Secret memos reveal Bush administration endorsed enhanced interrogation techniques

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Classified memos have revealed that the Bush administration knowingly endorsed enhanced interrogation techniques including waterboarding and other methods, that critics call torture, for use against terror suspects.

The memos were issued to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 as classified documents in response to the department's former director George Tenet's request for White House approval. The administration responded to the concerns with explicit approval.

"The CIA believed then, and now, that the program was useful and helped save lives," commented a former CIA official, explaining the memos. "But in the agency's view, it was like this: 'We don't want to continue unless you tell us in writing that it's not only legal but is the policy of the administration'."

In private meetings led by then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, top administration officials Vice President Cheney, Attorney General Ashcroft and several former members of the administration discussed the endorsement of the programs. No one at the meetings had questioned the methods because the CIA had them "boxed in", a former official noted. "They were saying, 'It's the only way to get the information we needed, and — by the way — we think there's another attack coming up"."

Another official, however, called the idea that the CIA had coerced the Bush administration into approving the torture methods "ridiculous". The CIA, he said, understood the methods were "controversial and would be widely criticized if it became public".

Tenet said that in a 2001 meeting with top administration officials, Rice had warned those attending of an impending attack by a top Al-Qaeda suspect, Abu Zubaydah.

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Ron Suskind reported that Bush had become 'obsessed' with Abu Zubaydah and "fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell [him] the truth". Bush had asked a CIA staffer if the methods really worked.

Ashcroft had commented during the meetings that "history will not judge us kindly". Last month, Rice stated that there was concern over the legality of the program and that she was investigating if any laws had been broken.

Sources

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