WASHINGTON (AFP) - The CIA first sought in May 2002 to use harsh interrogation techniques including waterboarding on terror suspects, and was given key early approval by then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, a US Senate intelligence document said.
The agency got the green light to use the near-drowning technique on July 26, 2002, when attorney general John Ashcroft concluded "that the use of waterboarding was lawful," the Senate Intelligence Committee said in a detailed timeline of the "war on terrorism" interrogations released Wednesday.
Nine days earlier, the panel said, citing Central Intelligence Agency records, Rice had met with then-director George Tenet and "advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaydah," the agency's first high-value Al-Qaeda detainee, pending Justice Department approval.
Rice's nod is believed to be the earliest known approval by a senior official in the administration of George W. Bush of the intelligence technique which current Attorney General Eric Holder has decried as "torture."
Straight to the Top:
The torture trail starts and ends in the White House. That is perhaps the most inescapable conclusion to be drawn from the flurry of documents released in the last week—first the OLC memoranda, then a newly declassified report of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and finally an amazing document that Attorney General Eric Holder released yesterday, which has still gained little attention. The Holder note presents a summary of CIA interaction with the White House in connection with the approval of the torture techniques that John Yoo calls the “Bush Program.” Holder’s memo refers to the participants by their job titles only, but John Sifton runs it through a decoder and gives us the actual names. Here’s a key passage:
“[The] CIA’s Office of General Counsel [this would include current Acting CIA General Counsel John Rizzo] met with the Attorney General [John Ashcroft], the National Security Adviser [Condoleezza Rice], the Deputy National Security Adviser [Stephen Hadley], the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council [John Bellinger], and the Counsel to the President [Alberto Gonzales] in mid-May 2002 to discuss the possible use of alternative interrogation methods [on Abu Zubaydah] that differed from the traditional methods used by the U.S. military and intelligence community. At this meeting, the CIA proposed particular alternative interrogation methods, including waterboarding.”
Military agency warned against ‘torture’--Extreme duress could yield unreliable information, according to 2002 memo:
"The unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel," says the document, an unsigned two-page attachment to a memo by the military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency.
Torturing detainee may have produced false terror alerts:
As the nation struggles to make sense of a wave of new revelations regarding the "harsh interrogation techniques" brought to bear on detainees by the CIA, two very different narratives are shaping up to describe the treatment of captured al Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah in April and May of 2002.
On one hand, there is what might be called the "official" version, as presented in a timeline released by the Senate Intelligence Committee and summarized by the Washington Post. According to this version, Abu Zubaydah was subjected only to traditional interrogation methods until an August 1 memo from Justice Department lawyer Jay Bybee gave a green light for the use of waterboarding and other aggressive techniques.
On the other, there is a far more incriminating narrative that has been pieced together by various observers over the last several years. In this version, harsher methods were being applied to Abu Zubaydah as early as mid-April, and by mid-May he had been subjected to virtually every aggressive technique short of waterboarding.
Finally, anonymous friends now say Jay Bybee is sorry.