NEWS & OPINION: CIA torture cover-up

The scapegoat

As the story concerning the CIA’s decision to destroy vital evidence of its program of detainee abuse unfolds, the Bush Administration’s posture on the matter is shifting decisively. This is called “damage control.” The Administration’s initial posture was to have CIA Director Hayden put the best face on the situation and argue that everything that was done was perfectly legal and correct.

So now we come to phase two: the fall-back position. In phase two, we learn that the president and other senior figures in the Administration know nothing about it. Instead, this was all a rogue operation by a second tier leadership figure at the CIA. And indeed, by midday yesterday, White House off-the-record explainers were extremely busy pointing fingers at one man, the designated scapegoat. [complete article]

Inquiry begins into tapes’ destruction

The Justice Department and the Central Intelligence Agency’s internal watchdog on Saturday began a joint preliminary inquiry into the spy agency’s destruction of hundreds of hours of videotapes showing interrogations of top operatives of Al Qaeda.

The announcement comes amid new questions about which officials inside the C.I.A. were involved in the decision to destroy the videotapes, which showed severe interrogation methods used on two Qaeda suspects, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

The agency operative who ordered the destruction of the tapes in November 2005 was Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., then the chief of the C.I.A.’s national clandestine service, known as the Directorate of Operations until 2005. On Saturday, a government official who had spoken recently with Mr. Rodriguez on the matter said that Mr. Rodriguez told him that he had received approval from lawyers inside the clandestine service to destroy the tapes. [complete article]

Hill briefed on waterboarding in 2002

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

“The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough,” said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange. [complete article]

Man held by CIA says he was tortured

The first of the so-called high-value Guantánamo detainees to have seen a lawyer claims he was subjected to “state-sanctioned torture” while in secret C.I.A. prisons, and he has asked for a court order barring the government from destroying evidence of his treatment.

The request, in a filing by his lawyers, was made on Nov. 29, before officials from the Central Intelligence Agency acknowledged that the agency had destroyed videotapes of interrogations of two operatives of Al Qaeda that current and former officials said included the use of harsh techniques.

Lawyers for the detainee, Majid Khan, a former Baltimore resident, released documents in his case on Friday. They claim he “was subjected to an aggressive C.I.A. detention and interrogation program notable for its elaborate planning and ruthless application of torture” to numerous detainees. [complete article]

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