[Ppnews] We Tortured and We'd Do It Again
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 6 19:24:58 EST 2008
We Tortured and We'd Do It Again
By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, February 6, 2008; 12:54 PM
After years of
and dissembling, the Bush administration today boldly embraced an
interrogation tactic that's been an iconic and almost universally
condemned form of torture since the Spanish Inquisition.
President Bush would authorize waterboarding future terrorism
suspects if certain criteria are met, White House spokesman Tony
Fratto said this morning, one day after the director of the CIA for
the first time publicly acknowledged his agency's use of the tactic,
which generally involves strapping a prisoner to a board, covering
his face or mouth with a cloth, and pouring water over his face to
create the sensation of drowning.
Knox writes for AFP: "The United States may use waterboarding to
question terrorism suspects in the future, the White House said
Wednesday, rejecting the widely held belief that the practice amounts
"'It will depend upon circumstances,' spokesman Tony Fratto said,
adding 'the belief that an attack might be imminent, that could be a
circumstance that you would definitely want to consider.'
"'The president will listen to the considered judgment of the
professionals in the intelligence community and the judgment of the
attorney general in terms of the legal consequences of employing a
particular technique,' he said.
"His comments came one day after CIA director Michael Hayden for the
first time admitted publicly that the agency had used
'waterboarding,' a practice that amounts to controlled drowning, to
question three top al-Qaeda detainees nearly five years ago.
"After years of insisting that disclosing any specific interrogation
techniques would harm US national security, US President George W.
Bush 'authorized General Hayden to say what he said,' Fratto told reporters.
"'The cumulative impact of public discussion about that technique led
to a consensus that an exception was warranted in this case,' the
Knox writes that Fratto "rejected charges that the tactics the
Central Intelligence Agency calls 'enhanced interrogation techniques'
amount to torture.
"'Torture is illegal. Every enhanced technique that has been used by
the Central Intelligence Agency through this program was brought to
the Department of Justice and they made a determination that its use
under specific circumstances and with safeguards was lawful,' he said."
And here's the kicker: "Asked whether the White House's reasoning was
that torture is illegal, the attorney general has certified that the
interrogation practices are legal, therefore those practices are not
torture, Fratto replied: 'Sure.'"
Hayden yesterday told the Senate Intelligence Committee: "Let me make
it very clear and to state so officially in front of this committee
that waterboarding has been used on only three detainees. It was used
on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. It was used on Abu Zubaydah. And it was
used on [Abd al-Rahim al-]Nashiri."
Hayden said the CIA had not used the technique for almost five years.
"We used it against these three high-value detainees because of the
circumstances of the time. Very critical to those circumstances was
the belief that additional catastrophic attacks against the homeland
"In addition to that, my agency and our community writ large had
limited knowledge about Al Qaida and its workings. Those two
realities have changed."
But National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell told senators there
was no reason waterboarding couldn't be used again.
"If there was a reason to use such a technique, you would have to
make a judgment on the circumstances and the situation regarding the
specifics of the event," McConnell said.
"And if such a desire was generated on the part of -- in the interest
of protecting the nation, General Hayden would have to, first of all,
have a discussion with me, and we would have a dialogue about whether
we should go forward and seek legal opinion.
"Once we agreed to that, assuming we did, we would go to the attorney
general, who'd make a ruling on the specifics of the situation. At
that point, it would be taken to the president for a decision, and if
a decision was taken, then the appropriate committees of the Congress
would be so notified."
After Hayden's testimony yesterday, a prominent senator called on the
Justice Department to open a criminal inquiry that could extend all
the way to the White House.
Sen. Dick Durbin fired off an
letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey: "In light of your
that, 'There are circumstances where waterboarding is clearly
unlawful,' the Justice Department should investigate the instances in
which the Administration has used waterboarding to determine whether
any laws were violated. You suggested during last week's hearing that
you would not investigate these incidents because waterboarding was
authorized by the Administration: 'It's a question of telling agents
out there that we are investigating the CIA based on speculation
about what happened and whether they got proper authorizations.'
Needless to say, a Justice Department investigation should explore
whether waterboarding was authorized and whether those who authorized
it violated the law."
Durbin vowed to block the nomination of the Justice Department's No.
2 official until he gets some answers.
Gorman writes in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required): "In
a wide-ranging defense of some of the Bush administration's most
controversial antiterrorism policies, top officials yesterday
acknowledged for the first time that the Central Intelligence Agency
has used waterboarding and named three terrorist suspects who
underwent the harsh interrogation technique.
"The CIA said it doesn't use the tactic anymore, but officials left
open the option of reinstating it. . . .
"Mark Lowenthal, a former senior CIA official who previously worked
on Capitol Hill, said the debate over the aggressive antiterrorism
tactics had become clouded by emotion and the administration brought
forth the new details in an attempt to make its case more directly.
'They feel like this debate has become...somewhat difficult, and they
want to get it back on track,' said Mr. Lowenthal."
Jakes Jordan writes for the Associated Press: "Senate Democrats
demanded a criminal investigation into waterboarding by government
interrogators Tuesday after the Bush administration acknowledged for
the first time that the tactic was used on three terror suspects. . . .
"Human Rights Watch, which has been calling on the government to
outlaw waterboarding as a form of illegal torture, called Hayden's
testimony 'an explicit admission of criminal activity.'
"Joanne Mariner, the group's counterterrorism director, said Hayden's
testimony 'gives the lie' to the administration's claims that the CIA
has not used torture. 'Waterboarding is torture, and torture is a
crime,' she said.
"Critics say waterboarding has been outlawed under the U.N.'s
Convention Against Torture, which prohibits treatment resulting in
long-term physical or mental damage. They also say it should be
recognized as banned under the U.S. 2006 Military Commissions Act,
which prohibits treatment of terror suspects that is described as
'cruel, inhuman and degrading.' The act, however, does not explicitly
prohibit waterboarding by name."
Pincus writes in The Washington Post: "After the hearing, Hayden told
reporters that the information obtained from those detainees amounted
to a quarter of all the human intelligence the CIA gained about the
terrorist organization between 2002 and 2006.
"'We would not have done it if it were not that valuable,' Hayden said."
Mikkelsen writes for Reuters: "From the time of their capture in 2002
and 2003 until they were delivered to Guantanamo Bay prison in 2006,
the two suspects accounted for one-fourth of the human intelligence
reports on al Qaeda, Hayden said.
"Some analysts have questioned Mohammed's credibility under
interrogation. But Hayden said most of the information was reliable
and helped lead to other al Qaeda suspects."
Mazzetti writes in the New York Times: "The C.I.A. is the only agency
permitted under law to use interrogation methods more aggressive than
those used by the American military. Senate Democrats sought to use
the hearing to exploit divisions about those techniques.
"Both Robert S. Mueller III, director of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, and Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the
Defense Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers that their agencies had
successfully obtained valuable intelligence from terrorism suspects
without using what Mr. Mueller called the 'coercive' methods of the C.I.A.
"But General Hayden bristled when asked about Congressional attempts
to mandate that C.I.A. interrogators be required to use the more
limited set of interrogation methods contained in the Army Field
Manual, which is used by military interrogators.
"'It would make no more sense to apply the Army's field manual to
C.I.A.,' General Hayden said, 'than it would to take the Army Field
Manual on grooming and apply it to my agency, or the Army Field
Manual on recruiting and apply it to my agency. Or, for that matter,
the Army Field Manual on sexual orientation and apply it to my agency.'"
Miller writes in the Los Angeles Times: "National Intelligence
Director J. Michael McConnell distanced himself from recent comments
in a magazine article indicating he considered waterboarding a form
of torture. The comments were taken out of context, he said.
"McConnell acknowledged the severity of the technique, saying that
'waterboarding, taken to its extreme, could be death.' But there are
scenarios in which it might be employed, he said."
Kiel of TPM Muckraker compares McConnell's statements yesterday with
what he told the New Yorker's
Yale Law Professor and blogger
Balkin interprets yesterday's testimony: "Translation: we
waterboarded, and we may want to do it again, and wouldn't like to
break the law, so don't prohibit it."
Balkin then explains: "The problem is that waterboarding is already
in violation of the anti-torture statute and the war crimes statute.
The only reason the Administration won't admit that is because of
self-serving OLC opinions that twisted the law precisely to avoid
concluding that the Administration engaged in torture and war crimes. . . .
"Attorney General Mukasey's argument last week that waterboarding is
not torture is based on OLC opinions that
distort statutory language. They argue that for something to be
torture, it is not enough that it is intended to inflict severe
physical or mental suffering, as the torture statute provides; it
must also inflict prolonged physical suffering, a requirement absent
from the text. Thus, under the OLC's reasoning, not only is
waterboarding not torture (because it causes suffering so severe no
one can stand it for very long), electric shocks to the genitals are
"This additional requirement is made up out of whole cloth, and it
has been constructed precisely to conclude that waterboarding is not
torture. This is not an interpretation on which reasonable minds can
differ; it is an unreasonable interpretation that has been chosen
precisely to absolve the executive of criminal responsibility and
accountability under the torture statute (and the war crimes statute,
even after it was limited by the Military Commissions Act of 2006).
The executive has acted as a judge in its own case in a way that
absolves it of having to obey the law. . . .
"It is worth recalling that at his recent hearings Attorney General
Mukasey refused to explain the legal basis for why the CIA
interrogation techniques (including waterboarding) are not illegal,
arguing that the legal explanations themselves are classified, so
that no one can know what the laws are."
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