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Context of 'Early 1984: Port Authority Establishes Office of Special Planning'

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Nabih Berri in 1982.Nabih Berri in 1982. [Source: Reza / Corbis]Nabih Berri takes over the Amal Militia, a Shi’a Lebanese paramilitary organization, and tries to build it up as a power base for himself. Although not a fundamentalist Muslim, Berri allies himself with the new regime in Iran and Hezbollah, a fundamentalist Lebanese Shi’a party backed by Iran. Berri also manages to convince Syrian authorities that he will represent their interests in Lebanon and comes to a similar arrangement with the Ba’ath party in Iraq. This is a difficult balance for Berri to keep, as journalists Joe and Susan Trento will later point out, “If he displeased the Iranian mullahs who controlled the supply of money to Hezbollah in Lebanon, he would lose his grip on power.” Former intelligence officer Michael Pilgrim will comment, “Berri was targeted for CIA recruitment and so were members of his militia… I think it’s safe to say we financed his early trips to Iran.” He also commences relationships with the Drug Enforcement Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency. Unsurprisingly, some of the consequences of this are bad for the US, and the Trentos will comment: “The relationship would end in a series of deadly disasters for members of our armed services and the CIA. According to US intelligence officials who served in Lebanon at the time, Berri kept the peace with [Iran] and the Shi’a by allowing them to attack Westerners in his Amal-controlled territory. To prove his loyalty to the Shi’a and keep the alliance that was essential to his power base, he failed to pass on intelligence to the United States.” Based on interviews with former intelligence officers and associates of Berri, the Trentos will conclude that he facilitated attacks on the US by Hezbollah by allowing their operatives to pass Amal checkpoints without warning the US, for example before attacks on the US embassy and Marine barracks in 1983 in which hundreds die (see April 18-October 23, 1983). [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 74-77]

Entity Tags: Nabih Berri, Michael Pilgrim, Drug Enforcement Administration, Hezbollah, Amal, Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran, Complete 911 Timeline

President Reagan agrees “in principle” to send a small number of Marines to Lebanon as a peacekeeping force to keep a modicum of order in the ongoing civil war. The Marines will arrive in Lebanon on August 25, and will find themselves in the middle of bloody factional fighting between several Lebanese groups as well as Israeli invasion forces. [PBS, 2000] In October 1983, 241 Marines will die when a suicide bomber attacks their barracks (see April 18-October 23, 1983).

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

The October 1983 bombing of US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.The October 1983 bombing of US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. [Source: US Marine Corps.]In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon, and US Marines were sent to Lebanon as a peacekeeping force in September 1982. On April 18, 1983, the US embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, is bombed by a suicide truck attack, killing 63 people. On October 23, 1983, a Marine barracks in Beirut is bombed by another suicide truck attack, killing 241 Marines. In February 1984, the US military will depart Lebanon. The radical militant group Islamic Jihad will take credit for both attacks (note that this not the group led by Ayman al-Zawahiri). The group is believed to be linked to Hezbollah. Prior to this year, attacks of this type were rare. But the perceived success of these attacks in getting the US to leave Lebanon will usher in a new era of suicide attacks around the world. The next two years in particular will see a wave of such attacks in the Middle East, many of them committed by the radical militant group Hezbollah. [US Congress, 7/24/2003; US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file] The Beirut bombings will also inspire bin Laden to believe that the US can be defeated by suicide attacks. For instance, he will say in a 1998 interview, “We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier who is ready to wage Cold Wars and unprepared to fight long wars. This was proven in Beirut when the Marines fled after two explosions.” [ABC News, 5/28/1998] In 1994, bin Laden will hold a meeting with a top Hezbollah leader (see Shortly After February 1994), and arrange for some of his operatives to be trained in the truck bombing techniques that had been used in Beirut. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 48]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Islamic Jihad Organization, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Hezbollah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Peter Goldmark.Peter Goldmark. [Source: Environmental Defense Fund]Peter Goldmark, the executive director of the New York Port Authority, is concerned that, in light of terrorist attacks occurring around the world (see April 18-October 23, 1983), Port Authority facilities, including the World Trade Center, could become terrorist targets. [Associated Press, 9/28/2005; New York Times, 10/27/2005] He therefore creates a unit called the Office of Special Planning (OSP) to evaluate the vulnerabilities of all Port Authority facilities and present recommendations to minimize the risks of attack. The OSP is staffed by Port Authority police and civilian workers, and is headed by Edward O’Sullivan, who has experience in counterterrorism from earlier careers in the Navy and Marine Corps. In carrying out its work, the OSP will consult with such US agencies as the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, NSA, and Defense Department. It will also consult with security officials from other countries that have gained expertise in combating terrorism, such as England, France, Italy, and Israel. [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 226; New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004] According to Peter Caram, head of the Port Authority’s Terrorist Intelligence Unit, the OSP will develop “an expertise unmatched in the United States.” [Caram, 2001, pp. 12] In 1985 it will issue a report called “Counter-Terrorism Perspectives: The World Trade Center” (see November 1985). [New York Court of Appeals, 2/16/1999] It will exist until 1987. [Village Voice, 1/5/2000]

Entity Tags: Office of Special Planning, Peter Goldmark, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Office of Special Planning (OSP), a unit set up by the New York Port Authority to assess the security of its facilities against terrorist attacks (see Early 1984), spends four to six months studying the World Trade Center. It examines the center’s design through looking at photographs, blueprints, and plans. It brings in experts such as the builders of the center, plus experts in sabotage and explosives, and has them walk through the WTC to identify any areas of vulnerability. According to New York Times reporters James Glanz and Eric Lipton, when Edward O’Sullivan, head of the OSP, looks at WTC security, he finds “one vulnerability after another. Explosive charges could be placed at key locations in the power system. Chemical or biological agents could be dropped into the coolant system. The Hudson River water intake could be blown up. Someone might even try to infiltrate the large and vulnerable subterranean realms of the World Trade Center site.” In particular, “There was no control at all over access to the underground, two-thousand-car parking garage.” However, O’Sullivan consults “one of the trade center’s original structural engineers, Les Robertson, on whether the towers would collapse because of a bomb or a collision with a slow-moving airplane.” He is told there is “little likelihood of a collapse no matter how the building was attacked.” [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 227; New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004] The OSP will issue its report called “Counter-Terrorism Perspectives: The World Trade Center” late in 1985 (see November 1985).

Entity Tags: Office of Special Planning, Leslie Robertson, Edward O’Sullivan, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

After assessing the security of New York Port Authority facilities, the Office of Special Planning (OSP), the Port Authority’s own antiterrorist task force, releases a report called “Counter-Terrorism Perspectives: The World Trade Center.” For security purposes, only seven copies are made, being hand-delivered and signed for by its various recipients, including the executive director of the Port Authority, the superintendent of the Port Authority Police, and the director of the World Trade Department. [New York Court of Appeals, 2/16/1999; Village Voice, 1/5/2000] Because of the WTC’s visibility, symbolic value, and it being immediately recognizable to people from around the world, the report concludes that the center is a “most attractive terrorist target.” [New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004] The report, which is 120 pages long, lists various possible methods of attacking the center. [New York Court of Appeals, 2/16/1999; Caram, 2001, pp. 103; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 87] One of these is that a “time bomb-laden vehicle could be driven into the WTC and parked in the public parking area.… At a predetermined time, the bomb could be exploded in the basement.” [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 227] As a Senate Committee Report will find in August 1993, “The specifics of the February 26, 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center garage were almost identical to those envisioned in the [OSP] report.” [New York Court of Appeals, 2/16/1999] Due to the Port Authority’s failure to adequately implement the OSP’s recommendations, the report will be crucial evidence in a successful civil trial against it in October 2005, charging negligence in failing to prevent the 1993 bombing. [Bloomberg, 10/26/2005; New York Times, 10/27/2005; New York Times, 2/18/2006] As of mid-2006, the other possible methods of attacking the WTC listed in the report remain undisclosed.

Entity Tags: Office of Special Planning, World Trade Center, World Trade Department, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Following the release of the Office of Special Planning’s (OSP) report, which called the WTC a “most attractive terrorist target” (see November 1985), the New York Port Authority, which owns the center, seeks a second opinion on the OSP’s recommendations. At a cost of approximately $100,000, it hires the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to review the general security of the WTC. SAIC states in its report that the attractiveness of the WTC’s public areas to terrorists is “very high.” Like the OSP, SAIC pays particular attention to the underground levels of the center and describes a possible attack scenario much like what occurs in the 1993 bombing. [Caram, 2001, pp. 105-106; New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The New York Port Authority’s Office of Special Planning (OSP) is closed down. It had been established in 1984 (see Early 1984) to evaluate and address the vulnerabilities of Port Authority facilities, including the World Trade Center, to terrorist attacks. [Village Voice, 1/5/2000; New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004] The reasons for the closure are unknown. However, Peter Goldmark, who’d created the OSP, had resigned as executive director of the Port Authority in 1985 to take a new job. [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 226-228] So the absence of his support for the office may have been a factor.

Entity Tags: Office of Special Planning

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Fawaz Younis, a Lebanese militant associated with the Amal militia, a Shiite organization that is influential in Lebanon at this time, is arrested in international waters near Cyprus on September 14, 1987 during a joint FBI-CIA operation. However, US authorities fail to ask him about activities in Lebanon, such as the murders of CIA officers, kidnappings of US citizens who will later be part of an arms-for-hostages deal with Iran (see Late May, 1986), and an attack on the US marine barracks in Beirut, where over 200 people were killed (see April 18-October 23, 1983). Authors Joe and Susan Trento will say, “The key to all these unasked questions may be that those in charge did not want to know the answers.” For example, he is not asked about cooperation between the Amal group, which had a covert relationship with the CIA, and Hezbollah in the bombings. One possible reason for this is that Amal head Nabih Berri has “full knowledge of the arms-for-hostages deal,” an aspect of the Iran-Contra scandal. After Younis is released in 2005, the Trentos will interview him and he will say that Amal was co-responsible for the attacks: “Nothing happened in areas we controlled without Amal’s cooperation.” He will also say that Berri ordered some of the hijackings and that he cannot understand “why the United States allowed him to get away with it.” In addition, he will comment, “Privately, people in our government will say we cannot act [against Islamic militancy] in Lebanon because Nabih Berri is a valuable US intelligence asset,” and, “That lack of action is seen by the Hezbollah as evidence of America’s lack of seriousness and resolve in the War on Terror.” Regarding 9/11, he will say, “I have no doubt that our experience in breaking through airport security, developing sources and help among airport staff, was information that Hezbollah passed on to al-Qaeda.” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 213, 215-7]

Entity Tags: Fawaz Younis, Al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency, Joseph Trento, Nabih Berri, Hezbollah, Amal, Susan Trento

Timeline Tags: Alleged Use of False Flag Attacks, Complete 911 Timeline, Iran-Contra Affair

Rick Rescorla, a security chief for a company at the World Trade Center, and Dan Hill, a former Army colleague of his, write a report in which they warn that terrorists could attack the WTC by detonating a truck filled with explosives in the underground parking garage, but the Port Authority, which manages the WTC, dismisses their warning. Rescorla, who previously served in the US Army, is now working as the director of security at brokerage firm Dean Witter, and his office is on the 44th floor of the WTC’s South Tower. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 173-177; New Yorker, 2/11/2002]
Former Army Ranger Agrees to Identify WTC Vulnerabilities - Rescorla has become increasingly concerned about the possibility of a terrorist attack in the United States, especially after Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up by a terrorist bomb over Scotland in December 1988, and he thinks the WTC is “an obvious target.” He therefore asks his friend Hill to join him in New York and be his consultant. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 173] Hill, a former Army Ranger, has been trained in counterterrorism, unconventional warfare, demolition, and the use of explosives. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 152-153] “If anyone can figure out how to hurt this building, you can,” Rescorla tells him, and adds, “I want to know the worst.” Hill agrees to help Rescorla. After he arrives in New York, Rescorla takes him to the WTC. Rescorla explains the basic engineering of the Twin Towers and suggests they examine the buildings, starting at the bottom and then working up.
Parking Area Has No Visible Security - The two men begin by walking around the entire 16-acre WTC complex. Hill then asks Rescorla where the loading and docking operations are, and Rescorla takes him to a ramp that goes to the basement levels of the WTC. After they walk down the ramp, past a loading dock, and into a parking area, Hill asks, “Where are the guards?” Rescorla replies, “There are no guards.” Hill then notices that all the major columns and supporting beams in the parking area are visible and exposed.
Hill Thinks Parking Area Is a 'Soft Touch' - After thinking for a few minutes, Hill says: “Hell, Rick. This is a soft touch. It’s not even a challenge.” He then explains to Rescorla how he would attack the WTC if he was a terrorist. According to journalist and author James B. Stewart, Hill says he would “bring in a stolen truck, painted like a delivery truck. He’d fill it with a mixture of ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel, then drive down the ramp and park. With four or five men dressed in coveralls, he could plant additional charges near key supporting pillars within 15 minutes. Then he and the men would walk out and disperse, and he’d remove his coveralls.” He would then take a taxi to another location, where he would have a van waiting with a woman, two children, and possibly a dog inside. He would use a cell phone or a beeper to detonate the truck bomb and then make his getaway. “Nobody’s going to stop a family and a dog on Interstate 95,” Hill tells Rescorla.
Port Authority Dismisses Rescorla's Concerns - Later on, the two men analyze Hill’s findings and incorporate them into a report for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages the WTC buildings. The following day, Rescorla meets with some Port Authority officials and notifies them of his and Hill’s concerns, but they are uninterested. Rescorla later tells Hill that the officials’ response was to say, “You worry about your floors and we’ll worry about the rest, including the basements and parking.” All the same, Rescorla sends copies of his and Hill’s report to the Port Authority and also the New York City Police Department, but he receives no responses. Rescorla and Hill are unaware that the Port Authority’s Office of Special Planning submitted a report in 1985 that warned of a bombing at the WTC of a similar kind to what they have envisioned, and also emphasized the vulnerability of the basement levels (see November 1985). However, no steps were taken to increase security at the WTC in response to that report. [Stewart, 2002, pp. 173-177] In February 1993, terrorists will attack the WTC in almost exactly the way that Hill predicts, by parking a van containing a 1,500-pound urea nitrate bomb in the basement and detonating it with a timer (see February 26, 1993). [Parachini, 2000, pp. 190-191 pdf file]

Entity Tags: New York City Police Department, Rick Rescorla, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, World Trade Center, Daniel J. Hill

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

During the mid-1980s, a series of reports described the vulnerability of the World Trade Center to terrorist attack (see July 1985)(see November 1985)(see (Mid-1986)). Now, because of the increased risk of terrorism against the US due to the Gulf War, the New York Port Authority hires private security company Burns and Roe Securacom to prepare a further report, and tells them that the WTC is a terrorist target. Unlike previous investigators, Burns and Roe Securacom finds that the center’s shopping and pedestrian areas, rather than the underground parking garage, are the most likely targets. [New York County Supreme Court, 1/20/2004; New York Times, 10/27/2005] After separating from Burns and Roe, Securacom (later called Stratesec) will become one of a number of firms involved in providing security at the WTC, right up to the day of 9/11 (see October 1996). [Progressive Populist, 3/1/2003]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Roy Goodman.Roy Goodman. [Source: Frances Roberts / New York Times]Three days of public hearings are held to examine the security and safety aspects of the recent World Trade Center bombing. New York State Senator Roy Goodman (R-Manhattan) presides over the hearings. His committee questions 26 witnesses in what journalists Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins will later call “a no-holds-barred probe of the City [of New York] and of the Port Authority.” [Newsday, 11/12/2001; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 86]
Bombing Was a 'Dire Warning' - During the hearings, Goodman calls the WTC “an extremely inviting target” for terrorists, and says the recent bombing (see February 26, 1993) was a “tragic wake-up call” and “a dire warning of the future disasters which could occur with far greater loss of life if we fail to prepare” for terrorism “here at home.” [Albany Times Union, 10/2/2001; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 86-87] He also refers to a number of Port Authority consultant and internal security reports, which predicted the kind of bombing that occurred at the WTC (see January 17, 1984, July 1985, November 1985, and (Mid-1986)), and criticizes Port Authority officials who appear for failing to follow the recommendations of these reports.
Detective Says He Fears a 'Further Disaster' - One Port Authority employee who appears, Detective Sergeant Peter Caram, warns about the continuing threat to the WTC. Caram is the only Port Authority employee with a top security clearance and who is assigned to the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force. He says he fears a “further disaster somewhere down the line” and, referring to the WTC, implores the Port Authority to “harden our target.” James Fox, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York office, similarly warns, “We would be well advised to prepare for the worst and hope for [the] best.” And New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly says New York should remain at “a heightened state of awareness and readiness for the foreseeable future.” [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 87]
Official Recommends Practicing for a Plane Hitting the WTC - On the final day of the hearings, Guy Tozzoli, the director of the Port Authority’s World Trade Department, recalls a drill held in 1982, which simulated a plane crashing into the WTC (see November 7, 1982), and recommends that New York’s emergency response agencies train again for an aircraft hitting the Twin Towers (see (March 29, 1993)). [Newsday, 11/12/2001]
Report Based on Hearings Is 'Largely Ignored' - The exact dates of the hearings are unclear. The hearings begin on March 22, according to Barrett and Collins. [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 86] And according to Newsday, March 29 is the third and final day of the hearings. [Newsday, 11/12/2001] Goodman will issue a 34-page report in August this year based on the hearings. The report, titled “The World Trade Center Bombing: A Tragic Wake-Up Call,” will describe the WTC as “a singular potential terrorist target.” It will call for a special task force and for increased security in the parking facilities under public skyscrapers. But Goodman will say, shortly after 9/11, that his report’s recommendations “were largely ignored as time dulled the sensitivity of the public to terrorist threats.” [Albany Times Union, 10/2/2001; Newsday, 11/12/2001; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 88]

Entity Tags: Guy Tozzoli, Peter Caram, James M. Fox, Roy M. Goodman, Raymond Kelly, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Imad Mugniyah.
Imad Mugniyah. [Source: FBI]In February 1994, double agent Ali Mohamed goes to Sudan and trains Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards (see February 4-5, 1994 and Shortly Afterwards). While there, Mohamed arranges security for a meeting between bin Laden and Imad Mugniyah, the security chief for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah who is said to have directed the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon (see April 18-October 23, 1983). Bin Laden and Mugniyah are said to discuss upcoming operations. Mugniyah is believed to be involved in the hijacking of an Air India jet in 1999 where passengers will be exchanged for three militants in Indian prisons, including Saeed Sheikh, who will be the paymaster for 9/11 (see December 24-31, 1999). Mohamed will later claim in court that Hezbollah subsequently provided explosives training for al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad. [Los Angeles Times, 10/21/2000; Raleigh News and Observer, 10/21/2001; Chicago Tribune, 12/11/2001; LA Weekly, 5/24/2002] A number of al-Qaeda operatives train with Hezbollah in Lebanon after this meeting (see Mid-1990s). Dan Benjamin and Steve Simon, director and senior director of the National Security Council’s counterterrorism team, will later write that “The meeting between the two preeminent terrorists of the era reportedly did take place, and there was an agreement to cooperate. But there the record ends; there is little evidence that a long-term bond between the Sunni and Shiite groups was ever formed.” [Benjamin and Simon, 2005, pp. 128] Mohamed will return to the US after an FBI agent phones him and asks to speak to him about an upcoming trial (see December 9, 1994).

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Imad Mugniyah, Ali Mohamed, Daniel Benjamin, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, Steve Simon, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Imad Mugniyah, holding gun, in a 1985 TWA hijacking.Imad Mugniyah, holding gun, in a 1985 TWA hijacking. [Source: ABC News]The CIA gains intelligence that could lead to the capture of Imad Mugniyah, one of the world’s most wanted people, but the Saudi government refuses to help. Mugniyah is a leader of the Hezbollah militant group and is wanted for a role in bombings that killed US soldiers in Lebanon (see April 18-October 23, 1983). He also allegedly met Osama bin Laden in 1994 (see Shortly After February 1994). In 2008, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will claim that in 1996, the CIA learns that Mugniyah has boarded a commercial airplane in Khartoum, Sudan, that is due to stop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. US officials appeal to Saudi officials to arrest him when he arrives, but the Saudis refuse. Clarke will claim: “We raised the level of appeals all the way through Bill Clinton who was on the phone at three in the morning appealing to [Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah] to grab him. Instead, the Saudis refused to let the plane land and it continued on to Damascus.” Mugniyah will remain free until 2008, when he will be assassinated. [ABC News, 2/13/2008]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Hezbollah, Imad Mugniyah, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Dr. Michael Gelles, the head psychologist for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), says that torture and coercion do not produce reliable information from prisoners. Gelles adds that many military and intelligence specialists share his view. Gelles warned of problems with torture and abuse at Guantanamo nearly three years ago (see Early December, 2002 and December 18, 2002). And he is frustrated that Bush administration officials have “dismissed” critics of coercive techniques as weaklings and “doves” who are too squeamish to do what is necessary to obtain information from terror suspects. In reality, Gelles says, many experienced interrogators are convinced that torture and coercion do more harm than good. Gelles has extensive experience with interrogations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo, and notes that NCIS had interrogated Muslim terror suspects well before 9/11, including investigations into the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000) and the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks in Lebanon (see April 18-October 23, 1983).
'Rapport-Building' - The best way to extract reliable intelligence from a Muslim extremist, Gelles says, is through “rapport-building”—by engaging the suspect in conversations that play on his cultural sensitivities. Similar techniques worked on Japanese soldiers during the height of battles during World War II (see July 17, 1943). Gelles says he and others have identified patterns of questioning that can elicit accurate information from Islamist radicals, but refuses to discuss them specifically. “We do not believe—not just myself, but others who have to remain unnamed—that coercive methods with this adversary are… effective,” he says. “If the goal is to get ‘information,’ then using coercive techniques may be effective. But if the goal is to get reliable and accurate information, looking at this adversary, rapport-building is the best approach.”
Conflict between Experts, Pentagon Civilians - Gelles describes a sharp division between interrogation specialists such as himself, and civilian policymakers at the Pentagon. Many government specialists, including fellow psychologists, intelligence analysts, linguists, and interrogators who have experience extracting information from captured Islamist militants, agree with Gelles that coercion is not effective, but top civilians in the Office of the Secretary of Defense disagree. Coercive interrogations try to “vacuum up all the information you can and figure out later” what is true and what is not, he says. This method jams the system with false and misleading data. Gelles compares it to “coercive tactics leading to false confessions” by suspects in police custody. Many at the Pentagon and elsewhere mistake “rapport-building” techniques for softness or weakness. Just because those interrogations are not humiliating or physically painful, Gelles says, the techniques are not necessarily “soft.” Telling a detainee that he is a reprehensible murderer of innocents is perfectly acceptable, Gelles says: “Being respectful doesn’t mean you don’t confront, clarify, and challenge the detainee when he gives the appearance of being deceptive.” On the other hand, coercive techniques induce detainees to say anything to make the pain and discomfort stop. “Why would you terrify them with a dog?” Gelles asks, referring to one technique of threatening detainees with police dogs. “So they’ll tell you anything to get the dog out of the room?” Referring to shackling prisoners in “stress positions” for hours on end, Gelles adds: “I know there is a school of thought that believes [stress positions] are effective. In my experience, I’ve never seen it be of any value.” Innocent suspects will confess to imagined crimes just to stop the abuse, Gelles says.
Other Harmful Consequences - Gelles also notes that coercive techniques undermine the possibility of building rapport with the prisoner to possibly gain information from him. And, he says, unless the prisoner is either killed in custody or detained for life, eventually he will be released to tell the world of his captivity, damaging America’s credibility and moral authority. [Boston Globe, 3/31/2005; Savage, 2007, pp. 217-218]

Entity Tags: Michael Gelles, Bush administration (43), US Department of Defense, Naval Criminal Investigative Service

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Ali Reza Asgari.Ali Reza Asgari. [Source: FARS / Reuters]Iran’s former Deputy Minister of Defense, General Ali Reza Asgari, defects during a visit to Turkey. [Inter Press Service, 12/17/2007] According to former CIA officer Vincent Cannistraro, Asgari is a longtime Western intelligence agent, and is immediately debriefed by Turkish and US intelligence officials. Asgari will be given a new identity; his current whereabouts are unknown to the public. [Guardian, 12/8/2007]
History and Connections - Asgari held the Defense Ministry position from 1997 through 2005, under the regime of reformist Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, and, according to US media reports, was providing the US with intelligence during that time period. [Inter Press Service, 12/17/2007] He is a former intelligence officer in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and is believed to have considerable knowledge about several IRGC-ordered terrorist attacks, including the October 1983 bombing of a US Marine barracks in Lebanon (see April 18-October 23, 1983) and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia (see June 25, 1996). He has close ties to Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, and presumably can tell US intelligence about Hezbollah’s military command structure, its overseas networks, and perhaps its cells inside the US. [Time, 3/22/2007]
Source for National Intelligence Estimate - Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi says that Asgari is a “key” source for the intelligence community’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear program, currently in development (see August 2, 2005). Asgari’s information helps the intelligence community determine that Iran had ceased work on its nuclear program in 2003. According to Giraldi, Asgari had been recruited by Turkish intelligence in 2003, and defected after learning that Iranian intelligence had become suspicious of him. Asgari defects with “bags of documents,” presumably including information about Iran’s nuclear program. Asgari will provide information crucial to the US’s ability to monitor sensitive communications among senior Iranian military officials (see July 2007), which helps corroborate the finding that Iran had indeed ceased research into nuclear weapons development. Former National Security Council official Gary Sick will say that Asgari’s knowledge of the Iranian military is critical in determining what is and is not important among the communications intercepts. “There are zillions of pieces of evidence, and what you look for is defined by what you know,” Sick will say. “What Asgari gave them was a new way of looking at the evidence.” It is highly likely that President Bush will be made aware of Asgari’s information soon after Asgari’s debriefing, though the White House will claim that Bush knew nothing of the new intelligence on Iran until August 2007 (see December 3-4, 2007). [Inter Press Service, 12/17/2007]

Entity Tags: Vincent Cannistraro, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, George W. Bush, Hezbollah, Ali-Reza Asgari, Central Intelligence Agency, Gary G. Sick, Hojjat ol-Eslam Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, Philip Giraldi

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

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