Today we’re releasing the declassified report of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s investigation into the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. […] In my judgment, the report represents a condemnation of both the Bush administration’s interrogation policies and of senior administration officials who attempted to shift the blame for abuse – such as that seen at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and Afghanistan – to low ranking soldiers. Claims, such as that made by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz that detainee abuses could be chalked up to the unauthorized acts of a “few bad apples,” were simply false.
(ChattahBox)—The Senate Armed Services Committee released a blistering report on Tuesday, condemning senior level Bush administration officials who either authorized or created “the legal and operational framework” for their shameful, harsh interrogation abuses of detainees.
The report points to culpability at the highest levels of the Bush administration, including President Bush himself, who set the climate for abuse by claiming the Geneva Conventions did not apply to terrorist detainees. Next in line is former Vice President Cheney who implored the administration to turn to the “dark side” to deal with terrorists after 9/11.
White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales referred to the Geneva Conventions as “quaint,” as well as providing legal cover for Bush administration officials and CIA agents to sanction torture.
[Former defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s] written authorization of 15 interrogation techniques used by the military in its SERE training, to prepare soldiers for harsh interrogation techniques used by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions, was used to sanction detainee abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo.
Some of these SERE techniques authorized by Rumsfeld, included keeping detainees naked, placing them in stress positions, putting hoods over their heads, face and body slaps, sleep deprivation, slamming them against a wall, confinement in a small box, treating them like animals, subjecting them to loud music and flashing lights, exposure to extreme temperatures and until just recently, waterboarding.
The disgusting trail of Rumsfeld’s memo is as follows, first it was used to sanction abuses at Gitmo, next a special-operations military lawyer in Afghanistan used it to approve detainee abuse, next the depraved memo was delivered into the hands of an officer of a special-operations unit in Iraq who changed the letterhead and proceeded to employ the SERE interrogation techniques.
Rumsfeld’s memo was then delivered to the head interrogation officer at Abu Ghraib prison, where stress positions, sleep management and military dogs were used to abuse prisoners.
Senator Levin is formally recommending Attorney General Holder pursue investigations of detainee abuses, by appointing an independent investigator to “establish accountability of high-level officials–including lawyers.”
From the Kansas City Star (McClatchy):
A newly declassified narrative of the Bush administration’s advice to the CIA on harsh interrogations shows that the small group of Justice Department lawyers who wrote memos authorizing controversial interrogation techniques were operating not on their own but with direction from top administration officials, including then-Vice President Dick Cheney and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
At the same time, the narrative suggests that then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell were largely left out of the decision-making process.
The drafting of the narrative began last summer, at the prompting of [Senate Intelligence Committee’s former chairman, Sen. Jay] Rockefeller. The Senate Intelligence Committee staff drafted the document, with heavy input from the Bush administration, in a multi-department effort largely coordinated through the Director of National Intelligence’s office.
Bush’s National Security Council, however, refused to declassify it.
Obama’s national security adviser, James L. Jones, signed off on its release last week and the Senate panel cleared it Tuesday.
Among other details, the narrative shows that:
-The CIA thought al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah was withholding information about an imminent threat as of April 2002, but it 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 […] 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.
Meanwhile, Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut wrote to Obama urging him not to prosecute Bush officials who offered legal advice about CIA interrogations.
While the senators deemed some of the legal analyses “deeply flawed,” they said that criminalizing bad legal opinions “would have a deeply chilling effect on the ability of lawyers in any administration to provide their client – the U.S. government – with their best legal advice.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Wednesday reiterated his call for an independent “truth commission” to examine the interrogations, and said that if Republicans wouldn’t go along with the bipartisan commission, he’d seek an investigation through the Senate.