Top Officials Backed Harsh Interrogations

Top Officials Backed Harsh Interrogations
April 11th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Top Officials Backed Harsh Interrogations

Top Officials Backed Harsh Interrogations
Philadelphia Inquirer
April 11, 2008 They reportedly met often, signed off after asking for Justice Dept. backing.
By Lara Jakes Jordan and Pamela Hess, Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Bush administration officials from Vice President Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, the Associated Press has learned.
The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings at which CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, were discussed and ultimately approved.
A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the meetings described them yesterday to the AP to confirm details first reported Wednesday by ABC News. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the issue.
From 2002 to 2003, the Justice Department issued several memos from its Office of Legal Counsel that justified using the interrogation tactics, including ones that critics call torture.
"If you looked at the timing of the meetings and the memos, you'd see a correlation," the former intelligence official said. Those who attended the dozens of meetings agreed that "there'd need to be a legal opinion on the legality of these tactics" before using them on al-Qaeda detainees, the former official said.
The meetings were held in the White House Situation Room in the years immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks. Attending were then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, then-CIA Director George Tenet, and Condoleezza Rice, then Bush's national security adviser.
The White House, Justice and State Departments, and the CIA declined to comment yesterday, as did a spokesman for Tenet. A message for Ashcroft was not immediately returned.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D., Mass.) lambasted what he called in a statement "yet another astonishing disclosure about the Bush administration and its use of torture."
"Who would have thought that in the United States of America in the 21st century, the top officials of the executive branch would routinely gather in the White House to approve torture?" he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union called on Congress to investigate.
The former intelligence official described Cheney and the top national security officials as deeply immersed in developing the CIA's interrogation program during months of discussions over which methods should be used and when.
At times, CIA officers would demonstrate some of the tactics, or at least detail how they worked, to make sure the small group of "principals" fully understood what the al-Qaeda detainees would undergo.
The principals eventually authorized physical abuse such as slaps and pushes, sleep deprivation, or waterboarding - strapping a person down and pouring water over his cloth-covered face to create the sensation of drowning. The small group then asked Justice to examine whether using the interrogation methods would break domestic or international laws.
"People wanted to be assured that everything that was conducted was understood and approved by the folks in the chain of command," a second former senior intelligence official said.
The Office of Legal Counsel issued at least two opinions on interrogation methods.
In one, dated Aug. 1, 2002, then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee defined torture as covering "only extreme acts" causing pain similar in intensity to that caused by death or organ failure. A second, dated March 14, 2003, justified using harsh tactics on detainees held overseas so long as military interrogators did not specifically intend to torture their captives.
Both legal opinions since have been withdrawn.

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