Robert Steele: UNHINGED — Two Books on Terror Reviewed (Rebuttal, a Book of Lies & Broken!, Truth as Fiction)

07 Other Atrocities, Ethics, Officers Call
Robert David STEELE Vivas
Robert David STEELE Vivas

UNHINGED: American Terror, Torture, & Treason


Robert David Steele

PDF (5 Pages): UNHINGED TORTURE as published with cover matter

Rebuttal: The CIA Responds to the Senate Intelligence Committee's Study of Its Detention and Interrogation Program by Porter Goss et al, Naval Institute Press, 352 pp., £14.99, September, ISBN 978 1 591 14587 5

Broken!: A true story of terror, torture, and treason, in fictional form to avoid legal retaliation against those who were there by Michael Kearns and Ronald Solomon Amazon, 504 pp. £12.48, July, ISBN 978 0 996 53500 7

Two books – one a book of lies marketed as the truth, the other real-world experience disguised as fiction – offer us an opportunity to understand how easily individuals, organizations, and entire countries can become “unhinged” – deranged and divorced from all that they claim to hold sacred, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…and the due process of law that underlies these goals.

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Rebuttal: Lies Presented as Truth

Rebuttal is a book of lies – the authors are doubling down on the lies they told previously. They seek to preserve what political and financial cachet they still have by claiming their embrace of torture has only been criticized by an isolated group of partisan Democratic Senators. They studiously avoid the detailed critical report of the CIA’s own Inspector General, then John Helgerson, which damned CIA “leaders” and found multiple violations of policy and practice. They refuse to acknowledge the Report by the Senate Armed Services Committee on Detainee Treatment that reached the same conclusions about the origins, evils, and harm to U.S. policy and intelligence collection of “enhanced interrogation,” a euphemism for “torture” first used as a pervasive instrument of modern national policy and practice by Nazi Germany during World War II. Naturally they do not recognize the persistent professionals who have protested across many forums, including a letter in 2005 to Senator John McCain (R-AZ) signed by, among others, Admiral and former Director of Central Intelligence Stansfield Turner.[1]

Below is the conclusion of the open letter about this book to President Barack Obama, signed by 28 intelligence professionals:[2]

The book, Rebuttal, is a new incarnation of the lie extolling the efficacy of torture. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, a time of perceived crisis and palpable fear, the leaders of the CIA decided to ignore international and domestic law. They chose to discard the moral foundations of our Republic and, using the same justifications that authoritarian regimes have employed for attacking enemies, and embarked willingly on a course of action that embraced practices that in earlier times the United States had condemned and punished as a violation of U.S. laws and fundamental human rights.

As former intelligence officers, we are compelled by conscience to denounce the actions and words of our former colleagues. In their minds they have found a way to rationalize and justify torture. We say there is no excuse; there is no justification. The heart of good intelligence work — whether collection or analysis — is based in the pursuit of truth, not the fabrication of a lie.

It is helpful, in challenging the lies in this book about the efficacy of water-boarding, to point out that after each of the major invasions the US has mounted in recent history, from Panama onwards to Iraq, a single US Army Colonel, one of the most successful counterintelligence officers in the US ranks, has been brought out of retirement to create and manage the equivalent of a Marriott Courtyard for high-value prisoners. This officer, who prefers not to be named, has never had difficulty eliciting every scrap of useful information from his prisoners, each treated with dignity, well-fed and able to sleep soundly, each deeply aware of the benefits of collaboration that include financial rewards and resettlement anywhere in the world including the USA.

It is also helpful to observe that with the exception of Consortium News and a few other alternative news outlets, the letter by proven intelligence professionals has been ignored by the mainstream media.

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Broken!: The Truth as Fiction

Broken!, necessarily a work of fiction to avoid legal battles with the mandarins and minions of the American Empire, provides a direct look into the dysfunctional elements of the American war machine that has become deeply corrupt – unhinged. The lead author devised the original torture scenarios for the Special Operations Forces (SOF) Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) programs, and defined – as an international standard – the line between legitimate interrogation techniques and torture. He worked directly with Bruce Jessen, the person who promoted – perverted – the conversion of SERE to an interrogation program without limits. The notes he took at the time document very clearly that Jessen subsequently violated all prior professional precepts and “sold” CIA bureaucrats far removed from all prisoners, a menu of torture techniques both reprehensible and ineffective.[3]

Broken! offers seven core points, all deeply rooted in real-world experience.

01 Torture does not work. It produces false leads that cost time and money.

02 Drone assassinations create more terrorists than they kill while also having a 98% “collateral damage” ratio – for every two nominal “terrorists” killed without due process, 98 children, women, and innocent men are also killed.[4]

03 Intelligence as practiced in the USA is not about producing decision-support useful to strategy, policy, acquisition, or operations – it is, as NSA whistle-blower William Binney says, about keeping the problems alive to keep the money moving.[5]

04 Intelligence is irrelevant to the decisions made by US political leaders. Henry Kissinger says this about that: Intelligence is not all that important in the exercise of power, and is often, in point of fact, useless.[6]

05 The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is impotent – it is not allowed to do its job – identifying and neutralizing traitors – and more often than not is used to neutralize patriots and loyal dissenters in favor of special interests.

06 Secret intelligence programs with a great deal of money and no oversight are the perfect breeding ground for waste, mischief, and brutality.

07 If you do not allow the FBI to do its job, democratic order is in peril.

Rooted in real-world experience at the lowest rung of the political exploitation ladder, Broken! goes on to illuminate the deep corruption and questionable moral and intellectual premises of those who market torture as well as drones for assassination without due process, and the politicians who embrace communist and fascist methods for effect, some would say as posturing, most of these people having dodged the draft and avoided military service.

Compare and Contrast

Rebuttal is a cover story from CIA leaders who are all indictable before an international tribunal for crimes against humanity. Broken!, in contrast, is an educational narrative, one that allows the reader to explore, experience, and understand the moral hazard that is always present when one enjoys absolute power without accountability of any kind. As we know from Abu Ghraib, gang rape, drowning, hanging with dislocated shoulders, humiliation with feces – these are what American boys and girls consider “fun” when allowed to become unhinged, without adult supervision.[7]

Leadership appears in both books. In Rebuttal the “leaders” unintentionally reveal themselves to be afraid of failure, unwilling to demonstrate integrity, and therefore all too ready to embrace fratricide and fear-mongering to “lead” others into over-looking their hubris and immorality. In Broken!, leadership is the Platonic ideal of the protagonist and his special forces colleagues, with moral, intellectual, and practical manifestations, most of which demand personal integrity and risk. Both books together represent the reality that in today’s world, U.S. national security operates on the basis of obedience to orders however illegal or unconstitutional they might be, enabled by the immunity from prosecution characteristic of a dysfunctional theatrical political environment.

John Caputo – a theologian as well as a philosopher – has given us a capstone book, Truth: Philosophy in Transit (Penguin Global, 2014), that puts all of this in perspective. Truth is in constant motion, a process of evolution that is deeply moral, which is to say, as much about faith and the heart as it is about the head. We are nearing the end of the era of scientific reductionism, religious dogma, and political crime. We are becoming, emerging, as a greater whole, public power finally made possible by the Internet and other influences, the anti-thesis of concentrated financial wealth and the absolute political and police power of the state.

The truth is open, not secret. The truth is what we the people say it is, not what a few mandarins accustomed to power without accountability might propose. America is unhinged – terror, torture, and treason have become synonymous with American “exceptionalism.” From this point forward, we must pray for a public realization that leaders lie, and that the deepest truth about torture is that the person being tortured is the winner.

Robert David Steele is a former clandestine operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, one of the first to be assigned the terrorist target full-time, in the 1980’s. He subsequently served as the founding senior civilian for the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity. A top Amazon reviewer reading in 98 non-fiction categories, he is a prolific author and speaker on the topics of intelligence reform and electoral reform. His online page is


[1]Former CIA Director, Former CIA Counterterrorism Director, 31 Other Intelligence Experts Announce Support for McCain Anti-Torture Amendment to Defense Bill,” Human Rights First, 9 December 2005. A new article, Twelve Errors (and Counting) in “Rebuttal,” Human Rights First, 9 September 2015, augments and validates the letter to the President from the VIPs co-signers. See also, by Philip Giraldi, himself a former CIA officer and co-signer of the latest letter against Rebuttal, “The CIA’s Torture Defenders,” The American Conservative, 23 September 2015.

[2] The complete letter was first published as “US Intel Vets Decry CIA’s Use of Torture,”, 14 September 2015. The letter has been widely re-printed, and also appears as a book review at Amazon.

[3] Jessen’s loss of moral reckoning was endorsed by the American Psychological Association which chose to collude with the weakening of their ethical guidelines and the approval of psychologists participating in coercive interrogations. See Greg Miller, “Inquiry: Psychologists group colluded with Pentagon, CIA on interrogations,” Washington Post, 10 July 2015. See also Sanya Mansoor, “Psychologists authorize CIA, DOD torture, says report,” Christian Science Monitor, 11 July 2015.

[4] This fact is documented at “Drones Visualization: Every U.S. Drone Strike In Pakistan Since 2004 (GRAPHIC),” Huffington Post, 26 March 2015.

[5] At Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) in New York City in July 2014, the author heard Binney say, as recollected, “the intelligence community is not about providing intelligence, it is about keeping the problem alive so as to keep the money moving.” An overview of Binney’s views on this point is provided at “Binney: ‘The NSA's main motives: power and money', Deutche Welte, 19 August 2015.

[6] Henry Kissinger, Esquire, June 1975, as cited in Michael C. Thomsett and Jean Freestone Thomsett, War and Conflict Quotations (McFarland, 1997).

[7] The photos of Abu Ghraib atrocities are among the most potent recruiting elements for those who wish to portray the American Empire as a violent abusive criminal enterprise with global reach. Among the more thoughtful reviews of how Abu Ghraib came to be is George R. Mastroianni, “Looking Back: Understanding Abu Ghraib,” Parameters 43(2), Summer 2013.

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