Former CIA Director Michael Hayden found an unusual way to show President-elect Barack Obama how the agency’s interrogation techniques worked during a December 2008 briefing: Hayden beat up his own deputy in front of the future commander-in-chief.
Kill or Capture is Daniel Klaidman’s new book released this week, and in it are up-close accounts of how the Obama White House has handled national security issues since even before the forty-fourth president was sworn into office. Only weeks before his inauguration, writes Klaidman, Obama had a meeting with the Central Intelligence Agency’s top-dog about what kind of torture methods — ahem— “enhanced interrogation techniques” — were being used under the George W Bush administration on detainees at military prisons like the one at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. What the unsuspecting president got might have been more than what he expected, though.
The author writes that, only a month after being elected president, the pressure was on Barack Obama to close Gitmo, much to the chagrin of Bush-elected officials that had been called out for allegations of torture in the days since the facility was re-opened after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Five years earlier authorities officially forced Gitmo guards to end waterboarding, and by Inauguration Day 2009 the CIA was only authorizing prison officials “interrogate” detainees with half a dozen different tactics. Obama was preparing an executive order to close Guantanamo any day, recalls Klaidman, leaving Hayden with the hefty task of pursuing the president to change his mind.
“…Hayden, a Bush appointee, wanted to push back on several fronts, and he knew he had his work cut out for him,”writes Klaidman. “No issue had been politicized more than enhanced interrogation — tortures, as the left insisted on calling it. There was a lot of misinformation floating around, but he believed he could persuade fair-minded people that the techniques were both human and necessary for the safety of the American people. He got his change on December 9 in a meeting with Obama and his top national security advisers at the Chicago transition office. Hayden had prepared assiduously, showing up with charts and slides. But his most unusual prop was David Shedd, the deputy DNU for policy, plans and requirements.”
A Bush appointee degrading a living person to a mere prop? Don’t worry — it gets better.
“Not long into his presentation, Hayden called Shedd over. Suddenly, unexpectedly, Hayden slapped Shedd’s face. Then he grabbed him by the lapels and started to shake him. He’d wanted to throw him up against the wall during the demonstration, but there were chairs in the way.”
This, you see, was how then-CIA Director Michael Hayden persuaded President-elect Obama to think, hey, Gitmo prisoners might not have it so rough after all. Klaidman continues:
“Instead he explained to Obama and his aides about the interrogation technique known as ‘wailing,’ in which detainees were thrown against a flexible artificial wall that made a loud noise on impact but cased little physical pain.”
“Hayden walked out of the meeting thinking it had been ‘a good day’ and that he’d ‘mastered the brief’,” adds the author.
Obama was sworn into office only five weeks later and signed an order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison two days later. As the president approaches the half-way point of his third year in office, though, prisoners are still behind bars at Gitmo facilities that even members of the press aren’t allowed to see.
Don’t worry, though. The only thing that happens over there is a little slapping, apparently.