US interrogation techniques received early approval, report suggests

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Yesterday, the United States Senate Armed Services Committee released a report containing previously-unreleased memos which conclude that CIA and Department of Defense officials were already exploring the use of "enhanced interrogation" techniques in early 2002, eight months before Justice Department lawyers approved their use. Also released yesterday was a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee confirming that Bush administration officials, including Condoleeza Rice and John Ashcroft, had backed such tactics in secret meetings through June 2002. In the days following Rice's approval, the Justice Department had given the legal rationale for the use of waterboarding against Abu Zubaydah.

The Armed Service Committee report also indicates that Pentagon officials consulted with the military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) as early as December 2001. Many of the techniques were reverse-engineered from the JPRA's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) program, which trains personnel to resist interrogation by enemies who use tactics banned by the Geneva Conventions.

The reports undermine claims made by several Bush-era officials that the leaked events of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay were the result of "bad apples" from the bottom of both the CIA and the Pentagon's command structure. Says Carl Levin, chair of the intelligence committee: "The paper trail on abuse leads to top civilian leaders, and our report connects the dots."


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