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Bush Memos OK’d CIA Torture

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Posted on Oct 15, 2008
Tenet Bush

Former CIA Director George Tenet, second from left, wanted a paper trail that connected his agency’s torture techniques to White House request and approval.

Two recently disclosed memos from 2003 and 2004 show the Bush administration giving CIA torture techniques, most famously waterboarding, an explicit executive nod after worries arose in the intelligence community about the legality of the treatment of detainees.

The Washington Post:

The Bush administration issued a pair of secret memos to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 that explicitly endorsed the agency’s use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding against al-Qaeda suspects—documents prompted by worries among intelligence officials about a possible backlash if details of the program became public.

The classified memos, which have not been previously disclosed, were requested by then-CIA Director George J. Tenet more than a year after the start of the secret interrogations, according to four administration and intelligence officials familiar with the documents. Although Justice Department lawyers, beginning in 2002, had signed off on the agency’s interrogation methods, senior CIA officials were troubled that White House policymakers had never endorsed the program in writing.

The memos were the first—and, for years, the only—tangible expressions of the administration’s consent for the CIA’s use of harsh measures to extract information from captured al-Qaeda leaders, the sources said. As early as the spring of 2002, several White House officials, including then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Cheney, were given individual briefings by Tenet and his deputies, the officials said. Rice, in a statement to congressional investigators last month, confirmed the briefings and acknowledged that the CIA director had pressed the White House for “policy approval.”

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By cyrena, October 16, 2008 at 9:34 pm Link to this comment

Well KDelphi,

I guess the term ‘we got him’ probably is relative.

He certainly ‘cheated’ his victims by dying in prison, and the same could be said of Milosevic. But, he WAS extradited by Spain, when when in fact that was never expected. So for the Chileans, there was at least a PART of the justice that they needed.

Here’s an excerpt from “Exorcising Terror: The Incredible Unending Trial of Augusto Pinochet
Seven Stories Press

I happen to be here in London on this twenty-fourth day of March 1999, when the pivotal, determining moment in the Pinochet saga is enacted.

I have flown in from Belfast this morning for an authors luncheon, but I am wrested away from the second course—and that fish dish looked so succulent!—by the need to attend the next phase in the trial. Feeling, I must admit, a faint sense of absurd superiority over my merely literary colleagues who stay behind for the dessert. After all, they don’t have their own dictator in the dock, his fate about to be announced to the world. And Diane Dixon, of the Victor Jara Foundation, has arranged for Labour Parliamentarians to sneak Angélica and me in to the House of Lords where the verdict regarding Pinochet’s extradition is about to be revealed.

What? The House of Lords? Again? Hadn’t the Law Lords already determined this matter five months ago?
Well, yes and no.

Remember Lord Hoffmann and his brief, tie-breaking concurrence at the end of last year’s November 25 session that overturned the High Court’s previous determination that Pinochet, as a former head of state, was immune from prosecution in Spain and England?

A few days after that historic three-to-two ruling, the General’s lawyers asked the House of Lords to annul Lord Hoffmann’s vote on the grounds that he was biased against the plaintiff, because of his ties to Amnesty International. Lord Hoffmann had not publicly revealed that he was the (unpaid) honorary chairman of that human rights group’s independent charitable arm, nor that he represented Amnesty in 1980, nor that his wife, Gillian, had been working in Amnesty’s press office since 1977. A different panel of five Law Lords, headed by Lord Browne-Wilkinson, decided to accept the complaint and then ruled, after several days of further hearings, that, rather than cancel Lord Hoffmann’s vote, which would have, in effect, left standing the lower Court’s decision favorable to Pinochet, they would hold a new set of hearings by seven new Law Lords. This decision to overturn a previous judgment was unprecedented: The only time in all its history that the House of Lords had even deigned to hear a petition for reversal of a pronouncement by their colleagues had been in 1823 and in that case—dealing with property rights—they had declined to set aside the previous ruling. In this instance, however, Lord Browne-Wilkinson and his fellow peers had unanimously considered that the Pinochet case was of such import that there was a supreme need for transparency and impartiality. They were not moved by the arguments of Garzón’s lawyers who pointed out that Lord Hoffmann had made rulings in the past in favor of upholding the death penalty, even if that went against Amnesty’s charter, or that the attorneys defending Pinochet had themselves contributed to Amnesty in the past, or that those same attorneys had always known of Lord Hoffmann’s connections to that human rights organization and had not raised any original objection to his presence on the panel (in order, rumors suggest, to be able to assail his judgment if it went against them).

The rest at the link

So yeah, from a rule of law standpoint, it was a victory.

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By KDelphi, October 16, 2008 at 8:47 pm Link to this comment

I dont know—“we” sortve “got” Pinochet—but he never realy paid a price and died at 91 with $28 million.

The UK sent him back to Chile’, and the Chileans courts kept pressing the charges, dropping them, etc. unti he was dead. That was what I thought anyway.

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By cyrena, October 16, 2008 at 8:41 pm Link to this comment

By PatrickHenry, October 16 at 5:11 pm #

By cyrena, October 16 at 5:04 pm #

I don’t know if the MCA could pass Supreme Court judgement regarding ex post facto law.


You’ve got a point Patrickhenry, except of course the MCA connects to all of the rest… (Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U. S. 507,Rasul v. Bush, 542 U. S. 466,)and more.

In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U. S. 557, the Court said this…

“.. MCA §7(b) provides that the 2241(e) amendments “shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act, and shall apply to all cases, without exception, pending on or after [that] date … which relate to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of detention of an alien detained … since September 11, 2001.”

It gets even tricker with Boumediene. And while ALL of these cases deal with habeas corpus, any decisions that recognize the validity of the MCA do so retroactively, and as a legislative side, cover the criminals asses.

“..Because the two paragraphs’ structure implies that habeas is a type of action “relating to any aspect of … detention,” etc., pending habeas actions are in the category of cases subject to the statute’s jurisdictional bar. This is confirmed by the MCA’s legislative history. Thus, if MCA §7 is valid, petitioners’ cases must be dismissed. Pp. 5–8.

This is the Boumediene decision, but it links to the others as well.

Since this hasn’t come up in conjunction with any use of the War Crimes legislation, it’s really hard to know how ex post facto would figure in. I can’t pretend to even guess, specifically with the razor edge configuration of the current Supreme Court.

Still, nothing would surprise me. Not now. That was the intended purpose of the MCA (to cover their asses after the fact) just as was the John Yoo and other memos from the OLC.

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By PatrickHenry, October 16, 2008 at 6:11 pm Link to this comment

By cyrena, October 16 at 5:04 pm #

I don’t know if the MCA could pass Supreme Court judgement regarding ex post facto law.

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By cyrena, October 16, 2008 at 6:04 pm Link to this comment

On the pardons…

Revisit the Military Commissions Act. This piece of legislation basically ALREADY COVERS (legally) their asses. (whomever mentioned the cart before the horse had it theoretically correct). The MCA makes all of their worst crimes retroactively legal, not unlike the reformatted FISA legislation, except that I think we can all agree that torture, illegal detention, kiddnapping, and illegal military agression against another sovereign state are probably worse than spying and data mining. (if we really had to prioritize such crimes). The Military Commissions Act lets them off the hook for all of it, and it is a CHENEY creation, via David Addington, the same way that all of the signing statements are. More signing statements than ALL PREVIOUS PRESIDENTS COMBINED!!

One of the first things that needs to be accomplished in a new Admin is to make each and every one of those signing statements public.
Meantime, Vincent Bugliosi has laid out a case to try Bush for murder, and it’s a strong one.

Here’s another Amy Goodman/Juan Gonzalez interview with Bugliosi

Finally, this Vermont prosecutor/candidate has indicated that she is willing to do the prosecution.

The International Community can also go after them. (we got Pinochet and Milosevic) so that too is another avenue.

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By PatrickHenry, October 16, 2008 at 4:18 pm Link to this comment

Another black eye forgotten.

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By KDelphi, October 16, 2008 at 4:16 pm Link to this comment

Patrick—He did it with Scooter, didnt he? He wasnt indicted yet—have I got that wrong?

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By PatrickHenry, October 16, 2008 at 4:13 pm Link to this comment

By Inherit The Wind, October 16 at 12:38 pm #

Can Bush issue pardons even if the conspirators haven’t been indicted?  Kind of Cart before the horse.

I don’t think “W” can do anything Jan 21. except run for his life.

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By KDelphi, October 16, 2008 at 2:28 pm Link to this comment

Inherit—I dont have much faith that anything will happen, either. Where did you find this stuff? I would be very interested . Thanks.

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By Inherit The Wind, October 16, 2008 at 1:38 pm Link to this comment

Smoking gun indeed!
Watch: On January 19, 2009, Bush will issue a blizzard of blanket pardons to EVERYONE in his administration, like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Liddy, Wolfawitz, Gonzalez, etc.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries to issue a blanket pardon to George W. Bush as well! (to cover his own backside)  The Constitution is VERY vague on this, simply limiting the pardoning power with the one exception of impeachment—he can’t pardon someone out of an impeachment.

Congress COULD impeach him in the last 2 weeks, when they have a solid Democratic majority, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen.

Of course, Presidential pardons do not supersede international law, or the International Tribunal at The Hague….

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By Fahrenheit 451, October 16, 2008 at 5:58 am Link to this comment

@ skulz fontaine;
Tomas de Torquemada
“He is known for his zealous campaign against the crypto-Jews and crypto-Muslims of Spain. He was one of the chief supporters of the Alhambra Decree, which expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492.”

Jeez, you make me work so hard.  Good one.  Worth it, thanks.

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By Fahrenheit 451, October 16, 2008 at 5:51 am Link to this comment

@ PatrickHenry;
Que Bono?
It certainly wasn’t OBL….
Who benefits; good question.  Maybe OBL, Bush, Neo-cons and all who are really the “masters of the universe” at least in their own minds.  Certainly we are the victims of 9/11, the power brokers certainly are not the victims!  Hell, we’ve just had the “Greatest Robbery in Human History” in the last few weeks.
Que Bono? Yeah, good question and I would look to Occam’s Razor (“All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.”) for the answer.

That’s all I’ve got for now.

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By swipe, October 16, 2008 at 5:05 am Link to this comment

I watched Amy Goodman’s show,‘Democracy Now,’ this morning. Because it’s a good show which keeps you informed, I tend to watch it most mornings these days. It also mentioned about how the Bush administration secretly approved interrogation techniques such as waterboarding since 2003. No surprise there.
More interesting to note, the programme also mentioned how Bush recently rejected a clause restricting the control of Iraqi oil. No surprise there either.
How many clauses has Bush approved or rejected to be signed into law? Well, the figure is staggering: 1,100 statements, “more than double any previous president,” ‘Democracy Now’ declared.
How phenomenal! how incredible! what a record!! brill, that was; something to be really proud of when he leaves office.
“And while we’re at it, why not sign yet another clause overturning the inflexibility of a president having two terms in office. After all, this is my office and my building. No one else has the right to be president, and I want a model of the building made out of cake and coated in white icing sugar, and I want someone to carry me around on a silver platter or in a sedan chair.”

S-e-r-i-o-u-s-l-y though, this tells you enough about the Bush presidency, the Bush white house and the Bush administration; something that has abused executive power for most of it, and about a spoilt guy who has abused privilege for most of his life.
Extracting confessions under torture from al-Quaida suspects, innocent or guilty, true or false, is of course a convenient cover-up to ‘justify’ Bush’s real roguish agenda.

Bringing the perpetrators to justice is, of course, another matter in what is the climate of the times, a climate of crookery, chicanery, cronyism, lying and getting away with it. The others are just as palpable as Bush: “I can whiz myself away to somewhere where no one can touch me. Isn’t that great?

But the climate - perhaps irreversible - isn’t all that bad, you know. You get to a passport which enables you to travel the world and to teach English in faraway places, and to watch ‘Democracy Now’ although ineffective, is a good show. After all, it keeps folks informed.

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By hippy pam, October 16, 2008 at 4:59 am Link to this comment


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By PatrickHenry, October 16, 2008 at 3:53 am Link to this comment

By Fahrenheit 451, October 16 at 2:47 am #

Que Bono?

It certainly wasn’t OBL who’s been dead since Tora Bora.  He and Al Queda was a creation of the CIA anyway.  They keep him alive to justify more spending and keep the populace in fear.  It’s easier to strip the Bill of Rights away that way.

I have yet to see any objective proof that the Governments version of 9/11 is true or even plausible.

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By Fahrenheit 451, October 16, 2008 at 3:47 am Link to this comment

Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda attack on the U.S. was far more successful and exceeded expectations exponentially.  The real damage to America wasn’t physical; it went far deeper, into the dark places in our psyche, into our core values, into our fears.  We have been injured in the worse way; psychologically damaged the same way the prisoners at GITMO who have been tortured and dehumanized.  Worse yet; the beasts in charge have used these tragic events to exploit us for their gain, so we have become the perfect victims.  My only question is; how long will we keep playing the victim?  My answer is; when we demand, and get, a reckoning!  No reckoning, no healing!

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By Claus-Erik Hamle, October 16, 2008 at 3:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

They have made the same (or even worse) decisions than the Nazis. They should NOT get away with it !
They belong in the Hague International Criminal Court for Torture, kidnapping, killings, WAR CRIMES.
President Bush should be arrested on leaving office.

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By cyrena, October 16, 2008 at 2:55 am Link to this comment

I read these comments with such a heavy heart, because this information was available (because many of us dared go after it) so very long ago.

And yes…we were ridiculed, and condemned as ‘unpatriotic’. We lost our jobs, and our pensions, and all of the rest…for taking the high road…and recognizing the law, and the respect for the Constitution, and International Law.

We’ve spent time in the briggs, (Ehren Watada…most of you probably don’t even know the name, or the military JAGS who took his case) and that doesn’t even begin to address the ones who DIED, or the parents of them, who demanded answers and accountability. (Anybody remember Cindy Sheehan?) Now all of a sudden, everybody is willing to come out of the woodwork, and join the crowd.

Forgive me if I seem bitter. I’m usually not. I am now. Where the hell were you all 7 years ago?

Meantime, stop with all of the stuff about what “Congress” needs to do, because YOU are the Congress, and you’ve FAILED!! But that’s OK. There exists a very small body of us who’ve known this shit from the beginning, and we’re prepared to do what needs to be done with prosecuting these criminals both here at home, and at the Hague.

Common sense should tell ANYBODY that we obviously can’t do it, as long as the criminals are holding the keys to all of the evidence. So, just DO YOUR SMALL PART, and cast a vote for the one person who will open the way for us to get this shit done.

And yes, that would be Barak Obama. Once we have access, we’ll do the work.

Thank you for your attention.

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By not in my name, October 16, 2008 at 1:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What will America do when Bush and his bund are brought up charges in the Hague? Will Obama or McCain pursue these criminals themselves or has Bush so destroyed the country that our energies will be spent trying to stay out of a depression?
BTW its water torture not water boarding torture by any other name stinks.

simulated US techniques

red cross memo to cia stop torturing

Physicians for Human Rights examine Released detainees show evidence of torture

Rice and Bush’s cabinet coordinate torture techniques

Bush on torture “So what?”

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By KDelphi, October 15, 2008 at 3:51 pm Link to this comment

If the Congress does not impeach Bush & Co. , there will be no healing our country. I’m sure that enough of them knew, etc. that they wil want to “move on”. If we let them, there will be huge intl. blowback—more than there is already.

This country needs more than a change of chief.

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By PatrickHenry, October 15, 2008 at 3:10 pm Link to this comment

If this isn’t the vehicle to prosecute “W” when he gets out of office then our congress is nothing but a bunch of fools who deserve to be voted out.

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By LJ in MD, October 15, 2008 at 2:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Those of you with loved ones stationed overseas, in either military or diplomatic roles, should be very upset about these decisions made by Bush/Cheney. For more than 2 centuries the United States was the most revered country in the world. With only a few exceptions, we stood tall against the temptations to lower our ideals in tough times. Even against the Nazi’s and Japanese, great care was taken to treat prisoners and civilians honorably (again, always a few exceptions, but never by policy). Now, any of our troops or diplomats can be captured and treated horribly - their captors can surely cite our own policies to support their actions.
And, unless intelligence professionals I know are lying, reliable information is seldom obtained under these conditions. Want someone to tell you what you want to hear - just give them the script and hook up the jumper cables. You want the truth - that could take some real intelligence.

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By skulz fontaine, October 15, 2008 at 2:17 pm Link to this comment

“Torquemada? Tomas de Torquemada? Your table is ready!”

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By Kwagmyre, October 15, 2008 at 1:06 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It must be because the U.S. government has for a long time now rejected the International Court that makes the “evildoers” there totally immune from any kind of prosecution for war crimes unlike the poor ‘ol Milosevic who got rightly condemned and punished till he died there.

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By Big B, October 15, 2008 at 12:34 pm Link to this comment

If we do not deal with the high crimes the bushies in the most decisive way possible, the reputation of the US will be tarnished for decades, if not forever.

Do we really want to mentioned in the same breath with Pol Pot or idi Amin?

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By chapeau, October 15, 2008 at 11:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The entire Bush Administration should be tried for High Crimes—and then sent to The Hague and tried for Crimes Against Humanity.

It is unforgivable what these idiots have done to America—and they should be held accountable.

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By Crimes of the State Blog, October 15, 2008 at 11:09 am Link to this comment

I also posted this Washington Post article, with a little added context:

“‘Drowning Torture’ is what they are discussing. The Washington Post article claims that Condi Rice was concerned, and that, ‘Her concerns led to an investigation by the Justice Department’s criminal division into whether the techniques were legal.’

The Washington Post, of course, neglects to state that they are clearly illegal, and felonies under current law. Torture carries a 20 year maximum sentence, as well as the death penalty if the victim dies (as some Iraqi and Afghani detainees have actually been murdered during torture sessions). What is never mentioned in these apologetics from the mainstream corporate media is that prosecutions must proceed. If we must wait until January, when the Bush gangsters have been removed from office, then so be it. But laws have clearly been broken. There is no statute of limitations on murder and torture.”

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By Spiritgirl2, October 15, 2008 at 10:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If anyone wanted a smoking gun, this starts it!  It is now more important than ever that John McCain not be President, because We the People need the truth, and he would definitely pardon or try to get it dismissed!  The day that this bunch of thugs, thieves, liars get out of the White House they need to be arrested!  Impeachment is the least that they deserve, and will send a message to future Presidents that Abuses of Power will not be tolerated!

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By Nancy Rector, October 15, 2008 at 10:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The fact that American’s have let this and many other things “slide” is the most disturbing part.

This song and video should be passed around. It speaks to whats going on in America and how people need to wake up.

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