By Frank Whalen
Is the man suggested by the U.S. government to be the new leader of Egypt, Vice President Omar Suleiman, personally responsible for the brutal torture and disappearance of countless people, using U.S.-approved “enhanced interrogation techniques”? The evidence is overwhelming that he was trained and cultivated for just such a role.
Suleiman is thought of fondly in U.S. intelligence circles, being the “C.I.A.’s point man in Egypt for renditions—the covert program in which the C.I.A. snatched terror suspects from around the world and returned them to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation, often under brutal circumstances”, according to a recent piece in The New Yorker. Ron Suskind writes in his book, The One Percent Doctrine, that one rendition victim, whose after torture testimony was used to make the fraudulent connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq prior to the 2003 conflict, would “be handed over to Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s intelligence chief and a friend of [C.I.A. director George] Tenet’s”. The tortured man, Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, eventually recanted his confession saying he gave the false information to Egyptian interrogators because “They were killing me…I had to tell them something”, reads the book Hubris, by Michael Isikoff and David Corn.
As ProPublica reports, “while renditions happen only with the assurance that a foreign partner will not torture the prisoner, as one CIA officer once told Congress, the assurances “weren’t worth a bucket of warm spit.” In the case of Egypt, the assurances were given by Omar Suleiman”.
So where did Suleiman learn to be so effective at torture and information extraction? Could it have been, in part, from the United States?
The Australian newspaper states, “A product of the US-Egyptian relationship, Mr. Suleiman underwent training in the 1980s at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School and Centre at Fort Bragg in North Carolina”.
The United States Military has a course known as S.E.R.E., an acronym for “Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape”. One aspect of this program teaches captured military, private contractors and even some civilians how to endure and resist torture and advanced interrogation techniques. Perhaps coincidentally, the U.S. Army’s S.E.R.E training also takes place at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
S.E.R.E. trainers actually were enlisted to pass on their expertise during the War on Terror. As Salon.com reported in 2006, “A March 22, 2005, sworn statement by the former chief of the Interrogation Control Element at Guantánamo said instructors from SERE also taught their methods to interrogators of the prisoners in Cuba.”
There is another connection to North Carolina: the rendition aircraft themselves. After an eyewitness reported a tail number on one craft, information began to unfold, despite being classified. A CBS story refers to the company that registered the craft as “Premiere Executive Transport Services” as well as “Premiere Executive Airlines”, and states that “The planes are based in North Carolina”. Of the rendition programs itself, CBS states: “The indispensable tool for that work is a small fleet of executive jets authorized to land at all U.S. military bases worldwide”. There are eight military bases in North Carolina and Wikipedia lists Fort Bragg as “251 square miles…best known as the home of the US Army Airborne Forces and Special Forces”.
The S.E.R.E. program was instituted toward the end of the Korean War, in which the Soviet Union provided material support to the Communist North, specifically to counter Soviet-style torture techniques. The New York Times wrote about the Soviet interrogation protocols in 2007, saying they utilized, “isolation in a small cell; constant light; sleep deprivation; cold or heat; reduced food rations” as well as “stress positions”. Like the American position recently, the Soviets denied that this treatment constituted torture and, similar to what happened in Egypt with the interrogation of Libi, the Soviets were content to get usable information, whether true or not. The Times states, “When it desired to use such methods against a prisoner or to obtain from him a propaganda statement or “confession,” it simply declared the prisoner a “war-crimes suspect” and informed him that, therefore, he was not subject to international rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war.”
Oddly enough, Suleiman also has Russian expertise to draw from. The Canadian newspaper The Globe And Mail states that Suleiman, “like other promising officers of the time, was then sent to Moscow for additional training”.
So whether his expertise and appetite for torture came from the Evil Empire of the Soviet Union or is due to the U.S.-led War on Terror, Omar Suleiman might be the most learned and practiced masochist since the Gestapo, who called their version of torture, “Verschärfte Vernehmung”.
That, translated, means “enhanced interrogation”.