Pat Roberts' "10 Reasons Right Off" Not to Exercise Oversight Over Torture

Practically the first thing Pat Roberts did after he became Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee was to back down off nascent efforts Bob Graham had made as SSCI Chair to exercise real oversight over the torture program. That’s one of the most important details revealed in the Memo for the Record [big PDF] of the briefing Pat Roberts received on the torture program on February 4, 2003. (For more background on this FOIA dump see this post; for the evidence in it that Michael Hayden knowingly lied to Congress see this post.)

Roberts’ “ten reasons right off” not to exercise oversight over torture program

In addition to Roberts’ accession to the destruction of the torture tapes, he appears to have spiked an effort, started by Bob Graham (who had been SSCI Chair), to exercise more oversight over the torture program.

Roberts’ [redacted; staffer?] asked me whether I had “taken up the line” the Committee’s, actually Senator Graham’s, late November request to undertake its own “assessment” of the enhanced interrogation. I [Stan Moskowitz, head of Congressional Affairs] explained to Senator Roberts the dialogue I had had with [redacted], and our responce [sic] that we would not support reading another staffer into the program nor allow any staffer to review the interrogations in real time or visit the clandestine site where the interrogations were taking place. Quickly, the Senator interjected that he saw no reason for the Committee to pursue such a request and could think of “ten reasons right off why it is a terrible idea” for the Committee to do any such thing as had been proposed. Turning to [redacted], he asked whether they thought otherwise and they indicated that they agreed with the Senator. [my emphasis]

And so it was that Pat Roberts, in one of his first actions as SSCI Chair, squelched an effort that might have prevented the torture program from metastasizing across our counter-terrorist (and Iraqi) efforts.

Addington’s approval for torture

Though we’ve long known that David Addington was intimately involved in planning the torture program, and though Maureen Mahoney said as much in her first response to the OPR report for Bybee, I know of no document that describes Addington as approving the torture techniques.

Except this one:

The enhanced techniques were described in considerable detail, including how the water board was used. The General Counsel [Scott Muller] 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.

We know NSC legal advisor John Bellinger formally started off the process (though Yoo was already doing research). We know Chertoff and OLC and Ashcroft reviewed the torture memos.

And we also know that Addington has stopped short of saying he “approved” of the techniques, either claiming that he was simply satisfied with the subjects Yoo covered in his memos, or hedging as he did here in testimony to HJC:

Mr. ELLISON. Were you part of a group of folks who made legal decisions on a regular and routine basis that would include Alberto Gonzales, William Haynes, Jim Haynes, and yourself? Were you part of that?

Mr. ADDINGTON. I talked regularly in lots of different meetings with the counsel of the President and his deputy, with the department of defense general counsel, less frequently with the CIA general counsel or acting general counsel, but yes.

Mr. ELLISON. So did you and Messrs. Gonzales and Haynes have sort of an ongoing responsibility or authority to guide and make decisions about legal matters for the Administration with regard to torture of detainees, the conduct of the war on terror?

Mr. ADDINGTON. No. I think it is more monitoring what is going on, discussing it and if you need legal advice on the subject, you would ask a question to the Office of Legal Counsel, which typically would be done either by the counsel to the President, if it is the White House that wants the advice, which the law, by the way, that you all passed provides for.

It is 28 UCS something like 511, 512, in that range. And also heads of agencies have the authority to go to OLC and get that legal advice. So they usually do that through their general counsels, either DOD or CIA.

Addington answers the question, “did you make decisions about torture?,” “No.” But the CIA told Congress that OVP’s lawyers–almost certainly Addington–did.

What does CIA know that David Addington trying to deny?

Zubaydah and al-Nashiri fully compliant … but not

We know from the CIA IG report that Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded an extra time even though his torturers already believed he was compliant. And we know from the OPR report that Nashiri was tortured after his interrogators already believed him to be compliant.

Why, then, did Jim Pavitt make this claim about them?

Both Zubayda and Nashiri were described as founts of useful information, even though it seems clear that they have not, even under enhanced techniques, revealed everything they know of importance.

Is this the CIA, once again, believing these two had more information than they had? Is this an admission that even fully compliant (per the CIA) detainees will still withhold informatoin? Or did Pavitt say this because, these two shared more after the torture stopped than they had under torture?

In either case, it seems to strike at the claimed logic to the torture program.

The perfect match torture tapes

I find the description of what CIA told Roberts about the torture tapes fascinating.

Pavitt and Muller briefly described the circumstances surrounding the existence of tapes of the Zubayda debriefing, the inspection of those tapes by OGC lawyers, the comparison of the tapes with the cables describing the same interrogations. According to Muller, the match was perfect and [redacted] who did the review was satisfied that the interrogations were carried out in full accordance with the guidance. Muller indicated that it was our intention to destroy these tapes, which were created in any case as but an aide to the interrogations, as soon as the Inspector General had completed his report. (In a subsequent briefing to Congressmen Goss and Harman, Muller said that the interrogators themselves were greatly concerned that the tapes might leak one day and put themselves and their families at risk.)

First, what CIA didn’t say: that the tapes also included some of al-Nashiri’s torture. And, that a number of the tapes were destroyed or dysfunctional.

Some perfect match.

And then there’s the changing story. Was Muller’s elaboration–his addition of the torturers’ concerns for their own safety–a response to Harman’s hesitation about destroying the tape?

One tiny note: the redaction of the name of the person who reviewed the tapes is one character too short to be John Rizzo.

  1. Leen says:

    Not surprised

    Senator Pat Roberts did everything he could do to stand in the way of accountability in regard to false pre war intelligence. The investigations into pre -war intelligence Phase I and Phase II of the SSCI. What were the points of those investigations? Not one person has been held accountable for that “pack of lies”

    Not one person has been held accountable for those Niger Documents?

    Oh well say our Reps. No need to think about the hundreds of thousands dead, injured, millions displaced. Our MSM no reports for years on the numbers of dead…Americans need to think about health care…move on…don’t think about the dead, injured, tortured …just move on.

    This country is far more than financially bankrupt

  2. DWBartoo says:

    There seem any number of souls willing to cast their fate with the noisome mess of the usurpers, the destroyers of justice, as the government, will all its branches, continues its flagitious policies, quite remorselessly …

    Clearly, it will not be the political class who with end this calamity …

    Where shall the people find the courage and the inspiration?

    Only from the example of those who, as Mary put it, will not, “go quietly into the night”.


  3. Cheryl says:

    Pat Roberts has been obstructing justice for years. This Timeline by Larissa Alexandrovna & Muriel Kane is a good example of his SOP.

    As far as the Niger documents etc… Mother Jones did an excellent article that many of you have probably already seen but I still wonder what happened to some of the minions mentioned in the article. The article had a flow chart in it originally that was very helpful that I see is not in the article now. If you are interested I could put it up on the Web to download.

  4. TheConfidenceMan says:

    Hm, which former high-ranking administration official has a last name with one less letter than R-I-Z-Z-O?

  5. JohnLopresti says:

    Sen.Graham introductory remarks excerpt, speaking hortatorily to Scott Muller, nominee to be CIA general counsel, combined House and Senate Intell Committees hearing October 9 2002:

    …**we are not living in times in which lawyers can say no to an operation just to play it safe. We need excellent, aggressive lawyers who give sound, accurate legal advice, not lawyers who say no to an otherwise legal operation just because it is easier to put on the brakes.

    **I also know that the lawyers assigned to the Directorate of Operations are not always perceived as part of a team by their clients but, rather, a hurdle that must be surmounted before the operators can do their jobs. Team work requires mutual respect and I hope, if confirmed, that you will instill that in your lawyers.**

  6. lllphd says:

    generic question here, exposing my ignorance of the finer details of all this stuff…

    but is it possible to find enough evidence in these docs of bybee and/or yoo and/or addington, etc., lying under oath to congress? if so, could they be disbarred for that?

  7. Hmmm says:

    R-I-C-E was a Principal, though not a CIA lawyer.

    (Ed.: “What does CIA know that David Addington trying to deny?” missing a word or so?)

  8. Jeff Kaye says:

    Great summary of key revelations in the new release. I’m afraid that we don’t have the 100% noose yet on Addington. What other lawyers could there be in the OVP office, though? (Surely it was him, anyway.)

    Pavitt may have just been speaking out of his ass.

    I think you’re right about Muller and Harman’s concerns.

  9. Clavis says:

    We could have hi-def footage of Dick Cheney shooting POWs in the head at point-blank range for no good reason, and the Dems would still balk at investigating, claiming a desire for “bipartisanship”; the Republicans would, in turn, spend the next two years claiming that Dems were ABOUT to investigate at any moment and calling them “radical extremists” for that very reason. Obama would say something measured and gentle at some point.

    My country is a fucking joke.

  10. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Addington answers the question, “did you make decisions about torture?,” “No.” But the CIA told Congress that OVP’s lawyers–almost certainly Addington–did.

    What does CIA know that David Addington trying to deny?

    I certainly hope that we will one day get an answer to that question.

  11. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    And a quick glance over the preceding months of activity listed on EW’s Torture Tape Timeline shows that even the CIA’s OIG started asking questions about what was happening with torture, whether it was ‘legal’, etc, etc. just at the very time that Sen Pat Roberts quashed Congressional oversight.

    Not likely.

    December 2, 2002: Rumsfeld approves aggressive techniques for Gitmo. Yoo gives Haynes advice about a particular detainee, probably al-Qahtani.

    December 3, 2002: Habibullah dies after being tortured. One page email outlining destruction plan for torture tapes. CIA HQ writes field regarding closing facility and destroying torture tapes.

    December 4, 2002: CIA stops taping Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri’s interrogations.

    December 9 or 10, 2002:
    Dilawar dies after being tortured.

    December 19, 2002: Cable in coordination–destruction of tapes currently held in field. Short decision note on tapes issue (request for decision).

    December 20, 2002: 3-page memo with cable from HQ to field regarding policies on tape usage and destruction. “Draft/outline of leaks memo” with request to destroy tapes. Email providing guidance on a short note decision regarding torture tapes.

    December 23,2002: First draft of memo by CIA OGC regarding disposition of torture tapes.

    December 24, 2002: Unclassified change to first draft of memo on disposition of torture tapes. One-page email confirming receipt of memo regarding torture tapes (email has “Tapes–CTC memorandum re tapes” as subject).

    Late December 2003: Unauthorized interrogation techniques used on al-Nashiri.

    January 2003: Pavitt informs Helgerson of al-Nashiri abuse.

    January 2003: CIA OIG starts investigation of detainee interrogation.

  12. MrWhy says:

    {snark alert}
    Please note that the person reviewing the tapes of interrogations could have been VP Cheney. It fits quite comfortably in the redacted space. Maybe those tapes were at one time in the safe in the OVP.
    {end snark alert}