Torture Memo Enthusiastically Approved at Highest Levels; CIA Getting Cold Feet

Dana Priest has so many scoops in one story, there’s a danger some may get lost:

First, the CIA is getting nervous and has decided to stop doing whatever undisclosed things its has been doing to its prisoners in its series of secret camps in undisclosed foreign locations, pending legal review:

The “enhanced interrogation techniques,” as the CIA calls them, include feigned drowning and refusal of pain medication for injuries. The tactics have been used to elicit intelligence from al Qaeda leaders such as Abu Zubaida and Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

“Everything's on hold,” said a former senior CIA official aware of the agency's decision. “The whole thing has been stopped until we sort out whether we are sure we're on legal ground.” A CIA spokesman declined to comment on the issue.

CIA interrogations will continue but without the suspended techniques, which include feigning suffocation, “stress positions,” light and noise bombardment, sleep deprivation, and making captives think they are being interrogated by another government.

Meanwhile, back in Washington D.C. the coverup over the Torture Memos continues to unravel. Let’s start with the Bybee Memo — which was approved all the way up to the top (Cheney’s office):

Although the White House repudiated the memo Tuesday as the work of a small group of lawyers at the Justice Department, administration officials now confirm it was vetted by a larger number of officials, including lawyers at the National Security Council, the White House counsel's office and Vice President Cheney's office.

And that royalism stuff about how if the President says it’s legal people who rely on that shouldn’t’ be prosecuted, and how Congress, even when approving or implementing treaties (“the supreme Law of the Land” – US Constitution) has no ability to in any way limit the full, plenary, unstoppable power of the President when acting as Commander in Chief? Well, all that was not just approved but demanded and applauded from the top:

A Justice Department official said Tuesday at a briefing that the [OLC] went “beyond what was asked for,” but other lawyers and administration officials said the memo was approved by the department's criminal division and by the office of Attorney General John D. Ashcroft.

In addition, Timothy E. Flanigan — then deputy White House counsel — discussed a draft of the document with lawyers at the Office of Legal Counsel before it was finalized, the officials said. David S. Addington, Cheney's counsel, also weighed in with remarks during at least one meeting he held with Justice lawyers involved with writing the opinion. He was particularly concerned, sources said, that the opinion include a clear-cut section on the president's authority.

What did all this mean on the ground? Tell me this isn’t a form of torture:

Abu Zubaida was shot in the groin during his apprehension in Pakistan. U.S. national security officials have suggested that painkillers were used selectively in the beginning of his captivity until he agreed to cooperate more fully

That’s not the view of the self-satisfied armchair warrior cadre in DC, however. They don't see any torture here:

At the same time, the former official said, “we never had a situation where we said, 'You can do anything you want to.' We never, ever did that. We were aggressive, but our people were very scholarly and lawyerlike.”

“Scholarly”? “Lawyerlike”? Sorry, but the “selective” use of painkillers for someone shot in the groin isn't like any Socratic Method I recognize.

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26 Responses to Torture Memo Enthusiastically Approved at Highest Levels; CIA Getting Cold Feet

  1. Lindsey says:

    The question now isn’t about the administration; there can be no doubt they have committed high crimes and, forget misdeamors, felonies. The question now is for every member of congress who hasn’t started pushing impeachment proceedings based on what is clearly criminal activity. The Democrats can’t find 12 Republican congress members who have a shred of decency?

  2. Ronjazz says:

    It will be interesting to see if during the investigations the VP will be waterboarded, Condi will be leashed or Donald
    will be in a naked pile with Ashcroft, Powell and GWB (if they aren’t already doing that on their own time)…

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  4. Brian Wilder says:

    It has been interesting to me that the “royalism stuff” has gotten systematically short shrift from the New York Times. The New York Times has never reported that Mr. Bush’s February 7 memo made a broad claim of Presidential authority to “suspend” the Geneva conventions. (I have researched this thoroughly; no by-lined NY Times story has reported this fact, ever! They have never reported a fact, which was routinely included in AP reports!) The New York Times omitted Jay Bybee’s January 22 memo, on which Bush’s claim was based, and which is the precusor to the August 1 “torture” memo.

    Today’s New York Times article on the “torture memo” doesn’t mention the “section of the memo [which] has become among the most controversial within the legal community” (Dana Priest’s words). Adam Liptak’s June 25 article about legal scholar’s criticism of the memos emphasized the White House dismissal of that section, but doesn’t mention the demands for it reported today by Priest. Liptak’s article today on “How far can a government lawyer go?” doesn’t mention the royalism either.

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  9. Ken says:

    Mr. Bush has given the impression that he never told, in his commander in chief role, his subordinates to use torture. However, Mr. Bush never has to give an explicit command in writing for his staff and subordinates to understand that this is what he wants done. An example of this kind of “wink and nod” behaviour was seen in the Texas funeral scandal that enveloped his governorship a number of years ago.

    However, as many sources in government has shown that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney are up to their eyeballs in compromising the safety of all Americans traveling abroad, and in shaming the proud ideals contained within the Bill of Rights, and in telling the world that torture is justified because he, Mr. Bush, can do so on the feelings in “his gut”. The arrogant and presumptive Bybee memo, along with many other legal justifications to state that the President is not only above any law but has the power in time of war to be a power unto himself which is not checked or balanced by the judicial or legislative branches of constitutional government is a fundamental revolution against the Constitution of the United States of America and, by actions that are contrary to the Constitution and Bill of Rights, Mr. Bush has forsaken his sworn oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Therefore, Mr. Bush through his actions has become an enemy of the Constitution and, hence, of the American people. It is the Constitutional duty of Congress to act upon the “high crimes and misdemeanors” clause to begin an investigation into removing a President from office.

    As the actions and words of Mr. Ashcroft has shown that this administration is accountable to no Congressional oversight. During a hearing in the Senate Judiciary committee a number of days ago in his refusal to turn over crucial information about the use of torture and who asked for such legal reasoning to justify such methods, that have shocked Americans from seeing the photos from Abu Ghraib prison, Mr. Ashcroft has shown his contempt of the Constitution and the legitimate duty of Congress to seek accountablity from those who would recklessly abandon our laws and international treaties in the name fighting a “war on terror”.

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  11. lux says:

    Putting on my tinfoil hat for a moment, one wonders whether the shot in the groin Abu Zubaida received was itself part of the questioning process.

    That might be a litle much even for us. But then again, these days who knows?

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  13. Hamilton Carson says:

    Why worry about legality. This implies it’s OK if it’s legal. Torture is not OK, legal or not, period.
    If winning “hearts and minds” requires torture, it’s time to leave…and I approve of this message!

  14. vachon says:

    Thank you.

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  17. Raymond Bridge says:

    The phrase “feigned drowning” is another fine example of the continued perversion of both language and thought in these situations. Let’s be clear, we are talking about repeatedly suffocating and nearly drowning someone using various techniques. There is nothing feigned about it. The idea is to not quite kill the person but to induce complete panic and physical fear.

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  19. Jon R. Koppenhoefer says:

    These people are starting to make G. Gordon Liddy look like a saint.

    These tough lawyers who wrote memos ‘rationalizing’ the torture of helpless prisoners probably soil themselves at the thought of their first night in the slam. And they should.

  20. JamesW says:

    “Scholarly”, “legal” torturers: a perfect description of the Inquisition, and of the magistrates of the Roi Soleil. Foucault quotes the latter’s official handbook on the subject: for example, don’t torture if you have enough evidence to convict without it, because if you do torture and the suspect fails to confess, the case is sunk. It occurs to me that when Bush et al. say with apparent sincerity “we don’t torture”, they mean “we’re not sadists”: they misunderstand the history of judicial torture, and the essence of the practices that Englishmen and Amercian colonists rejected.


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