Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

  David Addington did approve of cruel CIA interrogation techniques

So far Dick Cheney’s notorious former legal counsel and confidant, David Addington, has managed to maintain the pretense that he was not directly involved in authorizing the use of torture and cruel or degrading treatment of prisoners under the Bush administration. Now we have documentary evidence of his direct involvement.

The very right-wing Judicial Watch has just released a batch of CIA documents it obtained through a FOIA request. Judicial Watch is seeking to embarrass congressional Democrats by showing that the CIA briefed them under Bush about the abusive interrogation methods. Whether or not the documents actually manage to embarrass those Democrats, one of them does embarrass Addington.

Here they are (PDF). One formerly classified memo from February 4, 2003 summarizes a CIA briefing given to Sen. Roberts and the staffers for Sen. Rockefeller regarding the ongoing abusive CIA interrogations of terrorism suspects. It reads in part (my emphasis):

The enhanced [interrogation] techniques were described in considerable detail, including how the water board was used. The [CIA] General Counsel described the process by which the techniques were approved by a bevy of lawyers from the NSC, the Vice President’s office and the Justice Department, including the Criminal Division and the Attorney General, who opined that the techniques were legal under U.S. law.

The Vice President’s lawyer is almost certainly Cheney’s eminence gris, David Addington.

In the past Addington has frequently been linked to the development of torture and abusive techniques. But none of these allegations have been documented and Addington has denied or evaded the charges.

In 2004 Newsweek’s Daniel Klaidman reported (the original link evidently is defunct) that aides to presidential counsel Alberto Gonzales said that it was Addington, not Gonzales, who drafted the January 25, 2002 memo that argued some provisions of the Geneva Conventions were “quaint” and “obsolete”. Addington continued for years to lead the fight in denigrating the applicability of the Geneva Conventions, so he may well have been involved in drafting the January 25, 2002 memo.

Addington also reportedly played a key role in shaping the August 1, 2002 Bybee Memo authorizing a list of abusive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding - which plainly was treated as torture under established US law. The recently released OPR final report into misconduct by the DOJ torture memo authors (especially John Yoo and Jay Bybee), focuses at length upon revisions to the draft Bybee memo that seemed to be requested in July 2002 by Addington and Gonzales. The OPR report highlights what appears to be an elaborate attempt by Yoo, Bybee, Jennifer Koester (another unindicted torture memo author), and others in the Bush administration to cover the tracks that led back to the direct involvement of Gonzales and Addington in shaping the Bybee Memo. I’ll write more later about this episode because it is critical, I believe, to understanding why David Margolis rejected the OPR’s finding that Yoo and Bybee engaged in misconduct. Suffice it to say here that the apparent attempt by Yoo and others to shield Gonzales and Addington from any direct responsibility for the Bybee Memo involves a series of bizarre and incredible assertions, laid out by OPR at pp. 46-53. Among other oddities, nobody from DOJ or the White House who attended a critical July 16, 2002 meeting to discuss the draft memo can remember what Gonzales or Addington said about it, even though that meeting immediately preceded the most controversial additions to the memo.

Philippe Sands has also reported that Addington was part of a high-level delegation (which also included Gonzales) that visited Guantanamo prison in September of 2002 and pressured the military there to introduce more abusive interrogation techniques.

With the help of friends over the years, Addington issued dismissive and vague denials that he was directly involved in drafting or shaping any torture memos or advocating for specific abusive practices. When called to testify before Congress about his activities, Addington was snidely dismissive of questions and frequently evasive. He did however deny that he pressured anybody at Gitmo in 2002 to adopt abusive techniques. Addington also insinuated that he made no suggestions to the OLC lawyers at the July 16, 2002 meeting. In response to their briefing about the draft Bybee Memo, Addington claims, he said nothing more than “Good” before sending them on their way.

In short, until now David Addington has managed to bob and weave, obfuscate and deny every time he has been implicated in direct involvement in shaping or authorizing torture and abuse of prisoners. Now however we have a CIA document that says the Vice President’s lawyer approved of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” being used by the CIA at the start of 2003.

Say so long to plausible deniability, David.

crossposted at

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