Known Torturer Is Man U.S. Wants to Rule Egypt
By Frank Whalen
Is Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, the man suggested by U.S. government officials to be Egypt’s new leader, 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. According to a recent piece in The New Yorker, he acts as the “CIA’s point man in Egypt for renditions—the covert program in which the CIA snatched terror suspects from around the world and ‘returned’ them to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation, often under brutal circumstances.”
Ron Suskind wrote in The One Percent Doctrine that a rendition victim, whose 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 [CIA director George] Tenet.”
In their book Hubris, Michael Isikoff and David Corn recount how the tortured man, Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, eventually recanted his confession, saying he gave false information to Egyptian interrogators because “they were killing me . . . I had to tell them something.”
Where did Suleiman learn to be so effective at torture and (mis)information extraction? Could it have been, in part, from the United States?
The Australian newspaper states, “A product of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship, Mr. Suleiman underwent training in the 1980s at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School and Center at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.”
The American military has a course known as SERE, an acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. One aspect of this program teaches captured military men, private contractors and even some civilians how to endure and resist torture and advanced interrogation techniques.
Perhaps coincidentally, the U.S. Army’s SERE training also takes place in Fort Bragg. SERE trainers were enlisted to pass on their expertise during the “war on terror.”
There is another connection to North Carolina: the rendition aircraft themselves. After an eyewitness reported a tail number on one craft, classified information began to be revealed. A CBS story refers to the company that registered the craft as “Premiere Executive Transport Services” as well as “Premiere Executive Airlines.” CBS added, “The planes are based in North Carolina.”
Of the rendition program 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 North Carolina military bases, while the 251 square miles at Fort Bragg serve as a base for the U.S. Army’s Airborne Forces and Special Forces.
The SERE program—specifically used to counter Soviet-style torture techniques—was instituted toward the end of the Korean War when the Soviet Union provided material support to the Communist North. 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) and reduced food rations.”
Like the American position recently, the Soviets denied that this treatment constituted torture, and, similar to what happened in Egypt with the interrogation of al-Libi, the Soviets were content to get information, whether true or not.
Oddly enough, Suleiman also has Russian expertise to draw from. Canada’s Globe and Mail states that Suleiman, “like other promising officers of the time, was . . . sent to Moscow for additional training.”
Frank Whalen has been a radio talk show host for the past 17 years, and worked as a consultant for Maxim magazine.
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(Issue # 8, February 21, 2011)