Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

That was Attorney general John Ashcroft on the so-called Principals meetings at which senior White House officials discussed and signed off on specific CIA "enhanced interrogation techniques" for individual "high-value" al Queda suspects. According to ABC News:
Highly placed sources said CIA directors Tenet and later Porter Goss along with agency lawyers briefed senior advisers, including Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and Powell, about detainees in CIA custody overseas.

"It kept coming up. CIA wanted us to sign off on each one every time," said one high-ranking official who asked not to be identified. "They'd say, 'We've got so and so. This is the plan.'"

Sources said that at each discussion, all the Principals present approved.

"These discussions weren't adding value," a source said. "Once you make a policy decision to go beyond what you used to do and conclude it's legal, (you should) just tell them to implement it."

Then-Attorney General Ashcroft was troubled by the discussions. He agreed with the general policy decision to allow aggressive tactics and had repeatedly advised that they were legal. But he argued that senior White House advisers should not be involved in the grim details of interrogations, sources said.

According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."
By asking for approval each time, Tenet seemed to be trying to get additional cover for his people's use of the interrogation techniques, which were torture in most people's minds, though not in the opinion of White House legal hacks. Perhaps the meetings also promoted a sense of shared complicity, mutual buy-in and an incentive for secrecy. After all, who was going to talk -- if talking meant confessing to participating in detailed discussions of war crimes.

Call me naive, but I still find it shocking that discussions like this were held by senior officials of my government, in the White House yet. So much for the idea of Abu Ghraib as a few bad apples.


Dhalgren said...

It is quite arrogant that such senior people had these discussions. This is all the evidence we would need to prosecute them in The Hague.

Nonanon said...

Are you really shocked about anything that has gone on in this administration? Why should it bother them to talk about torture? They think it's legal.

I may be naive, but I'm a little surprised Bush and Cheney aren't in there torturing detainees themselves (and frankly, I won't be surprised at all when it comes out that's where Cheney goes when he disappears). However, given both of their military records as war dodgers, doing the actual torturing would probably be a bit more hands-on work than they like to do.

Plus? I promise you, if people aren't concerned about the torturing (which they don't seem to be), they're not going to be bothered by the higher-ups talking about it. Sorry to sound so bitter but that's my honest opinion.

Madison Guy said...

I could have expressed that better -- not shocked that they talked about it, shocked that they haven't been held legally accountable after leaving such a blatant trail of evidence right in the White house. Also, while they convinced themselves , with the help of their house lawyers, that it was legal, they knew it wasn't right, as indicated by Ashcroft's words. That they're still getting away with it is a sad commentary on the state of American democracy.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

We live in scary times indeed when the likes of John (soaring eagle bible beater) Ashcroft comes off as the voice of reason in one of these never ending revelations of immoral criminality.

Don't put it past them to produce a truly terrifying 'October Surprise' this year because all the levers for declaring martial law are already in place thanks to the John Warner Defense Appropriations Act signed in secret in 2006. Remember there were Blackwater thugs patrolling the streets in New Orleans after Katrina ...