The inside story of the intelligence war which has been fought against Al Qaeda since 9/11. Peter Taylor asks whether, with the death of Osama Bin Laden, there is any end in sight.
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For ten years, Western intelligence has fought a secret war against al-Qaeda,
the most ruthless and sophisticated terrorist organisation
the world has ever faced.
We will not stop this fight. We are at war.
In the decade since 9/11,
the West has employed unprecedented and controversial methods -
People were desperate. The White House wanted results,
and the CIA was told to get them any way you could get them.
What's the value of human life, and what is it worth
to get information that will save a human life?
'I've reported on terrorist conflicts for almost 40 years.
'Never has the West felt more threatened.
'Never has the West hit back with such force.'
In this series, we investigate whether this secret war
has made us all safer.
We responded in a way that threw away our values.
Hypocrisy breeds hatred,
and I'm afraid it has bred hatred round the world.
We talked to intelligence chiefs about the dilemmas they face.
In her first-ever television interview,
the former head of MI5 reveals the scale of the threat.
At no stage, in these years, did we face one plot.
All the time we had up to a dozen other ones we were worried about,
Ten years on, America has finally eliminated al-Qaeda's leader,
Osama Bin Laden.
I think the prospect of taking him alive was very low.
He ain't going to come out but feet first, I think.
With Bin Laden now dead, what is the nature of the threat we still face?
I'd be very surprised if there weren't ambitions
to do something on the same scale.
There are still hundreds of 'em out there
plotting to come after us, and until they're gone, we'll face a threat.
I felt the impact.
The ceiling was collapsing.
'And then there was a smell of jet fuel.'
I didn't know if I was going to die.
Dianne DeFontes was at her desk
on the 89th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
The first plane hit just four floors above her.
Dianne just managed to escape,
but nearly 3,000 people died in America that day.
PEOPLE SCREAMING Oh, my God!
Something like that may happen again.
There are others out there meaning to do us harm.
Are we safe?
I don't think so.
9/11 marked the beginning
of President Bush's so-called war on terror.
The people who knocked these buildings down
will hear all of us soon!
After September 11th,
the national consensus here is that we are indeed a nation at war.
The next day, MI5's Eliza Manningham-Buller
flew to Washington.
We flew over New York, and there were no other planes in the sky.
I remember thinking about the human tragedy beneath the clouds.
But by that stage, I was focussed
on how my service needed to react,
the responsibilities of what we needed to do.
Like MI5, America's intelligence agencies
had been taken completely by surprise
at the sheer scale and ambition of the attack.
We didn't see this one coming.
We didn't have good intelligence it was going to happen.
We were worried that there was a possible second operation.
So everyone's concern was, understand what the threat is out there,
understand who may be involved.
Go find them. Stop them, and make sure it doesn't happen.
'Ground Zero is the biggest crime scene in American history.
'But the immediate priority was not to bring the terrorists to justice,
'but to do whatever it took to wipe out the enemy.
'9/11 ushered in a secret war against al-Qaeda
'that was to test the West's commitment to human rights
'to the limit.'
The sense was, this is an intelligence war.
Identify the target and eliminate them so more people don't die.
We will take everything we have, every tool we have,
and eliminate the prospect that they can kill more innocents.
This secret war has been fought in the shadows,
in sharp contrast to America's spectacular military response.
In Afghanistan, the Americans destroyed the terrorist training camps
and toppled the Taliban regime that had protected Osama Bin Laden.
Although Bin Laden escaped, hundreds of prisoners were captured,
many with possible knowledge of al-Qaeda's members,
-structure and plans.
But there was a problem.
America's intelligence agencies were totally unprepared.
They had only a handful of Arabic speakers
to interrogate the prisoners.
If you're thinking about a global war on terror,
then, you start thinking you want lots of interrogators.
The CIA had... As far as I can tell, they had zero experience
in interrogating, and interrogating terrorists in particular.
Just three months after 9/11,
there was a disturbing reminder of just how immediate the threat was.
High explosive packed in a shoe
almost destroyed a transatlantic plane.
Miraculously, it failed to detonate.
The bomber, Richard Reid, was a British Muslim convert
who had trained at an al-Qaeda camp.
Once again, as on 9/11,
the intelligence agencies were taken unawares.
That attack said to us,
"Here is a Brit."
Here is a Brit who is prepared to support this al-Qaeda agenda,
a Brit who has been to a radical mosque,
who has been to Afghanistan.
Then we began to be anxious about people who travelled,
people who'd been to the camps.
The hunt for Osama Bin Laden and his high command
became more urgent than ever.
Six months after 9/11, America made its first dramatic breakthrough
-in its secret war.
-MACHINE GUNS FIRING
In Pakistan, the man thought to be
one of Bin Laden's top lieutenants was captured.
His name was Abu Zubaydah.
He was spending a lot of time plotting and planning murder.
He's not plotting...
-and he's not planning any more.
The interrogation of Abu Zubaydah
would raise an uncomfortable question.
How far should the American government go
to get intelligence to save lives?
We're looking at potentially taking the head off the snake,
and it was great. We have one of the major planners.
He's now off the street.
A treasure trove of documents was recovered from his safe house.
They confirmed that Abu Zubaydah was the gatekeeper
for al-Qaeda's training camps in Afghanistan.
He knew the names of just about every jihadi who'd trained there.
He unquestionably had access to top al-Qaeda officials,
and was very involved
in some of their operational planning and training.
The CIA put Abu Zubaydah on a secret flight
to a clandestine prison, or so-called black site.
We believe it was in Thailand.
Abu Zubaydah had been shot several times
during his capture, and was now near death.
He needed urgent medical care.
The only experienced interrogators on site
were a Muslim FBI agent and his colleague.
They believed they wouldn't need to coerce him.
Standard police interrogation methods
would get Zubaydah to talk.
This is the first time they've described what happened
The mindset was, death for Zubaydah was not an option.
It was at one point that his medical condition took a turn for the worse,
and he defecated on himself.
I just grabbed a towel and began to clean him up,
only because it seemed like the right thing to do,
the humane thing to do. He recognised it,
and I held his hand, and just kept on reassuring that,
"These people are going to take care of you."
-"We're not going to let you die."
-It was a surreal moment,
where we're taking care of the terrorist,
but then, the same time, we're talking to him,
and trying to get intelligence from him.
You know, there is that idea about these terrorists
that they don't talk, and I think, if you approach them the right way,
from my experience, sometimes you have a problem shutting them up.
The FBI's tried-and-tested approach would pay off.
The agents showed him photographs of leading al-Qaeda suspects.
To their amazement, Abu Zubaydah delivered the crown jewels.
When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's photo came up,
Zubaydah grabbed my arm like this to stop me,
which just made me just totally have a big take-back,
going, "Wait a minute. Is he playing a game with me?"
He says, "That's Mukhtar."
Now, that was a eureka moment for me.
Mukhtar's name had been out there in all the chatter,
but we didn't know who Mukhtar was.
Zubaydah asked, "Steve, how did you know
that Mukhtar was the mastermind of September 11th?"
Which... Exactly. I tried not to do that with my eyes.
I needed to convince Zubaydah
that we knew exactly everything that he was about to say,
that we knew everything about Mukhtar's role in September 11th,
which, of course, we didn't know at the time.
We called a time-out. We excused the room, and my partner had to hold me.
-I thought I was going to fall down.
-We were, like, "Wow!"
"What just happened here?"
"Really? Khalid Sheikh Mohammed," you know...
"Mukhtar is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? He did 9/11?"
"My God!" I mean, you know, he wasn't even on our radar screen.
In Washington, the director of the CIA
was apparently excited by the intelligence,
until he found it was coming from the FBI,
and his interrogators had still to arrive.
A few days later, Special Agent Gaudin
was given another chance to interview Zubaydah at length.
He said, "There are two people that I sent to Mukhtar."
I knew that was extremely significant.
Mukhtar isn't sending them to baking school or to play football.
He's sending them somewhere to cause mass murder.
We got to find out who these people are.
He didn't give me their names, but he described them.
One of them he said was an American,
and one was, er, someone from the UK.
The CIA quickly discovered that two men had just tried to get on a plane
in Pakistan, and sent the FBI their passport photos.
We showed him the photos. He was shocked.
He said, "Yep, that's them. That's the two guys."
Zubaydah identified the two men
as Jose Padilla, an American citizen,
and a UK resident, Binyam Mohamed.
I looked at him straight in the face, and I said, "See?"
"I told you from day one."
"Every question I ask you,
we most probably know the answer to."
According to the FBI,
Zubaydah claimed that both men were bent on attacking the West.
They are going to him, going, "Hey, Zubaydah,
we'd like to blow this up. We'd like to do that."
What he says to us is, "I don't need these two guys
to plan bombings for me. I got plenty of people
that know how to plan bombs and make bombs."
"I need these guys so they can travel,
cos they have clean passports to do it."
One of the things they had mentioned to him was,
"If we get some sort of uranium and we do this and this with it,
we can have some sort of a dirty bomb go off in the US."
'America stopped an al-Qaeda plot to explode a radioactive device'...
In May 2002, as he landed in Chicago,
the American Jose Padilla was arrested.
Binyam Mohamed, the 24-year-old Ethiopian
who'd been living in London for eight years,
was arrested in Pakistan as he tried to leave the country.
This was just the beginning of a seven-year ordeal
across three continents.
Binyam Mohamed says that, in Pakistan,
he was hung by his wrists, beaten with a leather strap,
and subjected to a mock execution.
He alleges MI5 was aware he was being tortured.
His case would raise questions about what the British government knew
about his treatment.
General Pervez Musharraf was president of Pakistan
throughout most of this time, when many terrorist suspects were interrogated,
and Musharraf was a crucial ally in the West's war against al-Qaeda.
We are dealing with vicious people,
and we have to get information.
Now, if we are extremely decent,
we then don't get any information.
We need to allow leeway to the intelligence operatives,
the people who interrogate.
Does the end justify the means, to extract...
information, intelligence, from suspect terrorists
who are reluctant to talk?
To an extent, yes.
The US, too, was determined to do whatever necessary
to counter the threat.
'In 2002, America, the self-proclaimed beacon of freedom and democracy,
'opened Camp X-Ray at its naval base in Cuba.
'Guantanamo Bay was deliberately chosen
'as it lay outside American legal jurisdiction.'
Detainees could be held here indefinitely without trial,
and President Bush declared al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects
would be denied the protection of the Geneva Conventions
that guaranteed prisoners of war freedom from ill treatment
The Bush administration essentially dismantled
50 years' worth of human-rights infrastructure.
This is all infrastructure that was created
in the wake of the Second World War, and it's infrastructure
that the Bush administration essentially wiped out.
The CIA and military intelligence were secretly authorised
to train a new generation of interrogators,
and apply techniques America had never used before.
YELLING / MACHINE-GUNS FIRING
For 50 years, American soldiers had been trained
to resist enemy torture when captured.
After 9/11, these techniques were reverse-engineered.
They were now designed to extract intelligence from detainees.
Psychologists were determined to break
even the most defiant terrorist with hooding,
total sensory deprivation, nudity, physical force,
and even an ancient form of torture.
When you're dealing with someone who's motivated,
and deeply ideologically motivated by a religious belief
that the murder of innocents is an appropriate way
to reach a political goal, the likelihood that individual
is going to speak is quite low.
And you don't know how much time you have.
Will there be an attack tomorrow? Will it be next week?
The White House wanted results,
and the CIA was told to get them any way you could get them.
At the black site, the CIA wanted much more from Abu Zubaydah.
They took over the investigation from the FBI,
and began to implement what they called
"enhanced interrogation techniques" to break Zubaydah.
A confinement box was constructed.
Much of what he endured was recorded on CCTV at the time,
but the tapes were later destroyed.
As soon as he was physically able,
he was strapped naked to a chair
in the frigid cold, and left that way for three weeks at a time,
during which time he was sleep-deprived.
If he started to doze off, they'd spray his face with water.
Still suffering from serious wounds,
he was then confined in what was known as "the dog box".
He was stuffed and left there hours and hours at a time,
many times till he passed out.
Total darkness, covered with blankets
to make air coming in difficult and create heat...
-Is that torture?
-It is as far as I'm concerned,
and I think anybody who thinks about it rationally
would say it's torture.
Were you aware that the Americans were using enhanced interrogation techniques?
Not for quite a long time
after they started using them.
They chose to conceal it from the Allies,
and, indeed, from their own citizens.
In America, the FBI agents' superior,
Pat D'Amuro, was just learning what the CIA was intending to do.
For him, there was a fundamental conflict
between the FBI's painstaking legal approach to interrogation
and the CIA's resort to coercion.
They said they wanted to start utilising
the enhanced interrogation techniques,
and at that particular time, I told them to come home.
"Do not participate in any way, shape or form, and return
to the United States."
The FBI decided the techniques were wrong and indefensible.
I told the director, "Some day a bunch of people will be sitting
at green-felt tables, testifying before Congress."
"If I'm sitting there, I want to be able to stand up and say
that the FBI did not participate in this activity."
Undeterred, the CIA went still further
with what it called "the program". It sought authorisation
for an ancient form of torture used by the Spanish Inquisition
and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
'US government authorities claimed waterboarding was lawful
'because the pain wasn't severe or prolonged.
'The Bush administration simply redefined torture.
'The technique was meticulously planned.'
A top-secret legal memo described the process
in chillingly mundane detail.
"The individual is bound securely."
"The water is usually applied from a canteen cup."
"Air is now slightly restricted for 20 to 40 seconds."
"This action, plus the cloth, produces the perception
of suffocation and incipient panic,
the perception of drowning."
Every time they go through that,
they're forced to breathe in these water droplets,
knowing that the people that are doing it hate them.
They're in fear that they're going to die,
and it's a terrible torture.
The torture techniques all happened in a continuum.
It's not as if we were going to use this particular technique
and use it, and then, he wasn't able to give any information,
so then they apply another technique. That's not the way it worked.
Everything occurred simultaneously, one after the other,
and that includes waterboarding.
'These abuses are set out at length
'in declassified FBI and CIA reports.
'The man who headed the CIA after they were revealed
'refuses to condemn them.'
How many folks did CIA detain at its so-called black sites
in the history of the programme, which lasted until January 2009?
The answer there is, fewer than a hundred.
This was a very carefully run, targeted programme.
But if Abu Zubaydah is waterboarded 83 times,
-that is torture, isn't it?
-I... This happened before my watch.
-But you must have a view.
-My view is, I don't have a view.
-My view is -
-You must have a view!
-I do not judge
those who had to face far more difficult decisions
than I had to make. My view is,
I am grateful for the people who went before me,
because if they had not made some heroic choices,
these difficult decisions may have been forced on me.
But there were also occasions at the black sites
when some CIA agents went beyond their remit,
holding a drill to a detainee's head and loading a gun.
They even resorted to mock executions.
Once you authorise people to step over a line,
you cannot control any more how far over the line they go.
Once you've opened a door, you can't control how far the door opens.
A year after 9/11,
two suicide bombers ripped apart two nightclubs in Bali.
There's destruction everywhere. This place is absolutely fucked.
This is a big fucking bomb that went off, man. A big fucking bomb.
202 people were killed in the inferno,
most of them young Australians. 28 of the victims were British.
Western intelligence agencies had failed to prevent
another murderous attack.
The suicide bombers were from an al-Qaeda affiliate.
Once again, the planning was traced back
to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and al-Qaeda.
'Faced with such atrocities,
'the US military was determined to show what it could do.
'At the end of 2002,
'the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorised the military
'to use its own aggressive interrogation techniques
'at its base at Guantanamo Bay.
'Rumsfeld added a handwritten postscript.'
"I stand for 8-10 hours a day."
"Why is standing limited to 4 hours?"
And the military would be less supervised than the CIA.
You tell the can-do military in particular,
you tell them, "You can use dogs. You can use slapping."
"You can..." You're just opening Pandora's box!
Jim Clemente was a member of the FBI's Behavioural Analysis Unit.
He was sent to observe interrogations at Guantanamo
and provide advice. He was shocked by what one officer told him.
She actually had watched the television show 24
to get ideas on interrogation methods,
that they would then utilise at Gitmo.
It was outrageous,
unbelievable that somebody would do something that foolish.
Now the US military had their hands on a prime al-Qaeda suspect.
Mohammed Al-Qahtani, known as Detainee 63,
had been refused entry to America just before 9/11.
He was suspected of being the 20th hijacker.
Detainee 63 was actually the first detainee's interrogation plan
that I read,
and I was...shocked.
Even the initial methods were offensive,
and certainly coercive, and that was the base level for them,
and they kept raising it higher and higher.
When I talked to him initially, he was in isolation.
and at that point I believe he was beginning to hallucinate,
talking to people that weren't there.
He was disoriented as to time and place.
Al-Qahtani is the only case in which the US government
has officially accepted that torture was used.
An official investigation by the FBI's inspector general
described his ordeal.
"Tying a dog leash to detainee's chain."
"20-hour interrogations. Stripping him naked."
"Women's underwear placed over his head."
That's the kind of thing that was encouraged down there.
But the most serious allegations of torture
during the secret war on terror took place far from Guantanamo Bay -
so-called extraordinary rendition could spirit a suspect
to another country.
It was an aphorism within the CIA,
"If you want good intelligence, send him to Syria."
"If you want him to disappear, send him to Cairo."
And if they were sent to Morocco?
Well, there's a place where you could probably get what you wanted.
You want a little torture, fingernails pulled out,
cigarette burn on the face, you can get it.
We did not send these people there to be mistreated.
We sent people there because they may have been citizens of that country,
because their services had a specific interest in that individual
for legitimate reasons. We sent people there
because of cultural or linguistic reasons.
They were better able, more capable, of getting information from them.
One British resident alleges he was not only tortured in Pakistan,
but put on a secret CIA plane and flown to Temara Prison in Morocco.
He was Binyam Mohamed,
the man who the FBI claim met 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
He says his Moroccan interrogators beat him
and slashed his chest and penis with a scalpel.
According to secret documents released by a British court,
it would appear the Americans were in control.
Binyam Mohamed alleges that, when he was rendered by the CIA
to Morocco, into the hands of the Moroccan interrogators,
he suffered horrific torture.
He says that his Moroccan interrogators
cut his penis with a razor blade. Is that possible?
I do not bel-... Is it possible? I guess I would have to say yes.
Do I believe that to be true? No.
And I have....unfortunately reasons I can't delve into here publicly,
but I have strong reasons to believe that it is not true.
He did not have his penis slashed with a razor blade?
-He was not mistreated in that way.
-How can you be so sure?
Um... That is as far as I can go.
The bottom line is, what was he doing in Morocco?
He sure wasn't taken there for a Club Med vacation, was he?
He was taken there because they wanted to torture him,
and when they did torture him,
he confessed that there was going to be a nuclear-bomb attack
in New York City. That is total drivel,
is the legal term for it. And this is a classic example
of what you get when you torture people -
stuff that doesn't help your intelligence,
but it helps confuse everybody.
After 18 months' oppressive detention in Morocco,
the Americans flew Mohamed to Afghanistan,
to the CIA's so-called dark prison in Kabul
for yet more interrogation.
He alleges he was kept in pitch darkness,
hung up for two days at a time, and bombarded with deafening music.
He then spent four years at Guantanamo Bay.
I first met Binyam Mohamed in Guantanamo Bay,
and I spent three days sitting across a table from him
while he described to me something that I thought only appeared in horror films.
In the end, the US dropped all charges.
In 2009, Binyam Mohamed arrived back in the UK.
He alleges British intelligence was complicit in his torture.
He revealed that during his detention in Pakistan,
he was visited by an MI5 officer.
MI5 sent his interrogators questions.
The MI5 officer then made three visits to Morocco
whilst Mohamed was being interrogated there,
but we don't know if those trips were in connection with him.
'Complicity in torture is a criminal offence,
'but a police investigation into Mohamed's allegations
'has not resulted in prosecution.'
The longer these questions remain unanswered,
the bigger the stain on our reputation as a country
that believes in freedom and fairness and human rights.
'Last year, the government took the unusual step
'of paying compensation to Binyam Mohamed
'and other alleged victims of torture and rendition,
'without accepting any liability.'
It left a bit of an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
But, on the other hand, better to get that out of the way,
let counter-terrorist professionals focus
on what they're supposed to be focussing on,
which is stopping further terrorist attacks.
'The government has now set up an official enquiry
'to examine all the allegations of British complicity in torture.'
Many allege they were tortured in Pakistan,
and forced into confessions by its notorious intelligence agency,
Salahuddin Amin from Luton alleges he was visited by MI5
whilst being tortured in Pakistan over ten months.
When he was being interviewed, they would at times blindfold him,
and they had these belts
of different sizes,
and they would beat him up with those.
-They scared him with a drill.
-With a drill?
-What did they do?
-They'd say things like,
they'll put a hole up his backside.
He was told by the ISI officers that "It's our friends that want you,"
referring to the United Kingdom officials.
The interesting part about this is that he was also interviewed
by the United Kingdom officials approximately ten or 11 or 12 times,
around that time, from Salahuddin Amin's recollection.
Later, at London's Paddington police station,
Amin confessed to involvement in a bomb plot.
He was sentenced to life.
But he insists this was a miscarriage of justice
because of his torture and British complicity in it.
I am very clear that we are not,
and have not been, complicit in torture.
And I am in no doubt that all the countries concerned,
including Pakistan and indeed the United States,
were very well aware of what British policy was,
which was, "We don't do this. We don't ask other people to do it."
The British government say they told Pakistan -
perhaps you directly - that they do not want the ISI
to torture British citizens, British subjects.
Have you any recollection of that being said to you
-on behalf the British government?
Never once. I don't remember at all.
They haven't said, "We're concerned about the treatment
British subjects are getting in Pakistan."
-"Please don't do it. Don't torture them."
-"We don't agree with it."
-Not at all.
Would you be surprised if they had said that to you?
Well, maybe they wanted us to carry on whatever we were doing.
It was a tacit approval of whatever we were doing.
President Musharraf told me
that "Maybe they wanted us to carry on with whatever we were doing."
"It was tacit approval."
He's wrong. There was no tacit approval of torture.
There was no blind eye turned?
Is Britain complicit in torture?
I think this raises a much broader question.
Al-Qaeda is a global threat.
To counter it...
..we need to talk to...
services throughout the world.
We have to be careful and cautious in some of those relationships,
but to decide that we're never going to talk
to the following 50 countries in any circumstances
means that you are deciding deliberately
not to try and find out information that you need to know.
a secret government document about dealing with foreign agencies
considering that in extreme circumstances,
life-saving intelligence should be weighed against the level of mistreatment anticipated.
In 2010, the document was revised, and that reference omitted.
And that's the difficult dilemma.
MI5 cannot avoid dealing with Pakistan's intelligence services,
whatever their notoriety.
Pakistan is the crucible of al-Qaeda's operations.
Hundreds of young Britons have travelled there
for terrorist training.
Daoud - not his real name - is one of them.
We've disguised his voice.
-Good to see you. How you doing? OK?
I learned how to fire a weapon, to strip down an AK-47,
how to clean it, put it back together,
and after a while, I could do this blindfolded.
In a safe house in Karachi, Daoud met the number-three in al-Qaeda,
the mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
In the safe house, we had one or two brainstorming sessions
in which we'd talk about possible attacks -
you know, if we were to plan an attack,
what we'd do ourselves.
But I think these sessions were probably quite common in the safe houses.
And when you had a meeting with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,
what did he say to you?
He asked me if I would be interested in doing a martyrdom operation,
to strap a bomb to myself or something.
I said that I wouldn't. He didn't press or ask me why,
and that was kind of the end of that conversation.
I suppose I didn't want to die.
Also, you know, I...
I had some reservations about, you know...
blowing up innocent people.
Daoud has returned to the UK and turned his back on extremism.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's days were numbered.
A year and a half after 9/11, al-Qaeda's operational head
was finally captured in Pakistan.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,
the man who masterminded the September 11th attacks,
is no longer a problem to the United States of America.
CHEERING / APPLAUSE
This was the melting of an iceberg. A man who had been for years
at the heart of the organisation, inspiration for the leadership...
He was irreplaceable.
The key to all the major al-Qaeda attacks,
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, personally beheaded the American journalist
The CIA was confident their new interrogation techniques
could force him to reveal al-Qaeda's secrets.
Now, here you are dealing with people
who have been slaughtering human beings
as if they are goats or chicken,
slaughtering a man, taking his head off and putting it on his chest.
Now, you are dealing with such a man,
so society expects you to be very civil with them.
But let's, er...
If you... Unusual circumstances
demand unusual measures.
The CIA rendered Khalil Sheikh Mohammed
from Pakistan to a black site thought to be in Poland.
They went to work to break him, going even further
than ever before.
He was made to stand for up to three days,
deprived of sleep for over seven,
slapped, made to wear a nappy,
and locked in the dog box.
He was waterboarded more than anyone else -
183 times, all in the single month of March 2003.
What happened afterwards is, we learned life-saving intelligence.
We learned life-saving information. I know there's been a grand debate -
"Torture never works", "They'll say anything to stop this" and so on.
And the reality is, this did work.
What was the intelligence that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed produced
after having been waterboarded 183 times?
He provided us a treasure trove of operational details.
-Give me some of the treasures.
-I'm at a loss
to begin to list all of the things.
-Is waterboarding torture?
-You say that unequivocally?
When did you discover that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
had been waterboarded 183 times?
I didn't discover that till after I'd retired.
It was clear before I retired,
but not that long before I retired,
that he had been waterboarded. I had no idea of the scale of it.
-And your reaction?
Not by that stage, but I was surprised that Americans,
and I think a number of Americans were surprised,
that they decided this was appropriate.
But did this torture really work?
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, KSM, is said to have provided intelligence
about a number of potential plots -
blowing up the Brooklyn Bridge in New York,
crashing planes into Canary Wharf and Heathrow.
But were they real and about to happen?
If you look at Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,
what you find is, he admitted to almost everything
on the face of the Earth that was conceivable he could have done.
As one FBI interrogator said to me,
about maybe ten percent
of what KSM admitted to
might have been perpetrated in some way, directly or indirectly,
at his behest or at al-Qaeda's behest.
Did you see the intelligence that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed produced?
Yes, I did. People are looking for an easy headline.
Did he talk about something that allowed us to protect Canary Wharf,
to allow us to protect Heathrow Airport? You have to understand...
-He revealed information that allowed us to break plots, sure.
In at least one case he provided crucial intelligence
which reportedly saved many innocent lives.
One of the people he identified was Dhiren Barot
from Kilburn, North London.
Even before 9/11, Barot carried out reconnaissance
and videoed financial targets in the USA,
including the New York Stock Exchange.
Barot's reports contained chilling detail.
He describes one building as
"a glass house, devastating when shattered."
"Each piece of glass becomes a potential flying piece
of cutthroat shrapnel."
The work he'd done in New York City to case various targets,
the sophistication, which was, for us, remarkable...
Al-Qaeda still was looking at potentially catastrophic attacks
in the same city they'd attacked on 9/11.
And Barot had plans for a series of attacks in Britain -
driving a limousine packed with explosives into a basement car park
and setting off a so-called dirty nuclear bomb.
But before he could act,
he was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment.
How did you get on to Dhiren Barot?
-Wasn't it the result of information
that came from the interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?
Some information from there, but not exclusively.
Such fragments help build the intelligence picture.
According to some former CIA chiefs,
a crucial piece of information that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed provided
was confirming the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier
who finally led the CIA to Bin Laden.
This has prompted a fierce debate in America
about the justification for torture.
It would be absurd to say that torture never gets a result
that's true. Of course it does. I could torture you and get your name
very quickly. But the first question you always have to ask is this.
Is torturing someone making the world safer,
or is it in fact inspiring people that we're such hypocrites
about democracy and the rule of law that they hate us more?
Now, you cannot look at the last ten years
and say that what we did in Guantanamo Bay,
and the torture that we've done elsewhere,
has made the world safer. That's just an untenable position.
'The intelligence from torture is often unreliable.
'But although it's unfashionable to say so,
'in some circumstances it can save lives,
'however immoral it may be.
'So is torture justified in a democratic society?
'The answer has to be no.
'And there's another danger.
'Once the methods utilised in the secret war on terror
'were exposed, al-Qaeda would be gifted a propaganda victory,
'because alongside the secret war was a very public battle
'for hearts and minds.'
In the very month Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded,
that battle was about to begin in earnest.
The invasion of Iraq, a Muslim country,
enraged Islamic communities around the world.
In London, the Joint Intelligence Committee
had privately warned Prime Minister Tony Blair
of an increased risk of radicalisation.
We were beginning to be very concerned
Once it was clear that we were going to be engaged in Iraq,
we became increasingly aware
that a number of young British citizens
were supportive of the al-Qaeda ideology,
and prepared to help.
It was from the time of the Iraq war
that the great increase in that radicalisation became detectable.
Did you foresee it?
Not fully. We anticipated there'd be some,
but not to that extent. Not to the extent there was.
From 9/11 until now...
But Tony Blair wasn't going to be diverted by MI5's warning.
This terrorism isn't our fault. We didn't cause it.
It has an ideology. It killed nearly 3,000 people,
including over 60 British, on the streets of New York,
before the war in Afghanistan or Iraq was even thought of.
For many, the abiding images of Iraq
are the photos of the American military
abusing Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib prison.
Virtually none had anything to do with al-Qaeda.
Soon, "the program" - secret rendition,
interrogation and black sites - was exposed.
Abu Ghraib - videos, photos...
Propaganda bonanza for al-Qaeda. I agree.
And now you come to the CIA programme.
Despite what has been said on both sides of the Atlantic,
detentions and enhanced interrogation techniques,
I know of no evidence during the time I was in government -
and believe me, I spent an awful lot of time on this subject -
I know of no evidence while I was in government
that the CIA detention programme or the CIA interrogation programme
was in any way a recruitment or propaganda tool for al-Qaeda.
Did torture play into the hands of al-Qaeda?
Yes. It's a propaganda coup for them,
to be able to say that the West,
with its much-vaunted principles, adopts these techniques.
-And that's damaging to the West?
-I believe so.
Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism was about to bloody the streets of Europe,
and the Iraq war would be blamed.
EXPLOSION WOMAN SCREAMING
Multiple bombs exploded on four commuter trains in Madrid.
191 people were killed. More than 1,800 were injured.
In the bombers' video, they made it clear
that they'd attacked Spain because it had sent troops to Iraq.
In Britain too, MI5 reported they were swamped by the sheer number
of terrorist plots. The biggest-ever surveillance operation,
codenamed Crevice, was coming to its climax.
Just four days before Madrid,
British intelligence secretly filmed a suspect in a lockup
checking the fertiliser stored for a massive bomb.
He was the leader of a British terrorist cell
trained in Pakistan. Here too, Iraq had played its part
in radicalising the suspects.
It was the first time that we had seen a large group
of young British men planning to construct and detonate
a large bomb here in the UK.
In Britain, the secret war was being fought
using unprecedented surveillance.
The police and MI5 were determined to deal with home-grown terrorists
like the Crevice cell through the criminal courts.
It marked a step forward
in the relationship between the security service
and the police. The sort of material
that previously would have lain hidden somewhere as intelligence
was gathered in such a way that it could be put into evidence
to help prove the case.
Arrests were made in and around London.
Five members of the cell were convicted
of planning to bomb a nightclub and a shopping centre.
They were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Crevice is the first one that came to court
which people saw about, but all the time
we had up to a dozen other ones we were worried about, or more.
This was the one that came to the top of the heap,
but there was masses else going on.
The police and MI5 felt they were making real progress.
By now they were receiving a wealth of information and leads.
All needed to be sifted, analysed, rejected or pursued.
But terrorists only need to get through once.
-SHE SNAPS HER FINGERS
Literally, just like that, the click of a finger.
And I thought, "I'm dead. This is my death."
'We have thick smoke coming from'...
Ladies and gents, we need to clear now Russell Square.
It was the worst-ever terrorist attack in Britain.
Three Underground trains and a London bus were targeted
by British suicide bombers.
'52 people were killed that day,
'the 7th of July 2005.
'More than 700 were injured.'
Deep underground, Gill Hicks was fighting for her life.
I couldn't breathe.
I could vaguely hear some screaming.
I looked down,
and the ankles were just hanging by a thread
to what remained of the rest of the legs.
You're looking at yourself
in a mutilated form,
and it sort of didn't quite make any sense.
And as I went to my right leg, my hand disappeared
into my leg,
and I thought, "OK, this is... this is even worse."
Gill then passed out, on the brink of being another fatality
in the carnage, and rescuers had no idea who she was.
My skin colour was jet black.
My hair was completely burnt down.
I, of course, was unable to speak.
That morning I was without identity.
I was simply labelled "one unknown estimated female".
Again, the terrorists were British.
Again, the young Muslims were motivated
by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan,
and the abuses in the secret war on terror.
They weren't people pushed out by the al-Qaeda organisation.
They were people pulled into the revolution.
And that represented, for me, an indication
that the revolution was spreading,
and we were in this for the long haul.
The leader of the group, Mohammad Sidique Khan,
made this video before attacking London.
Till you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture
of my people, we will not stop this fight.
We are at war, and I'm a soldier.
It was his Yorkshire accent that was chilling.
This was a person that was living in the UK,
that mixed and lived alongside of people
who he felt were his enemy.
Our words are dead until we give them life with our blood.
It wasn't really till I got home that evening, pretty late,
that I felt weepy about it,.
because obviously there'd been appalling human tragedy that day.
My reaction was a feeling of great...
..defeat and disappointment, that this had happened.
I also thought that it was likely that we'd be blamed at some stage,
which indeed happened.
But could MI5 have prevented the London bombings?
An inquest has finally examined the issue.
During Operation Crevice,
MI5 saw the main suspects meeting two men.
They didn't know then that they were Mohammad Sidique Khan
and his accomplice Shehzad Tanweer, who would later bomb London.
MI5 trailed them 150 miles up the M1 to West Yorkshire,
and secretly photographed Khan.
It was 17 months before the 7/7 attacks.
We can reveal new information
that suggests perhaps more could have been done.
MI5 was sharing its intelligence with the FBI in Washington
in real time, on a daily basis.
I developed a very close relationship
to my counterparts in the UK -
um, very close.
Very significant exchange of sensitive information
on an ongoing basis.
My concern with Crevice was, "Am I seeing the whole picture?"
OK, they're going to blow something up.
What is the something? Who else is involved?
How far out does this group of people reach?
Were you concerned that there was another cell?
Yes, we were,
and I think the fact that the core group
were talking to some people travelling outside of the area,
and I believe it was to the north - that needed to be defined.
Because if the operation goes down early,
then you leave this bad spot that can come back and haunt you later.
And it did.
The FBI had a supergrass who might have identified Khan and Tanweer.
Although MI5 told the FBI about the M1 surveillance,
inexplicably, they didn't send the FBI
the photograph of Khan, but only a badly cropped image of Tanweer.
And they failed to inform West Yorkshire Special Branch immediately
and ask them to watch the suspects. Two weeks later,
they did provide some details about the car, addresses
and Operation Crevice, but it was four months
before West Yorkshire Police was given the full picture.
By then the cell had been arrested,
putting the London bombers on their guard.
Why didn't MI5 notify West Yorkshire Police Special Branch
and say, "Can you keep an eye on them?"
"Tell us what you know about them and keep us informed."
Key question on this is not trying to second-guess judgements
made at the time, but to ask the key question,
"Who actually posed a threat to the British public at the time?"
Did Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer pose a threat
to the public through being part of the Crevice plot?
And the answer was no, not at that time.
British intelligence insists their focus
had to be on preventing the Crevice bomb plot.
They couldn't follow every lead, and at the time,
the London bombers were only peripheral suspects.
For every lead that's followed, that's a lead that isn't followed.
There's limited resources available.
Sometimes you strike lucky.
At other times a great deal of effort goes in,
and nothing comes out of it.
This is the nature of this kind of work.
Jumping to the easy conclusion,
to say that the security services failed -
well, at one level, they did. The bombs went off.
But to describe that as a failure
is, I think, to misunderstand the nature
of what intelligence work is about.
The inquest absolved MI5 of any failure to prevent 7/7,
but did criticise its handling of the surveillance photos.
Significantly, it noted
that intelligence-sharing between MI5 and the police
has now improved beyond recognition.
'For ten years now, the security services have faced
'an unprecedented challenge.
'After 9/11, the urgent need to prevent terrorist attacks
'drew the Americans into the realm of abduction and torture
'and the British into allegations of complicity.
'A new generation of terrorists has been radicalised.
'The 7/7 bombings are a terrible reminder
'of just how difficult it remains to combat terrorist activities.'
You cannot guarantee security.
However many resources, however clever you are,
however much you work with other people...
..you will not stop all terrorism.
And it's a delusion to think you will.
Next time, the Americans take the secret war
-to the terrorist heartland.
But al-Qaeda shows just how resilient it is.
Ten years on, are we any closer to winning?
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
The Secret War on Terror reveals the astonishing inside story of the intelligence war which has been fought against Al Qaeda over the last decade since 9/11.
With unparalleled access to Western intelligence and law enforcement agencies and with a host of exclusive interviews with those who have been at the sharp end of fighting the terrorists - from the CIA and the FBI to MI5 - Peter Taylor asks whether, with the death of Osama Bin Laden, there is any end in sight and whether we are any safer from attack. The series includes the first ever television interview with the former director general of MI5, Baroness Manningham-Buller, and an extensive interview with the recent director of the CIA, General Michael Hayden.
This episode looks at how the West became involved in abductions, secret prisons and even torture and how the intelligence services successfully disrupt major terrorist plots.