A Senate Intelligence Committee document has revealed that when Condoleezza Rice was Bush’s National Security Adviser she personally verbally approved the CIA’s request to use water-boarding to subject alleged al-Qaida terrorist Abu Zubaydah to water-boarding in July 2002. This is the earliest known decision by a Bush administration official to approve use of water-boarding.
The report gives a detailed timeline of how the CIA’s violent “enhanced interrogation” techniques was conceived and approved at the highest levels in the Bush White House. The timeline also shows that Rice played a greater role than she admitted last fall in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
While there have long been suspicions that the White House was involved in the decision, the actions have until now been blamed on the CIA and unnamed officials at the Pentagon.
The report describes a meeting between Dick Cheney, then-CIA Director George Tenet and Dr. Rice in July 2002. The Secretary of State “advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation” of alleged al-Qaeda terrorist Abu Zubaydah, the report said.
In 2003, the CIA briefed Dr. Rice, Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft — the then Attorney General — on the use of water-boarding and other methods including week-long sleep deprivation, forced nudity and the use of stress positions. The Senate report says that officials “reaffirmed that the CIA program was lawful and reflected administration policy”.
CIA memos released by President Obama’s administration last week revealed that Mr. Zubaydah was water-boarded at least 83 times in the course of one month and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad who claimed to have planned the September 11 attacks was water-boarded183 times in one month.
Experts have said that water-boarding is so horrific that even the most hardened terrorists have not been able to stand it for more than a minute without begging to talk.
The Intelligence Committee’s timeline comes just a day after the Senate Armed Services Committee released an exhaustive report detailing direct links between the CIA’s harsh interrogation program and abuses of prisoners at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in Afghanistan and at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
Last fall, Dr. Rice acknowledged to the Senate Armed Services Committee only that she had attended meetings where the CIA interrogation request was discussed, and asked for the attorney general to conduct a legal review. She said that she did not recall the details. Dr. Rice omitted her direct role in approving the program in her written statement to the committee. A spokesman for Dr. Rice has declined to comment.
Days after Rice gave Tenet her approval the Justice Department approved the use of water-boarding in a top secret August 1st memo. Mr. Zubaydah underwent water-boarding at least 83 times in August 2002.
In the years that followed, according to the Senate report, there were numerous internal legal reviews of the program since government attorneys apparently raised concerns that the harsh methods, particularly water-boarding, might violate federal laws against torture and the US Constitution but Bush administration lawyers continued to approve the program.
The CIA voluntarily dropped the use of water-boarding from its arsenal of techniques after 2005.
Last week, Dennis Blair, the Obama administration’s top intelligence official, privately told intelligence employees that “high value information” was obtained through the harsh interrogation techniques. But on Tuesday, in a written statement, Blair said, “the information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means.”
The recent disclosures about US interrogation policy have fuelled demands for a more formal prosecutorial examination of the actions of the Bush Administration.
President Obama has consistently stated that it would be wrong to pursue CIA interrogators who obeyed legal guidance but there is a growing outcry from human rights groups for serious legal action such as prison time.
There are so many critically significant issues in America today that President Obama and his cabinet and his team of players need to be focused on that I personally don’t believe that the Obama Administration needs to focus on prosecuting anyone from the Bush Administration – let someone else do it.
Because of the release of all these memos and the Senate Intelligence Committee document, it will perpetually be recorded in history what these individuals did and they will have to live with public disdain for the rest of their lives. They should be prosecuted but it doesn’t have to be by Obama.
In the meantime activists in both Spain and Germany are already pushing for the prosecution of Bush Administration officials. They can use “universal jurisdiction” often used to prosecute foreign nationals for crimes that shock the conscience of the global community.
What is water-boarding?
Water-boarding is a form of torture that consists of immobilizing the victim on his or her back with their head inclined downwards, and then water is poured over the face and into the breathing passages.
The method makes the person experience a sense of suffocation when they inhale the water and experiences a sense of drowning. Water-boarding has been used as torture as early as during the Spanish Inquisition (1478).
Water-boarding can cause extreme pain, dry drowning, damage to lungs, brain damage from oxygen deprivation, permanent psychological damages, broken bones cased from struggling against restraints and even death.