Posted by: Lister | February 11, 2007

Whistblowers and other CIA traditions

Decline and Fall has also noted the blog response to the Eric Fair article. And advised searching for ‘SAVAK CIA videos.’

On the matter of Eric Fair, I will say that I have more sympathy for his victims but I will give the man his due. Eric Fair has spoken out, he regrets and he has become a better man than during the episode he recounts. As I said, long-windedly, in the Abolition of Man post, there is a very real danger that we can all be manipulated into doing evil things. Eric Fair is both an example of that and a sign of hope: we can see our own mistakes.

Regarding SAVAK, I found this: Berkeley Daily — Torture Photos, Videos a Time-Honored CIA Tradition

When the Shah of Iran was deposed in 1979, the files of his much-feared CIA-trained intelligence service, SAVAK, were opened to journalists.

The noted Egyptian reporter Mohammed Heikal wrote that he was shown a film of a female prisoner being stripped naked, who screamed and broke down as her nipples were burned with a lighted cigarette.

It was explained that this was a training film for other torturers. The film, Heikal wrote, was also given to the CIA, which then made copies for use by the intelligence services of Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia.

[…] Of course, the U.S. Army had its own earlier experience with torture in Vietnam. Sen. John Kerry is now being attacked for having told Congress about this, truthfully, in 1971. In Kerry’s words at the time, fellow soldiers at the so-called “Winter Soldier” investigation had “told stories that at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power.” It was more customary then to kill the prisoners (who were often civilians) after they had been tortured.

Much of the army interrogation, torture and executions occurred as part of the CIA-coordinated Phoenix Program, where standard interrogation techniques (as in Iraq) included rape, water torture, and electrocution. Another veteran testified in Congress that, “I never knew an individual to be detained as a VC suspect who ever lived through an interrogation in a year and a half.”

That article kept me busy, searching google for a more info.

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Responses

  1. Well, “rape, water torture, and electrocution” weren’t “standard” interrogation techniques in Iraq–no one I am aware of has made that claim, at least not as standard practice. Water Torture seems to have been in common use in the CIA’s secret prisons, however, and we will likely never learn just what occurred in the dark early days of Guantanamo Bay.

    But the CIA link to SAVAK has a lot of resonance in the Middle East. We may be unfamiliar with this story, but it’s widely known in other corners of the globe, which is why Middle Easterners don’t jump up and shout for joy at the prospect of American intervention. Especially in Iran, where SAVAK was as feared as the KGB, the CIA-SAVAK connections are well-known, and the Iranian people are still wary of our “good intentions” half a century after Operation Ajax.

  2. D&F,
    What do you think about this site:
    CIA’s Greatest Hits

    I haven’t been able to find out much about the author, Mark Zepezauer. I did find Philip Agee, who he quotes.

    And I guess I could check up on each individual claim….

  3. This all looks like conspiracy theory stuff to me. I’ve dabbled in conspiracy stuff before, but in every case I’ve found that the claims are driven by a pre-conceived idea and the facts are massaged to fit with the narrative. I’m now extremely skeptical of any conspiracy theory, if for no othe rreason than they are almost always unprovable. (I remember the John Birch Society spinning the fall of the Iron Curtain as a particularly crafty Communist plot.)

    The sad fact is that if there is any truth to the claims made on that page, their appearance there, and the way the claims are made, make them too easy to dismiss.

    Agee seems to have gone way overboard by giving the names of CIA agents in London–it’s one thing to make an argument about nerfarious activity, it’s another to put individuals’ lives at risk. The fact that he now lives in Cuba, combined with his criticism of the CIA as a capitalist institution, makes him sound like a socialist true believer, which I imagine skews his perspective a bit.

    Zepezauer looks like another one of those–someone for whom ideology trumps careful, reasoned examination. See his bookmarks (http://www.markzepezauer.com/links.html–sorry, I suck at html) for links to all sorts of paranoia. I do like his taste in music, though.

  4. Thanks for the link. Like me, Zepezauer’s a fan of “This modern World”, though his link is out of date. Can’t stand Bjork, however….

    I must have mis-spelt his name the other day. (I’ll cut-and-paste next time.) Google turns up loads today. including Who hates America?, where Zepezauer lays into the right. I haven’t found any place where he lays into the left, yet.

    I’d admit there’s an agenda and, you’re right, info can be cherry-picked to support any position. But I’m not sure I’d dismiss it all as a result. I’ll just have to find the time to look into it from other angles — find a fan of the CIA to balance Zepezauer…. George Tenet, perhaps? 🙂

  5. Well, Tenet’s book is coming out soon…. Actually, the history of CIA Directors is a long and undistinguished history of post-retirement book deals, most of which are of the “my legacy” genus. There have been a lot of other tell-alls, but few as ideologically-driven as Agee’s. Zep’s reliance on Agee as source material definitely makes him suspect in my eyes.

    I’d be amazed if he didn’t lay into the left. No one can criticize the left like a leftist. And the more radical, the less likely to close ranks. See Trotsky, Leon. Which is why the left is so bad at actual politics: too busy cutting our allies off at the knees.

    I’m not that into Bjork, but if he’s Pavement and the Pixies, this Zepezauer guy can’t be all bad.


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