Did Israel Train American Interrogators in Torture? (UPDATED)

A couple of Goldblog readers alerted me to a Max Blumenthal story in which Karen Greenberg,  the director of the Fordham School of Law's Center on National Security, is quoted accusing Israel of teaching American interrogators the dark art of torture:

"After 9/11 we reached out to the Israelis on many fronts and one of those fronts was torture," Greenberg told me. "The training in Iraq and Afghanistan on torture was Israeli training. There's been a huge downside to taking our cue from the Israelis and now we're going to spread that into the fabric of everyday American life? It's counter-terrorism creep. And it's exactly what you could have predicted would have happened."

I was surprised to read this, because, though I don't know Karen Greenberg personally, I do know of her reputation for seriousness, and I was surprised she would make such an explosive charge without offering evidence that Israel was involved in such training.

Well, I called Greenberg, and it turns out that she, too, was surprised, because she said she never told Max Blumenthal any such thing. Here's what she told me: "I never made such a statement. I've never seen any proof of this. I told him I had heard a story out there about this issue, but that he should look into it and see if he could find evidence, because I have no proof of this charge. You have to be particularly careful when it comes to torture, you have to be careful not to overreach. He was looking for corroboration but I told him I didn't have any."

I'm hoping we'll see a correction to Blumenthal's story shortly.

UPDATE: Well, no correction, just invective, and dark insinuations of Zionist thuggery. Writing for the website of a pro-Hezbollah newspaper, Blumenthal states:

Greenberg has been a friend of mine and has helped me in the past. In 2009, for instance, she hosted me for a discussion at her former Center for Law and Security at NYU of my book, "Republican Gomorrah."

I am not sure why Greenberg would deny the statement she made to me on the record unless she was intimidated by Goldberg and the pro-Israel forces he represents. But the salient fact is that I did quote her accurately, word for word, and I stand by my reporting.

I don't think that I intimidated Greenberg -- we actually had a very nice conversation centering on the troubled young man who apparently fabricated a quote from her. And it turns out that she made the same denial to Adam Serwer of Mother Jones, which is not part of the Zionist Occupation Government, as best as I can tell. Here's Serwer's report on the apparent fabrication:

Greenberg, whom I reached out to yesterday, says Blumenthal mischaracterized her remarks. 

"I never pretended to know anything about how the police are behaving towards Occupy, and how Israel would have had any influence on how the police were treating the occupiers," Greenberg said in an interview. "What I remembered saying to him was you ought to look at these allegations that others have made about Israeli training in interrogation techniques. I did not intend to assert these allegations as fact...the entire sense of the quote is inaccurate." Greenberg says she emailed Blumenthal but the he responded that he didn't think there was a problem. 

The origins of Bush-era torture, so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," was actually quite well documented by the Senate Armed Services Committee. They were reverse-engineered from military resistance training meant to help servicemembers withstand torture techniques used by China during the Korean war. Greenberg also spoke to Jeffrey Goldberg, who posted her response to Blumenthal Wednesday morning.

A version of the story on the al-Akhbar website, where Blumenthal is listed as a staff writer, used one of the iconic photos of UC Davis police officer Lt. John Pike pepper spraying UC Davis students at the top of the piece. Blumenthal however, never actually lists the UC Davis campus police as one of the departments that received Israeli-style counterterrorism training, and Andy Fell, a spokesman for UC Davis says that isn't the case. 

"We haven't had any training from the Israelis," Fell said. "It sounds to me that they just pinched a popular photo and put it up there."

By the way, I just asked Greenberg by e-mail if I had intimidated her. She replied, "Of course not." Which will just prove to Max Blumenthal that I've intimidated her, I guess.

Presented by

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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