From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 — President Bush, reacting to a Congressional uproar over the disclosure of secret Justice Department legal opinions permitting the harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects, defended the methods on Friday, declaring, “This government does not torture people.”
Without confirming the existence of the memorandums or discussing the explicit techniques they authorized, Mr. Bush said the interrogation methods had been “fully disclosed to appropriate members of Congress.”
But his comments only provoked another round of recriminations on Capitol Hill, as Democrats ratcheted up their demands to see the classified memorandums, first reported Thursday by The New York Times.
“The administration can’t have it both ways,” Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement after the president’s remarks. “I’m tired of these games. They can’t say that Congress has been fully briefed while refusing to turn over key documents used to justify the legality of the program.”
In two separate legal opinions written in 2005, the Justice Department authorized the C.I.A. to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.
The memorandums were written just months after a Justice Department opinion in December 2004 declared torture “abhorrent.”
Administration officials have confirmed the existence of the classified opinions, but will not make them public, saying only that they approved techniques that were “tough, safe, necessary and lawful.”
The administration has been extremely careful with information about the C.I.A. program, which had been reported in the news media but was, officially at least, a secret until Mr. Bush himself publicly disclosed its existence in September 2006.
At the time, the president confirmed that the C.I.A. had held 14 high-profile terrorism suspects — including the man thought to be the mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — in secret prisons, but said the detainees had been transferred to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The 2005 Justice Department opinions form the legal underpinning for the program. On Friday, the director of the C.I.A., Gen. Michael V. Hayden also defended the program, in an e-mail message to agency employees.
The Bush administration does not condone torture.
Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, said so today.
“The policy of the United States is not to torture,” she said. “The president has not authorized it, he will not authorize it.”
She also declined to comment on specific questions about why the Justice Department reportedly had authorized head-slapping, fake drownings and freezings in the interrogation of suspected terrorists. But she did say that Americans want the government to protect them.
Well, if Dana the White House
Spokesmodel Press Secretary says so! Anyone else?
From The Carpetbagger Report:
The president’s aides fanned out to deny, defend, and spin the revelations, but for my money, the most impressive argument came by way of Frances Fragos Townsend.
White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend also dismissed objections to the CIA program yesterday, saying during an appearance on CNN that al-Qaeda members are trained to resist harsh interrogations. She said that “we start with the least harsh measures first” and stop the progression “if someone becomes cooperative.”
Now, this is amazing for a couple of reasons. First, the notion of being trained to resist drownings has always seemed rather far-fetched. Unless al Qaeda has figured out a way to equip terrorists with gills, there isn’t much anyone can do to prepare for waterboarding.
But it’s that second part that’s particularly noteworthy. As Townsend described it, on national television, the painful physical and psychological tactics, which are unlawful, are suspended when the a detainee “becomes cooperative.” In other words, “We stop torturing when we get what we want out of the suspect.”
That’s not a defense for abuse; that’s insane. Townsend is arguing that we stop torturing people after they give us the intelligence we’ve beaten out of them? That’s supposed to make us feel better about abusive, illegal interrogation techniques?