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

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Dark Side

I thought this was a known known, but WaPo treats it like a scoop - Dick Cheney sat in on CIA briefings about torture in 2005.

Former vice president Richard B. Cheney personally oversaw at least four briefings with senior members of Congress about the controversial interrogation program, part of a secretive and forceful defense he mounted throughout 2005 in an effort to maintain support for the harsh techniques used on detainees.

The Cheney-led briefings came at some of the most critical moments for the program, as congressional oversight committees were threatening to investigate or even terminate the techniques, according to lawmakers, congressional officials, and current and former intelligence officials [...]

The CIA made no mention of his role in documents delivered to Capitol Hill last month that listed every lawmaker who had been briefed on "enhanced interrogation techniques" since 2002. For meetings that were overseen by Cheney, the agency told the intelligence committees that information about who oversaw those briefings was "not available."

Several members of Congress who took part in the Cheney meetings declined to comment on them, citing secrecy concerns. But there was little doubt that he was leading the charge on the issue.

"His office was ground zero. It was his office you dealt with at the end of the day," recalled Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who jousted with Cheney over the system of interrogations.

As Greg Sargent notes, you can just go ahead and throw those CIA documents right in the garbage. Enough errors have been found in them that I could write up something more plausibly just by going through old blog posts.

Remember what was going on around 2005. Republicans on the Hill were revolting after allegations of torture started reaching the mainstream. Lindsey Graham and John Warner and John McCain wanted to ban the practice. Democrats were calling for a full-scale investigation. These sessions, as I read them, were basically designed to keep the Republican caucus on board with the policy. They were in charge of Congress at the time, and they could shut down any probes into the torture regime. You can see that at work in the one briefing described at length:

One of the most critical Cheney-led briefings came in late October 2005, when the vice president and Porter J. Goss, then director of the CIA, read Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) into the program on the interrogation methods, according to congressional and intelligence sources.

One knowledgeable official described the meeting as contentious. Cheney and Goss, with other CIA officials present, tried to persuade the former Vietnam POW to back off an anti-torture amendment that had already won the support of 90 senators.

The McCain amendment would have ended practices such as waterboarding by forbidding "cruel, degrading and inhumane" treatment of detainees. The CIA had not used waterboarding since 2003, but the White House sought to maintain the ability to employ it.

In the meetings with lawmakers, Cheney was adamant that the enhanced interrogations were needed to preserve national security, according to two participants. He advocated briefing more lawmakers about the program, against the wishes of National Security Council officials who sought to inform only the top members of the intelligence committees.

Lawmakers at times challenged Cheney and CIA officials about the legality of the program and pressed for specific results that would show whether the techniques worked. In response, the CIA briefers said that half of the agency's knowledge about al-Qaeda's plans and structure had been obtained through the interrogations.

In case you needed more evidence that the CIA lies to Congress. Just the fact that they hid Cheney's involvement in these briefings is an example of that.

Marcy Wheeler reports on a couple other interesting parts of the story:

First, the WaPo reports that Jello Jay pushed for an investigation, but Pat Roberts quashed it. I guess that explains why Roberts is so quiet now. But in case anyone wanted any more affirmation that Democrats opposed torture and Republicans sustained it, there's yet one more data point.

And then yet another Gitmo trip for Addington, this time with some Senators in tow. Was this an all-Republican affair as well? The question is particularly relevant, since Lindsey Graham has helpfully reminded us that all these Republican-only briefings are proof of criminal intent. Or was it just Graham, McCain and the few other anti-torture Republicans, off on a field trip to be coerced by Cheney's right hand man?

If anyone needed yet more proof that torture was Cheney's baby, his active lobbying of Congress--hidden as "CIA briefings"--ought to do the trick.

Hopefully the Post will develop this angle in future articles. For now, we know that Dick Cheney was the torture lobbyist, he worked with the CIA to shut down any investigation, and the CIA lies to Congress.

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