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Cheney, others OK'd harsh interrogations

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080410/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/interrogation_tactics;_ylt=ArKsWr5NM6krTJKnKkxbzpKs0NUE Cheney, others OK d harsh interrogations By LARA
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 10, 2008
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080410/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/interrogation_tactics;_ylt=ArKsWr5NM6krTJKnKkxbzpKs0NUE

      Cheney, others OK'd harsh interrogations

      By LARA JAKES JORDAN and PAMELA HESS, Associated Press
      Writer 37 minutes ago

      WASHINGTON - Bush administration officials from Vice
      President Dick 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 where CIA interrogation
      methods, including waterboarding, which simulates
      drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved.

      A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar
      with the meetings described them Thursday to the AP to
      confirm details first reported by ABC News on
      Wednesday. The intelligence official spoke on
      condition of anonymity because he was not authorized
      to publicly discuss the issue.

      Between 2002 and 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-Qaida detainees, the former official
      said.

      The meetings were held in the White House Situation
      Room in the years immediately following the Sept. 11
      attacks. Attending the sessions were then-Bush aides
      Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State
      Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and national
      security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

      The White House, Justice and State departments and the
      CIA refused comment Thursday, as did a spokesman for
      Tenet. A message for Ashcroft was not immediately
      returned.

      Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., lambasted what he
      described as "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?" Kennedy said in a
      statement. "Long after President Bush has left office,
      our country will continue to pay the price for his
      administration's renegade repudiation of the rule of
      law and fundamental human rights."

      The American Civil Liberties Union called on Congress
      to investigate.

      "With each new revelation, it is beginning to look
      like the torture operation was managed and directed
      out of the White House," ACLU legislative director
      Caroline Fredrickson said. "This is what we suspected
      all along."

      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-Qaida detainees would undergo. The
      principals eventually authorized physical abuse such
      as slaps and pushes, sleep deprivation, or
      waterboarding. This technique involves strapping a
      person down and pouring water over his cloth-covered
      face to create the sensation of drowning.

      The small group then asked the Justice Department to
      examine whether using the interrogation methods would
      break domestic or international laws.

      "No one at the agency wanted to operate under a notion
      of winks and nods and assumptions that everyone
      understood what was being talked about," said a second
      former senior intelligence official. "People wanted to
      be assured that everything that was conducted was
      understood and approved by the folks in the chain of
      command."

      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.

      The second former senior intelligence official said
      rescinding the memos caused the CIA to seek even more
      detailed approvals for the interrogations.

      The department issued another still-secret memo in
      October 2001 that, in part, sought to outline novel
      ways the military could be used domestically to defend
      the country in the face of an impending attack. The
      Justice Department so far has refused to release it,
      citing attorney-client privilege, and Attorney General
      Michael Mukasey declined to describe it Thursday at a
      Senate panel where Democrats characterized it as a
      "torture memo."

      Not all of the principals who attended were fully
      comfortable with the White House meetings.

      The ABC News report portrayed Ashcroft as troubled by
      the discussions, despite agreeing that the
      interrogations methods were legal.

      "Why are we talking about this in the White House?"
      the network quoted Ashcroft as saying during one
      meeting. "History will not judge this kindly."

      ___

      Associated Press writer Pete Yost contributed to this
      report.

      ___

      On the Net:

      CIA: http://www.usdoj.gov/olc/
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