be traced?
Classic Bond Movie: For Your Eyes Only (1981), dir. John Glen
Not the most highly-rated of the Bond movies, For Your Eyes Only actually has a strong cast and plot, grittier and more realistic than that of the Star Wars inspired Moonraker. I am sure that Ian Fleming would have rated the later movie more highly.
The plot employs false-flagging, a real enough intelligence concept. Julian Glover plays the baddie pretending to be a goodie, and very well too. The real goodie is Topol’s character.

James Hedley, another fine character actor, plays a brief cameo as Sir Timothy Havelock, the marine archaeologist secretly hired by the Secret Service (Fleming based his ‘Secret Service’ on MI18, but in the movies it is referred to by name, if referred to at all, as MI6, which Ian Fleming knew was hopelessly penetrated) to locate the fictional missing Polaris submarine attack system, the ‘ATAC’. The ATAC concept by the way is a plot weakness, as the firing codes of any such missile control system would be changed once the system was compromised. It is however a neat plot device, and it holds the first-time viewer in suspense.

There are two Bond girls – Carole Bouquet as Melina Havelock, the murdered Sir Timothy’s daughter, bent on revenging her father’s death, and the very sexy Lynn-Holly Johnson, ice-skating protégé of Julian Glover’s character, Kristatos. She was a figure-skater before she became an actress and it shows in the skating sequences. It’s a shame that Lynn-Holly gave up acting to raise a family. I am sure that she would have gone on to further fame. It ought to be easier for women actors to be able to balance family life and their professional careers. I doubt Lynn-Holly Johnson regretted her decision whilst her children were growing up, but what happens after they have left home? She wouldn’t be human if she didn’t have a few wistful regrets. She comes across on screen, as I am sure she is in real life, as a genuinely warm and nice person.

There is a deeply impressive climbing sequence, as Bond and the Good Guys close in on St Cyril’s, Kristatos’s hideout. Movies like Cliffhanger have surpassed it in recent years, but For Your Eyes Only was made over 30 years ago.

There are also some very funny moments. The chase sequence with the 2CV is a hoot, I love the exploding car burglar alarm, and have always wanted one, and the closing sequence with Lady Thatcher, Sir Denis and the parrot is very funny. I knew them both, albeit not well (that’s Margaret and Denis, not the parrot – I never met the parrot!). I am not sure Margaret would have seen the funny side of it, but dear old Denis would have done. He was a great character, smarter than he let on (doing understatement myself, this is a character trait I rather admire(!)).

If it comes around again on TV over Christmas, don’t miss it. Students of the Balkans might find the odd clue as to Marshal Tito’s duplicity – the wily old fox was never a communist, and worked for the Germans throughout. Like many of the Bond movies and all of the books, there are sub-plots and serious intelligence themes. They are entertaining, but they are not just entertainment.
December 15 2014


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Michael Shrimpton was a barrister from his call to the Bar in London in 1983 until being disbarred in 2019 over a fraudulently obtained conviction. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence and Counter-terrorism. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies at the American Military University. Read Articles from Michael Shrimpton; Read Michael Shrimptons' Full Complete Bio >>>