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Bush Lawyers Discussed C.I.A.Tapes

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    White House lawyers were involved in discussions with the C.I.A. on its interrogation videotapes: Harriet Miers, John Bellinger, Alberto Gonzales and David
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 25, 2007
      White House lawyers were involved in discussions with the C.I.A. on
      its interrogation videotapes: Harriet Miers, John Bellinger, Alberto
      Gonzales and David Addington.

      Bush Lawyers Discussed Fate of C.I.A.Tapes
      December 19, 2007

      WASHINGTON — At least four top White House lawyers took part in
      discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005
      about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations
      of two operatives from Al Qaeda, according to current and former
      administration and intelligence officials.

      The accounts indicate that the involvement of White House officials in
      the discussions before the destruction of the tapes in November 2005
      was more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged.

      Those who took part, the officials said, included Alberto R. Gonzales,
      who served as White House counsel until early 2005; David S.
      Addington, who was the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and is
      now his chief of staff; John B. Bellinger III, who until January 2005
      was the senior lawyer at the National Security Council; and Harriet E.
      Miers, who succeeded Mr. Gonzales as White House counsel.

      It was previously reported that some administration officials had
      advised against destroying the tapes, but the emerging picture of
      White House involvement is more complex. In interviews, several
      administration and intelligence officials provided conflicting
      accounts as to whether anyone at the White House expressed support for
      the idea that the tapes should be destroyed.

      One former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the
      matter said there had been "vigorous sentiment" among some top White
      House officials to destroy the tapes. The former official did not
      specify which White House officials took this position, but he said
      that some believed in 2005 that any disclosure of the tapes could have
      been particularly damaging after revelations a year earlier of abuses
      at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

      Some other officials assert that no one at the White House advocated
      destroying the tapes. Those officials acknowledged, however, that no
      White House lawyer gave a direct order to preserve the tapes or
      advised that destroying them would be illegal.

      The destruction of the tapes is being investigated by the Justice
      Department, and the officials would not agree to be quoted by name
      while that inquiry is under way.

      Spokesmen for the White House, the vice president's office and the
      C.I.A. declined to comment for this article, also citing the inquiry.

      The new information came to light as a federal judge on Tuesday
      ordered a hearing into whether the tapes' destruction violated an
      order to preserve evidence in a lawsuit brought on behalf of 16
      prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The tapes documented harsh
      interrogation methods used in 2002 on Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim
      al-Nashiri, two Qaeda suspects in C.I.A. custody.

      The current and former officials also provided new details about the
      role played in November 2005 by Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., then the chief
      of the agency's clandestine branch, who ultimately ordered the
      destruction of the tapes.

      The officials said that before he issued a secret cable directing that
      the tapes be destroyed, Mr. Rodriguez received legal guidance from two
      C.I.A. lawyers, Steven Hermes and Robert Eatinger. The officials said
      that those lawyers gave written guidance to Mr. Rodriguez that he had
      the authority to destroy the tapes and that the destruction would
      violate no laws.

      The agency did not make either Mr. Hermes or Mr. Eatinger available
      for comment.

      Current and former officials said the two lawyers informed the
      C.I.A.'s top lawyer, John A. Rizzo, about the legal advice they had
      provided. But officials said Mr. Rodriguez did not inform either Mr.
      Rizzo or Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director, before he sent the cable
      to destroy the tapes.

      "There was an expectation on the part of those providing legal
      guidance that additional bases would be touched," said one government
      official with knowledge of the matter. "That didn't happen."

      Robert S. Bennett, a lawyer for Mr. Rodriguez, insisted that his
      client had done nothing wrong and suggested that Mr. Rodriguez had
      been authorized to order the destruction of the tapes. "He had a green
      light to destroy them," Mr. Bennett said.

      Until their destruction, the tapes were stored in a safe in the C.I.A.
      station in the country where the interrogations took place, current
      and former officials said. According to one former senior intelligence
      official, the tapes were never sent back to C.I.A. headquarters,
      despite what the official described as concern about keeping such
      highly classified material overseas.

      Top officials of the C.I.A's clandestine service had pressed
      repeatedly beginning in 2003 for the tapes' destruction, out of
      concern that they could leak and put operatives in both legal and
      physical jeopardy.

      The only White House official previously reported to have taken part
      in the discussions was Ms. Miers, who served as a deputy chief of
      staff to President Bush until early 2005, when she took over as White
      House counsel. While one official had said previously that Ms. Miers's
      involvement began in 2003, other current and former officials said
      they did not believe she joined the discussions until 2005.

      Besides the Justice Department inquiry, the Congressional intelligence
      committees have begun investigations into the destruction of the
      tapes, and are looking into the role that officials at the White House
      and Justice Department might have played in discussions about them.
      The C.I.A. never provided the tapes to federal prosecutors or to the
      Sept. 11 commission, and some lawmakers have suggested that their
      destruction may have amounted to obstruction of justice.

      Newsweek reported this week that John D. Negroponte, who was director
      of national intelligence at the time the tapes were destroyed, sent a
      memorandum in the summer of 2005 to Mr. Goss, the C.I.A. director,
      advising him against destroying the tapes. Mr. Negroponte left the job
      this year to become deputy secretary of state, and a spokesman for the
      director of national intelligence declined to comment on the Newsweek

      The court hearing in the Guantánamo case, set for Friday in Washington
      by District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. over the government's
      objections, will be the first public forum in which officials submit
      to questioning about the tapes' destruction.

      There is no publicly known connection between the 16 plaintiffs — 14
      Yemenis, an Algerian and a Pakistani — and the C.I.A. videotapes. But
      lawyers in several Guantánamo cases contend that the government may
      have used information from the C.I.A. interrogations to identify their
      clients as "unlawful combatants" and hold them at Guantánamo for as
      long as six years.

      "We hope to establish a procedure to review the government's handling
      of evidence in our case," said David H. Remes, a lawyer representing
      the 16 detainees.

      Jonathan Hafetz, who represents a Qatari prisoner at Guantánamo and
      filed a motion on Tuesday seeking a separate hearing, said the
      videotapes could well be relevant.

      "If the government is relying on the statement of a witness under
      harsh interrogation, a videotape of the interrogation would be very
      relevant," said Mr. Hafetz, of the Brennan Center for Justice at New
      York University law school.

      In addition to the Guantánamo court filings, the American Civil
      Liberties Union has asked a federal judge to hold the C.I.A. in
      contempt of court for destroying the tapes. The A.C.L.U. says the
      destruction violated orders in a Freedom of Information Act case
      brought by several advocacy groups seeking materials related to
      detention and interrogation.

      David Johnston contributed reporting.


      U.N. rights envoy suspects CIA of Guantanamo torture
      By Stephanie Nebehay
      Thu Dec 13, 2007

      GENEVA (Reuters) - A United Nations investigator said on Thursday he
      strongly suspected the CIA of using torture on terrorism suspects at
      Guantanamo Bay, suggesting many were not being prosecuted to keep the
      abuse from emerging at trial.

      On a visit to the U.S. detention centre in Cuba last week, Martin
      Scheinin, U.N. special rapporteur on protecting human rights while
      countering terrorism, attended a pre-trial hearing of Salim Ahmed
      Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's former driver.

      Scheinin said U.S. officials had told him that of the roughly 300
      detainees currently held at Guantanamo, 80 were expected to face
      military trials for suspected crimes. Another 80 inmates had been
      cleared for release, he said.

      No decision had been made to either prosecute or release the remaining
      150, including many so-called "high value" detainees, he said. Some
      have been held six years without trial.

      "There is not enough evidence that could be presented, even to a
      military commission chaired by a military judge. Partly there may not
      be evidence and partly the risk of issues of torture being raised is
      too high," Sheinin told a news briefing.

      "Bringing them to court would bring to the court's attention the
      method through which the evidence, including the confessions, were
      obtained. So this is one further affirmation of the conclusion that
      the CIA or others have been involved in methods of interrogation that
      are incompatible with international law," he said.

      U.S. President George W. Bush insists that the United States does not
      engage in torture but has refused to disclose what interrogation
      methods are used at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

      In all, 800 people have been held at the Guantanamo prison since it
      opened in January 2002, Scheinin said. The White House contends the
      naval base is outside U.S. territory so constitutional protections do
      not apply.

      Scheinin told the U.N. Human Rights Council on Wednesday that his
      Guantanamo visit had stoked his concerns about the fairness of trials
      conducted there. The U.S. delegation rejected his remarks as partly
      "misleading" and rehashing old criticisms.


      Hamdan's hearing was held to determine whether he is an enemy
      combatant who can be tried on war crimes charges in a U.S. military
      tribunal. He has acknowledged working for bin Laden but denies being a
      member of al Qaeda or taking part in attacks, including the 2001
      attacks on New York and Washington.

      Military prosecutors denied a request by his defense lawyers to call
      senior al Qaeda suspects as witnesses to testify on Hamdan's role,
      according to Scheinin.

      "This is illustrative of the tightness of the regime in which the high
      value detainees are held, which of course gives further suspicion to
      the inference that they have in their possession information
      concerning the interrogation techniques used upon them, which must not
      come into daylight," he said.

      "And therefore their prosecution even before the military commissions
      is excluded for the time being," Scheinin added.

      The Finnish law professor also voiced concern at the recent revelation
      that the CIA had destroyed videotapes in 2005 that recorded al Qaeda
      suspects undergoing waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique,
      which he said amounted to torture.

      "The destruction of video tapes on CIA interrogations is one more
      argument that supports the contention that the CIA has been involved
      and continues to be involved in the use of interrogation techniques
      that violate the absolute prohibition against torture," he said.



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