Torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere. We are committed to building a world where human rights are respected and protected by the rule of law. – George W Bush June 2003.
Part of a Senate Armed Services report on the use of interrogation tactics, widely considered by many to fall under the category of torture was released Tuesday.
Among other things it finds that the Bush/Cheney administration contemplated the use of such methods as early as December 2001. The report also found that then National Security Advisor Condelezza Rice in 2002 and surprise, surprise Dick Cheney approved the use of such methods. Contrary to the early talk by administration allies and supporters of such tactics that these methods would only be employed in the so-called “ticking time bomb scenario”, they were also used in an attempt to find intelligence linking the Al-Queda network with the government of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, despite agency claims that no alliance existed between the two. Nevertheless, the absence of any tangible results the administration grew more and more entrenched in their position and ordered those methods to be used more.
The use of abusive interrogation — widely considered torture — as part of Bush’s quest for a rationale to invade Iraq came to light as the Senate issued a major report tracing the origin of the abuses and President Barack Obama opened the door to prosecuting former U.S. officials for approving them.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who advocated the use of sleep deprivation, isolation and stress positions and waterboarding, which simulates drowning, insist that they were legal.
A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.
“There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,” the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.
“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”
It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.
“There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people to push harder,” he continued.
“Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies.”
Senior administration officials, however, “blew that off and kept insisting that we’d overlooked something, that the interrogators weren’t pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information,” he said.
Tragically the Bush/Cheney administration got their war, only to have the rest of America learn what the CIA had known, that there were no tangible links between the despotic government of Saddam Hussein and the violent extremism of Osama Bin Ladden.
Other findings include:
The CIA thought al Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah was withholding information about an imminent threat as of April 2002, but didn’t get authorization to use various interrogation techniques on him until more than three months later.
_ Key Senate Intelligence Committee members were briefed on the techniques used on Zubaydah and Khalid Sheik Mohammed in 2002 and 2003.
_ The Director of Central Intelligence in the spring of 2003 sought a reaffirmation of the legality of the interrogation methods. Cheney, Rice, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales were among those at a meeting where it was decided that the policies would continue. Rumsfeld and Powell weren’t.
_ The CIA briefed the Rumsfeld and Powell on interrogation techniques in September 2003.
_ Administration officials had ongoing concerns about the legality of waterboarding as they continued to justify its legitimacy.
A truly sad time in American History will be how this is recorded in the annals of history, when we did not live up to our ideals. Remember how the Bush/Cheney administration stated they would only employ such information in case of an immanent attack? While waterboarding someone 183 times to get information on a dubious Al-Queda Iraq link in order to go to war and substantiate allegations they made is not preventing an immanent attack. In that scenario it isn’t even a Defense or National Security issue. It is a political issue. They in short sold out the U.S image as a practitioner and advocate of human rights and liberties for decades to come, merely so they could enact their ideology. As wrong and morally repugnant as it would be they could at least claim they were doing it for reasons of safety if it was to obfuscate an attack on American shores, however to use it because they didn’t like what the detainee was saying doesn’t even have a fig leaf of morality and logic to it.