As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Building A Fact Pattern

I don't think you can debate whether or not to have an investigation on the Bush torture regime anymore, because the investigation is happening regardless. Jeffrey Smith and Peter Finn advance the ball in an article for tomorrow's paper. Little of this is new, but given the new revelations of the past week, it sets itself in proper context.

Condoleezza Rice, John D. Ashcroft and at least 10 other top Bush officials reviewed and approved as early as the summer of 2002 the CIA's use of harsh interrogation methods on detainees at secret prisons, including waterboarding that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has described as illegal torture, according to a detailed timeline furnished by Holder to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

At a moment when the Justice Department is deciding whether former officials who set interrogation policy or formulated the legal justifications for it should be investigated for committing crimes, the new timeline lists the members of the Bush administration who were present when the CIA's director and its general counsel explained exactly which questioning methods were to be used and how those sessions proceeded.

Rice gave a key early approval, when, as Bush's national security adviser, she met on July 17, 2002, with the CIA's then-director, George J. Tenet, and "advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaydah," subject to approval by the Justice Department, according to the timeline. Rice and four other White House officials had been briefed two months earlier on "alternative interrogation methods, including waterboarding," it states. Waterboarding is a technique that simulates drowning.

A year later, in July 2003, the CIA briefed Rice, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Attorney General Ashcroft, White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and National Security Council legal adviser John Bellinger on the use of waterboarding and other techniques, it states. They "reaffirmed that the CIA program was lawful and reflected administration policy."

This is the kind of article that results from the authors putting a bunch of index cards on the wall and moving them around. It's what Marcy Wheeler does best. And it suggests that the major news organizations are mapping this out and taking a long look at every granule of information.

By the way, Condi Rice gave that approval two weeks before the Bybee memo allowing the CIA to move forward on torturing Abu Zubaydah. She could have stopped this irrespective of the legal underpinnings. She had two months to determine whether waterboarding, a technique used since the Spanish Inquisition, was torture. She chose not to, and now she must be held to account as well.

I know the President doesn't want the responsibility for future investigations. He apparently quashed the idea of a Presidential-level Torture Commission. But he cannot stop the wheels now in motion. Congress will have their crack at an investigation, and the media will return to the issue. The Attorney General will have to make his own independent judgment. And the truth may yet out.

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