Who “We” Included in the Torture Briefings

rincewind made an important point in my post on the torture briefings. At least one of the sources for the story must be one of the briefees, not a briefer. rincewind points to these two quotes that come from someone within the committee.

“It kept coming up. CIA wanted us to sign off on each one every time,” said one high-ranking official who asked not to be identified. “They’d say, ‘We’ve got so and so. This is the plan.’”


“These discussions weren’t adding value,” a source said. “Once you make a policy decision to go beyond what you used to do and conclude it’s legal, (you should) just tell them to implement it.”

This source obviously considers himself as one of the people receiving the briefing, which further suggests this source is not in the CIA.

As luck would have it, via Troutfishing’s diary and this McGovern piece, I checked out this February 7, 2002 memo in which Bush declares that Al Qaeda will not be entitled to Geneva Convention protections. The memo seems to indicate that it is addressed to all the people who have participated–at least thus far–in discussions on torture; it refers to "our recent extensive discussions regarding the status of Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees." Now check out the list of addressees:

Dick Cheney
Colin Powell
John Ashcroft
Andy Card
George Tenet
Condi Rice
Richard Myers

In other words, two of the people whom Bush noted as being involved in "extensive discussions regarding the status of Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees" are not included in the list ABC News gave of the attendees of the meetings that took place slightly later in 2002: Andy Card and Richard Myers. Either is a possibility to be the "high-ranking official" who objected to the repeated discussions of what techniques to use. Certainly, Myers is on the record as having opposed the decision not to extend Geneva Convention protections to Al Qaeda (most recently in reports from Feith’s book). And he would count as "high-ranking" in more than one sense (though neither he, nor Card, is still an official, after all).

So it is possible that, in addition to the CIA briefers trying to protect the CIA in the torture tape investigation, Richard Myers (or Andy Card, but I suspect Myers is more likely, particularly given the way this puts Condi in a bad light) is one of the people making sure that Bush and Cheney and Condi don’t escape blame for turning our country into a country of torture.

Update: bmaz sent me this, which confirms that one of the people blabbing about this is a "former senior intelligence official." 

Bush administration officials from Vice President Dick Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, The Associated Press has learned.

The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the meetings described them Thursday to the AP to confirm details first reported by ABC News on Wednesday. The intelligence official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the issue.

Between 2002 and 2003, the Justice Department issued several memos from its Office of Legal Counsel that justified using the interrogation tactics, including ones that critics call torture.

”If you looked at the timing of the meetings and the memos you’d see a correlation,” the former intelligence official said. Those who attended the dozens of meetings agreed that ”there’d need to be a legal opinion on the legality of these tactics” before using them on al-Qaida detainees, the former official said.


The White House, Justice and State departments and the CIA refused comment Thursday, as did a spokesman for Tenet.

So a former senior US intelligence official who is presumably not Tenet who was involved in 2002 and 2003. Could well be Muller, or McLaughlin (though I still think Muller is likely). Who would want to insulate Bush more, Muller or McLaughlin?

Also note, this article also does not mention Myers and Card. It’s possible they were excluded, but by the time Bush signed the February 7 memo, there had already been the first OLC memo (stating Al Qaeda did not qualify for Geneva).

107 replies
  1. portorcliff says:

    Dang..EW….Troutfishing’s diary went up just 15min ago. And now we have Andy Card as our “High-ranking potential leaker”. Why does Andy care? What’s the payoff?

  2. scribe says:


    Andy Card and Richard Myers. Either is a possibility to be the “high-ranking official” who objected to the repeated discussions of what techniques to use. Certainly, Myers is on the record as having opposed the decision not to extend Geneva Convention protections to Al Qaeda (most recently in reports from Feith’s book). And he would count as “high-ranking” in more than one sense (though neither he, nor Card, is still an official, after all).

    Being on the record doesn’t necessarily mean he said the same thing in private. Feith is full of crap, so I’ll take anything he says as being not reliable absent independent confirmation.

    As to Myers, how would his opposition – assuming it existed – square up when placed in the same universe with (a) this administration’s habit of retaliating against dissenters within and without (viz. Treasury Sec’y O’Neill and the now on-going criminal probe into Alcoa) and (b) Myers’ daughter in law (or niece – I forget) Julie, getting the plum job of heading ICE via one of those precious recess appointments, and at the grizzled age of 36, IIRC?

    Or is this merely multidimensional Vulcan chess, again, and it will all reveal later?

    • emptywheel says:

      That may well be why the coverage about the AZ meeting is so vague. Did Myers (assuming he is the source) voice his opposition?

      I think Myers is on the record (in places like Woodward, too) as opposing the use of torture, but in acceding to the persuasion of stupid fucks like Feith (which is doubtless one of the reasons Myers hates him so much). For him to be a source for ABC doesn’t mean he took a stand. It means he wants the role of BushCo to come out.

      I’m entirely sure why he’d be willing to serve as a source for this (though his pension is presumably relatively safe). Probably because the military ALSO got spanked pretty hard for torturing. And given Levin’s and Fine’s sniffing around the torture at Gitmo and the torture opinions at DOD, I would expect that Myers has his own interests in trying to tell his side of the story.

      • scribe says:

        I’m entirely sure why he’d be willing to serve as a source for this (though his pension is presumably relatively safe).

        I think you misunderstand the way military pensions work. It’s not like on worked for GM on the line for however many years and now gets $x per month. A retired military officer is considered to still be in the military, just in retired status. Because that status does not require them to be doing active military things, they don’t get paid at full rates. For folks who got in before the early 80s (I’ve read there have been changes – spelled “reductions” – since), the formula was 50% of base pay after you’d gotten 20 years in, with an additional 2.5% for every year of active duty after that. So, the thirty-year guy would get 75% of base pay.

        More to the point, though, is that being retired still subjects one to military discipline. You’ll recall when some retired generals started barking very early in the Iraq War about the seeming ineptitude already then on display, Rummy threatened them with discipline if they didn’t mind their place and stop criticizing the civilian leadership. I think he mentioned “insubordination”.

        So, I won’t discount Myers as a source, but it’s not as simple for him as just being one.

        Also, that should cast a slightly different light on when a bunch of retired generals and admirals sign on to anti-torture amicus briefs in this Supreme Court case or that one. Again – they have to watch their words lest they be called “insubordinate”.

        • emptywheel says:

          Point taken (I used to live in SD County, where the retirement system was pretty much the rule for my friends’ families).

          But we know 1) Myers HAS served as a source elsewhere, and 2) your point would make him, still, “high-ranking”–making the likelihood that the source is him greater.

    • emptywheel says:

      As to why there was no retaliation–I presume because Myers has never done this publicly (though presumably those who attended these meetings know well who attended the meetings and can put two and silent two together.

      Who knows. Maybe Card and Myers stopped being involved later. Though I think Myers, as JCS, would have officially been a member of the principals committee, so his absence from ABC’s list is notable in any case.

  3. JimWhite says:

    A previous leak of Myers material:

    A rare glimpse of how he squares that circle was offered this month by Gen. Richard B. Myers, the current chairman, in an annual “risk assessment” required by Congress.

    The report is classified, but this one leaked. It illustrates the high-wire art of speaking an uncomfortable truth without publicly challenging a policy or the civilian leaders promoting it.

    It was already known at the time of the leak that Myers would step down.

  4. SparklestheIguana says:

    My money is definitely on Myers too. He was a named source for Philippe Sands’ Vanity Fair article. Being a military person, he seems much more likely than Card to side with the JAGs. Has Card ever said anything to indicate he (Card) has behaved nobly, or tried to behave nobly? Has he even tried to distance himself from the administration, on anything?

  5. SaltinWound says:

    Wheel, I’m starting to wonder about something, and I think you’re going to like it. A while ago, there was a lot of publicity about Powell and Rice being left out of the loop on torture. In particular, there was Powell’s admiration for Rice’s Nurse Ratched moment, where she dressed down Gonzales because they’d found out about the two year old torture memo from the Washington Post. Now maybe they’re lying and they knew about it all along. But what if they didn’t? They were angry because they’d been made to approve techniques on a case by case basis when there was already an opinion in place that could have justified the torture and left Powell and Rice clean. The CIA was covering itself legally in more than one way–it’s like Cheney getting classified inormation from more than one source. So Rice and Powell weren’t only war criminals. They were redundant.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    One of the striking features of the assembly of top advisers portrayed by the ABC News piece is their collectivity. To me, that’s hard evidence that they knew they were on thin, watery ice that could easily break; it would certainly not bear the weight of any army invading Iraq. Fully informed by their own brilliance, experience, history and their own legal advisers, they chose their path and made sure they were all in it together. Presumably for a variety of reasons they both shared among themselves and kept to themselves.

    What it resembles most to me is an inversion of the advice attributed to Benjamin Franklin to the signers of the rebellious, inherently dangerous Declaration of Independence from the rule of their sovereign king, George III:

    We must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.

    I hope they’re right.

  7. GeorgeSimian says:

    It’s funny, because all these guys are such egomaniacs that they leak this stuff because they think it proves them right and just. It’s like Enron.

  8. LS says:

    Operation Copper Green…


    ““Rumsfeld’s goal was to get a capability in place to take on a high-value target—a standup group to hit quickly,” a former high-level intelligence official told me. “He got all the agencies together—the C.I.A. and the N.S.A.—to get pre-approval in place. Just say the code word and go.” The operation had across-the-board approval from Rumsfeld and from Condoleezza Rice, the national-security adviser. President Bush was informed of the existence of the program, the former intelligence official said.”

    Rummy’s still in the basement….and there’s always Cambone…

  9. LS says:


    Wilkerson made comments in November 2005 to the effect that the vice-president had decided that the Third Geneva Convention (regarding treatment of POWs) would not apply to “al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda look-alike detainees”[2] and that the February 2002 White House memorandum regarding the “Humane Treatment of Taliban and al Qaeda Detainees” contained a loophole designed to avoid applying the Geneva convention to the detainees. According to Wilkerson, the phrase “the detainees (should) be treated humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva”[3] was a way to appear to play by the rules while in reality, the “military necessities” would always overrule concerns about the plight of the detainees.[2] Wilkerson furthermore claimed this to be the result of Cheney and Rumsfeld, working in collaboration to undermine the standard decision-making process of the White House (which included his superior, Colin Powell).
    “ And so what I’m saying is, under the vice-president’s protection, the secretary of defence moved out to do what they wanted to do in the first place even though the president had made a decision that was clearly a compromise. ”

    — Lawrence Wilkerson, BBC Radio 4, November 25 2005


    • emptywheel says:

      Could well be, though it’d be surprising for Powell’s COS to be in the meeting, when thus far reports don’t even confirm that Andy Card was in them.

      • bmaz says:

        I think Wilkerson would have done it, but that it wasn’t him. If he was in on this info, I think he would have let rip long ago if he were inclined to at all.

  10. mamayaga says:

    Why would Wilkerson implicate Powell in this, even if he knew? Hasn’t he been trying to protect and rehabilitate Powell’s rep?

  11. LS says:

    The first meeting of the National Security Council under the leadership of George W. Bush took place January 30, 2001. Present were President Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul O’Neill, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Hugh Shelton, and Andrew Card.


    “Invading Iraq was on the agenda of the first meeting of the Principals Committee of the National Security Council, which O’Neill attended, months before 9/11, and it was pushed relentlessly”


  12. MadisonGuy says:

    They knew what they were doing. Ashcroft: “>”Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.” It was all so beautifully totalitarian. The meetings seem to have been designed mainly to get everyone’s hands dirty by sharing complicity for Bush and Cheney’s pathological torture fixation. Compromise everyone, and keep everyone quiet. Speaking up publicly would risk being exposed as someone who talk part in “choreographing” war crimes. Where have we seen that before?

  13. Mary says:

    CIA wanted us to sign off on each one every time would be non-CIA source. Likely DOJ, although someone could have been speaking inclusively of the Principals as a group as the “we.” Larry Thompson, who was DAG and made the torture trip to GITMO in 2002, may be a possibility. Powell’s then Gen. Counsel for State, who fought on the Geneva Conventions issue, William Taft, hasn’t been mentioned much but would almost certainly have known about the meetings if he didn’t attend them. His work on a memo to compete with OLC’s view shows that he was in the loop. Also, he was one of the few who took a stand (again, they seem to come from the military, from State, from everywhere but DOJ):

    On September 12, 2006, Taft co-signed (along with 28 other retired military or defense department officials) a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services committee in which he stated his belief that the Bush Administration’s attempt to redefine Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention “poses a grave threat” to U.S. service members.

    And if you look at the torture delegation to GITMO in 2002, in addition to all the Yoosual suspects, the name Christopher A. Wray is on the list of attendees (he was then in charge of the DOJ Criminal Division – from whence Yoo supposedly got the OK to torture). On the intel front, but not CIA, Carl Ford, who was heading up Intel for State may have known something about the meetings. And then there are all the CIA options.

  14. Hmmm says:

    Anybody else having a hard time swallowing the sourcing story for that document? It was declassified in ‘04 and has been sitting around, on the web, publicly, unnoticed for years? Unlikely.

  15. jdmckay says:

    Personally, I take veracity of the ABC piece w/steep skepticism… too many anonymous sources, & way too vague on stuff that matters. Oh, I’m sure all those listed were in the “enhanced techniques” discussions, just not convinced this story is from the “horse’s mouth”.

    If “leaker’s” goal is to shine light on this, why anonymity? If said person was in the briefings & cast a yah vote then they were there, right? So what cloak of protection could they conceive from anonymity (other than avoiding a Conyer’s subpoena)?

    And this line…

    “These discussions weren’t adding value,” a source said. “Once you make a policy decision to go beyond what you used to do and conclude it’s legal, (you should) just tell them to implement it.”

    … doesn’t sound like someone w/remorse to me.

    I for one haven’t seen anything… ever, from Asscroft which suggests he has anything but admiration for stuff like this. How many stories were in immediate 9/11 aftermath relating innocent ME folks picked up in US, w/out evidence, locked up w/out record or account, and whole lot of ‘em treated w/”enhanced techniques”? How many times did big John get in front of the mircophones to tell us how they were “protecting” us w/that shit? How many were convicted, much less shown any cause whatsoever for their arrest?

    So “everybody’s talking ’bout” this. hmmmm. What would WH rather have “everyone” talk’n ’bout:

    a) legal/constitutional scholars fine tuning their arguments taking Yoo to the wood shed


    b) anonymous sources suggesting vague discussions of Principle’s Committee, the members of which all have no comment and are essentially unreachable.

    This looks to me like like cheese put in the public consumption mousetrap to direct conversation about… anonymous sources, no comments, and endless guessing. Been there, done that.

    Hope I’m wrong & they all get what they got coming.

    – “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after yoo.”

  16. LS says:

    I’m a little uneasy about this whole story….could be a red herring or something…leaking with “dialog” kinda makes me suspicious…it would make it completely obvious to whoever is being quoted as to who was there and who’s leaking….I dunno…something stinks..

  17. selise says:

    OT – fyi, the senate appropriations subcommittee has posted a real player webstream of this morning’s hearing with mukasey.

    TMP has already posted on the exchange between Senator Feinstein and AG Mukasey on Yoo’s 4th Amendment footnote. also discussed was the terrorism watch list and the pre-9/11 AQ phone call. to make it easier to listen to, i ripped an mp3 as i listened this afternoon.

  18. JimWhite says:

    Why are we talking about this in the White House?

    Is it possible that in their efforts to restore the Nixon presidency they went all the way to recording meetings? Doesn’t that sound like “Don’t say that on an open line?”

    • Hmmm says:

      Why are we talking about this in the White House?

      Is it possible that in their efforts to restore the Nixon presidency they went all the way to recording meetings? Doesn’t that sound like “Don’t say that on an open line?”

      That’s interesting. It’s claimed W wasn’t in those meetings. Does he have tape on the others?

  19. LS says:

    I came across two cites that said that Bush was the Chair of the meetings…older stuff…not anything originating from this particular story…

  20. LS says:

    Here is the WH directive of the NSC principals meetings and the regular meetings..excerpt:

    “The NSC Principals Committee (NSC/PC) will continue to be the senior interagency forum for consideration of policy issues affecting national security, as it has since 1989. The NSC/PC shall have as its regular attendees the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, the Chief of Staff to the President, and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (who shall serve as chair). The Director of Central Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall attend where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed. The Attorney General and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall be invited to attend meetings pertaining to their responsibilities. For the Attorney General, this includes both those matters within the Justice Department’s jurisdiction and those matters implicating the Attorney General’s responsibility under 28 U.S.C. 511 to give his advice and opinion on questions of law when required by the President. The Counsel to the President shall be consulted regarding the agenda of NSC/PC meetings, and shall attend any meeting when, in consultation with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, he deems it appropriate….”


  21. Mary says:

    From the lists, I think you can assume that everyone on the list had at least one back up person involved as well, if not more.

    For Cheney, Addington, whether he attended the meetings or not, plus I think there has been reporting that he may have drafted some of what Bush signed in the way of Presidential Orders and Directives.

    Gonzales is a name also left off the list, but we know that as Bush’s lawyer and the author of the Jan 25, 2002 (at least nominal author – if Addington did draft) he was directly involved in the information leading up to that Presidential directive, if not more. He might have also been a bit testy about the CIA pushing for signoffs each go. For Rice, likely her Deputy, Hadley, was somehow in the loop. For Powell, we know Taft was in the loop on the detainee issue because he drafted the competing memo to the OLC one. Perhaps Ford was in the loop in some way as well. Maybe Wilkerson, but I would wonder on that.

    For Tenet, Muller would have been in the loop – and perhaps a driving force in pushing for the constant approvals given his experiences with what happened to CIA operatives in Latin America and the missionary plan shootdown and deaths resulting from that. McLaughlin might have been in the loop and a whole lot of others – because the CIA was doing a lot of the torturing and disappearing, it would have to have the most in the loop. Someone like Lady who got the ok to kidnap Abu Omar, use AF facilities in Italy for the rendition, and send Omar on for torture – with Lady going to Egypt later to seemingly follow up – – would likely have known some bits and pieces at least of the meeting set up and authorizations set up. Rodriguez would have been in the know and may have even frequently been one of the “briefers” – especially as some of the plan requests would have been coming through his office (I have to wonder if his deputy is the unnamed woman who decided to send el-Masri into a black site.) All kinds of CIA people ripple out from Tenet on the list.

    From Ashcroft, obviously Yoo was in the know on many things – and he talked to the Criminal Division at DOJ so Chertoff – or Wray – may be linked in. As drational observed, the Ashcroft link may also include one or both of “the Davids” (Israel and Ayres). And with what Miller pulled off in her description of Libby, it’s hard to say what a “former senior US Intelligence official” might mean, or, more anonymously still, “a source.”

    From Rumsfeld (and maybe Myers) you’d pull in Haynes and likely Cambone – the ripples go on.

    • emptywheel says:

      The tradition for Principals meetings, as I understand it, is it is just the principal plus the Deputy, sitting behind the Principal. So it would be the list I gave in the last post on this. (If the Deputy or Principal was unavailable, sometimes someone else will second). But that would exclude people like Yoo and Haynes and Wilkerson. I agree that it’s likely that Gonzales came, though I think it telling that he was not a recipient of this memo. (And we also know there was another working group that largely made htese decisions, to be enacted by Cheney in the principals meetings.)

      The one exception is Muller–the ABC article, at least, notes that the BRIEFERS, as opposed to Tenet and his Deputy, were teh briefers. Which is where you get into Muller and Rizzo and potentially people like Grenier (who is not a lawyer, but has head of CTC would have been involved).

  22. radiofreewill says:

    There’s still every good reason to think this is a fast-breaking storyline that has already reduced the players into a small set of possible outcomes:

    For instance,

    Outcome A –

    War Criminals – Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Rummy, John Ashcroft, Andy Card, George Tenet, Condi Rice and Richard Myers plus their Counsels

    Bush and Gonzo try to Survive a Defense Cover Brief Challenge

    Outcome B –

    War Criminals – Bush and Gonzo

    States Evidence – Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Rummy, John Ashcroft, Andy Card, George Tenet, Condi Rice and Richard Myers plus their Counsels

    …And so on.

    Right? The Only question is: Who, in the Principals, Rejected Ordering Torture?

    And, imvho, any of the possible outcomes deserves an Impeachment Inquiry.

    • Hmmm says:

      As I whinged to Bmaz in another thread:

      OK, so here’s a theory: According to [what Bmaz quoted], the only ones actually at risk within US jurisdictions are impeachable officers. But without direct evidence from one of the Principals against the others, there is no case against anybody. Could ABC’s source be W? Putting all the other Principals on notice that if any of them cooperate with an impeachment effort, he’ll testify against them and they’ll go down too? Recall W is the only Principal not named in the story.

      So yeah, I think it could be Team W vs. Team Dick, per your Outcome A, or it could be Underdogs vs. Topdogs per your Outcome B.

      • Hmmm says:

        Correction, Underdogs vs. Topdogs would be Bush + Cheney on one side, and “Colin Powell, Rummy, John Ashcroft, Andy Card, George Tenet, Condi Rice and Richard Myers plus their Counsels” on the other side, which is different from what you called Outcome B.

        • maryo2 says:

          Underdogs vs. Topdogs

          Rhymy things like this are the kinds of soundbites that Progressives should pour into the MSM. It lets people comprehend what is happening without putting any effort into each individual player.

      • radiofreewill says:

        I agree with your insight, however, I think it’s more likely a RICO rolling right through the Principals, headed for Bush’s door…

        …and I’m guessing there have been some members of the Principals who were positively abhorred by what was going on, but chose to remain moles for whatever prosecution this might turn out to be – Unlawful Command Influence, Commission of War Crimes, High Crimes and Misdemeanor, etc.

        No matter what, it should be Riveting. This kind of stuff plays well on the teevee – Politicians can Write Their Legacies on Hearings like these might be…

        • Hmmm says:

          Yes, but who in Today’s DOJ could possibly be pursuing RICO against the Sovereign? Er, sorry, President?

  23. Mary says:

    29 – from that link,

    “No one at the agency wanted to operate under a notion of winks and nods and assumptions that everyone understood what was being talked about,” said a second former senior intelligence official. “People wanted to be assured that everything that was conducted was understood and approved by the folks in the chain of command.”

    The second former senior intelligence official said rescinding the memos caused the CIA to seek even more detailed approvals for the interrogations.

    That also discusses how CIA briefers would act out some of the techniques.

    I have to think those sound like they would likely have come from someone who held a position like Muller’s.

    • skdadl says:

      From 29 and 39:

      “People wanted to be assured that everything that was conducted was understood and approved by the folks in the chain of command.”

      That plus Ashcroft’s question — “Why are we talking about this in the White House?” — makes me think of Senator Whitehouse’s question to AGAG: “Isn’t that setting the bar a little low?”

  24. Synoia says:

    Prosecuting the Principals does not let lower levels off the Hook.

    “I was just following orders [gassing the Jews]” became an invalid excuse after Nuremberg.

    “I didn’t know I was breaking the law” is no excuse. Ignorance of the law is no plea.

    Hang them. Better yet, they should he hung, drawn, and quartered. (This is not a threat of violence, its a part of English common law as the penalty for treason).

  25. AZ Matt says:

    I can’t imagine these rats didn’t talk with the head rat about this stuff. This is hard-on stuff for George.

  26. bmaz says:

    Heh heh Jonathan Turley, on Olbamermann, just said that, on the torture being done by the White House, Congress

    “is like a convention of Claude Rains characters in Casablanca saying that they are shocked, SHOCKED that there is torture going on”.

    • skdadl says:

      Wow. That is low. Very pretty, though. skdadl is too old to do that any more.

      I wasn’t quoting Whitehouse precisely, just the pith from memory. I just went to YouTube to find that exchange because I knew I was putting words in the senator’s mouth, sort of, but only sort of. That was a great moment. Gosh: we had so many great moments last year. I’m all nostalgic.

  27. Mary says:

    also fwiw, I would really love to see someone take a good solid swing at a bill of attainder argument vis a vis the MCA’s Constitutionality.

    I’m thinking the Constitution reads like no one is supposed to try to pass legislation to make it ok to pick up people the Sovereign doesn’t like and subject them to pains and punishments without any trial or due process.

    • bmaz says:

      The whole damn thing looks Constitutionally infirm to me, at least the significant parts of it. Weren’t there Senators that actually voted for it then walked out and said it doesn’t matter, won’t pass muster at SCOTUS (Spectre?)?

  28. LS says:


    Tenet – he took the fall for 9/11
    Card – super loyal to W, but would make a case that they were so worried about the safety of the country and then might throw Condi and Ashcroft under the bus to save W. He’s a bit of a loose cannon…
    Myers – maybe he has a sense of duty and was opposed to throwing away GC.
    Cheney – fogetaboutit
    Condi – she was quoted, so unless she quoted herself…
    Ashcroft – he was quoted, so unless he quoted himself…
    Rummy – Nah
    Powell – hmmmmmm

    Tenet, Card, Powell or Myers.

  29. JohnLopresti says:

    “Revelations” sound to me like tablesalt for McCain and Rice: they promulgated fear; they negotiated every time each of them, respectively, could, for less of the tortcha, but more polemics to promulgate the fright associated with it; they both ultimately signed off on the torture. It is like a kr scheme to give them cred with both wings of their neocon party, unity before the showNominationConvention. Bush can pardon everyone because of the unitary fiat paradigm. AJTony Kennedy, however, likely will continue to stand his measured civilized ground and keep the Scotus HamdanMinority in minority. Else, McCain and Rice can go the Youngstown Sheet+Tube route and claim some zenith of torture American style, she averring it had to be done as surely as mushroom steamclouds and her claims throughout Europe media on tour that US did not tortcha; and he rooted in the legislature; instaZenith of UnitaryExecutiveTorture. The necons want the next appointment on that court, or this scandal could be uncomfortable for the planners of this kink in US historical championship of humane values.

  30. WilliamOckham says:

    There is simply no way that Andy Card ever said:

    Once you make a policy decision to go beyond what you used to do and conclude it’s legal, (you should) just tell them to implement it.

    That’s not the way Andy Card thinks (if he actual thinks, sometimes I’m not sure).

    That statement sounds a lot more like what a politico-military guy would say.

    • emptywheel says:

      I had that thought, too. “Implement it.” Military speak. Used to be considered MBA-President speak, before people realized that we were all better off when the MBA-Presidnet didn’t try to to implement things.

      • WilliamOckham says:


        This is total bs:

        The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved.

        The Bush memo that you link to refers directly to participating in extensive discussions about torture.

  31. LabDancer says:

    Ms E Wheel:

    Re: Where’s Waldo?

    I wont argue with your choice of Myers being AMONG the sources for ABC – not least of which I should imagine he felt unmanified by “Stupidest Fucking Guy in the World” Feith’s recently published memoire of how he & Rumsfeld pulled the old “fake argument” on Myers to gain deniability with Myers for them being present at the conception of the Gutmo Torture Prep School to come [or continue] & the Abu Graib Torture College thereafter –

    [Do you think it’s possible that the Bushies get all their best ideas from Wrestlemania?}

    But why wouldn’t the Sorceror’s Apprentice be somewhere in the mix here?

    Wrong-Way Hadley?

    Im my view the Bush-Cheney administration leak doesn’t exist that Hadley hasn’t peed on like a dog on a leash at least once.

    I’m not pointing a finger at you, Ms E Wheel, because in comparison most of us including this old water dog are mere pre-wheelers –

    & at least YOUR first post today in this miniseries has Hadley’s name in it –


    Yet how could that be when we know:

    Hadley was acknowledged to be on the Principals Committee even before we get to Rice’s special status on the torture issue –

    since Rice was assigned to chair the Torture SubCommittee, Hadley being her Deputy can be expected to have a ’special interest’ in it –

    as Powell left Rice took his seat – & Hadley took hers –

    I sometimes feel like about 92.7% of the time the Washington Post references a statement to an anonymous “senior White House involved in” or “in the know about” or “at the center of” – turns out its Hadley –

    when Rove started to work at covering the fact that his flabby pale ass was about to be seen hanging out all over the edges of Novak’s impending column outing Plame, of all those in the White House, in the world for that matter, Rove felt he better report to, there was Hadley –

    even trough feeders like Misikoff Woodstein-minus-the-stein can’t avoid placing Hadley in just about every meeting on just about everything to do with the shape & management of Bush 2003 SOTU address, because its like going over the scenery: Prsident, antique desk, personal momento of trip to Gravel Gulch, ficus plant, Hadley, ficus plant….

    Hadley’s initial service to Waterbush as a national security & foreign policy & nukes & Middle East & Iraq “expert” & “consultant” & “advisor” predates everyone else in the Principals Powell easily, Rice just about as easily, & perhaps somewhat surprisingly Dick thus Rummy.

    Hadley was also at the center of the ORIGINAL Iraq Study Group – the one that gamed how to get the US in there.

    Hadley is perfectly positioned to witness everything – much more so that John Dean ever was – & while or perhaps because he’s so ubiquitous a presence & so Bob Newhart buttoned down [sans any hint of irony or other humor] & so bland & quiet monotonal of voice & so gives off the same sort of false impression of rationality which psychopathic urban cannibals & Unitardian Vice Presidents give off, I would think it would be very easy to underestimate him, and that it would not even occur to journalists & reporters admitted to the inner vaults to accuse him of instigating anyhing – I mean, the only reason he gets noted at all is because so many reporters like to describe the scenery {”portrait – antique chair- president – ficus plant – Hadely ….].

    In all – the sort of character one tends only to accept in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas: Sees all, “knows” all, appreciates nothing, capable of anything, without discernable personality or fingersprints, perfectly placed to leak anything to anyone, & yet never actually mentioned – until days or weeks or months or years later & always well outside the story that got everyone all excited: “Oh yeah…that leak on the thing with Plame/Iraq/torture/[fill in blank]? Turns out it was Hadley. – Sheesh, really? Such a nice man. Invited me to his daughter’s recital. Well, he’s always there anyway, so I spose its no surprise. Lets move on.”

    Hadley, by my estimate, is the all-time leader in the Bush Cheney Administration leaks, many of the sort obviously-intended-to-create-a-different-impression-but-failed-to or must-have-been-thinking-of-something-else or short-fused fizzing out or embarrassingly-obvious intended-to-help-SOMEHOW-yet-never-seems to.

    Among his specialties, whether by design based on an assessment, which is as likely to be cracked as shrewd, or by ineptitude, or his usual production flaw of some critical disconnect between conception & execution [It’s tough to determine which given how whimsically his moves are more one than another].

    One of the reasons this worst of possible administrations has endured is because its supporters among the GOOP, having no actual ideas of their own, credit it with mystical tailcoating powers, and because its detractors & critics & opponents are for the most part sane & rational persons – who assume that the Bush administration actually INTENDS to do all the moronic, cruel, criminal, cowardly, undemocratic, racists, sexist, anti-science, religiotic things they do.

    No – that’s not it at all. There are PARTS of the BCA & particular players & groups of players with a plan & objectives, mostly cruel, or criminal, or cowardly, or racist, etc as the case may be, with which we have become familiar.

    But it all is enabled behind of a Big Mystic Fog comprised of Waterbush verbal gaffs & public winks & nods to the elements of the base with private meetings where reassurances are given & the promises that end up being kept, those really awful ones, are made.

    And just like in Dorothy’s Oz, the only person with a handle on it all is the operator of the Green Machine – or in this case the Maker of the Big Mystic Fog:


  32. LS says:

    crossposted at FDL — is this the same Scott Horton that just quit blogging or is it a different one?:


    “In 2003, Rumsfeld’s apparent disregard for the requirements of the Geneva Conventions while carrying out the war on terror had led a group of senior military legal officers from the Judge Advocate General’s (jag) Corps to pay two surprise visits within five months to Scott Horton, who was then chairman of the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on International Human Rights. “They wanted us to challenge the Bush Administration about its standards for detentions and interrogation,” Horton told me. “They were urging us to get involved and speak in a very loud voice. It came pretty much out of the blue. The message was that conditions are ripe for abuse, and it’s going to occur.”

  33. tryggth says:

    Something to watch for…

    That tired old argument about 2001-2002 being a different time. Sure. This is a different time than when you are reading this. But that tired argument says: There are no principals we can’t be frightened away from. Bullshit. People have held their principles under more frightening situations. We need a conversation about comfort vrs. principals.

    • JimWhite says:

      Something to watch for…

      That tired old argument about 2001-2002 being a different time.

      Yes, but the Bush administration was pushing to get the US out of the International Criminal Court before 9/11. See this new blog on torture and my comment on the current post for a link.

    • LS says:

      Thaaattt’ss Riiiiight…!! together with looping the video of Al Qaeda prepared to attack the US (8/6/01 memo testimony)….

      Exactly “what” has she accomplished in all of her flights around the world??? Absolutely nothing. Nada. Nil. Zero. Nothin’.

      Trump said it. She can’t close a deal.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Too true. “Get thee to a nunn’ry”. A pun and double rebuke that Franklin, like Shakespeare’s contemporaries, would have admired. “Nunnery” to them would have meant both a home for daughters of the church and slang for “brothel”.

  34. CTuttle says:

    I’m still amazed that the DoJ concluded that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to anybody but ‘High Contracting Parties’… Sheer Fuckery…!

  35. jnardo says:

    “These discussions weren’t adding value. Once you make a policy decision to go beyond what you used to do and conclude it’s legal, (you should) just tell them to implement it.”

    Sounds like soldier talk to me…

  36. selise says:

    Cheney, Others OK’d Harsh Interrogations

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Bush administration officials from Vice President Dick Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, The Associated Press has learned.

    The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved.

    • Hmmm says:

      Downright weird that this story is still not getting updated to point out that W signed orders to the same effect.

  37. radiofreewill says:

    Imho, Cheney will resign…soon, for Ordering Torture as a Prinicpal, as reported on the newswires yesterday.

    And get replaced by Sen. John “Pardon” Cornyn…Texas Crony of you know who.

    I think the Goopers are going to try and extricate their Party from the Disaster of their Blind Loyalty to Bush the Dishonest War President – Who Operated with Depravity, in Secret…

  38. Mary says:

    52 –

    In other words, two of the people whom Bush noted as being involved in “extensive discussions regarding the status of Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees” are not included in the list ABC News gave of the attendees of the meetings

    This is what I was referring to when talking about the ripples of those who might have been involved in the discussions. I think that someone doesn’t need to have been present at the meetings per se to have been involved, as would be the case with the fact that Taft drafted the memo and backed Powell in the objections to some of what was at issue in the meetings. And while Yoo was not in attendance, he, Flanigan, Philbin – all would have been involved in discussions regarding what was going on, and the same very prominently with Addington.

    I do think the reference from the “source” reads like someone who was present at the meetings, but I think that could be parsed. The first quote, though, I think without a lot of parsing could be anyone at DOJ who had to work on the justifications generated, not just necessarily someone at the meeting. Since it comes after the paragraph stressing briefings to Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld, it could come from their camps, except that I don’t know if Rumsfeld or Cambone qualify as still being with the administration (the reference doesn’t mention “former”) and could involve someone who really identifies with “their” Prinicpal and was involved in discussions with their Principal, but not necessarily at the meetings.
    “It kept coming up. CIA wanted us to sign off on each one every time,” said one high-ranking official ”

    So maybe you have an irritated, imperialistic Addington (who, after Libby, would have been involved directly in the meetings) as either the source (how dare the CIA keep making us all get our hands dirty instead of just doing it, especially since *I* had to take the time to write Gonzales’ memos for him and spend time with those twits at OLC, getting them to cough up what I needed) or the “high ranking official” who is referring to “us” in the imperial or self-identified sense. The irritated “why don’t they just do it” tone of “the source” does reflect the Rice direction to Tenet, so Rice or Hadley would be possibles there too. Didn’t

    I think you can make a case for the “us” reference as coming from a pool of people still with the administration that might include some who were not at the meetings, but were involved with their Principal in discussions arising out of the meetings, or were at DOJ and involved in drafting, but in that second category – who is still at DOJ? I don’t think there would be many fish in that pond.

    I tend to get a vibe of either Yoo or pro-Yoo or reliedonYoo sourcing going on, though. First you have Yoo’s memo declassified and out, then Yoo is giving an Esquire interview saying Ashcroft knew – then Ashcroft comes back with ‘oh NO NO, *I* did NOT know’ So now we get a story that makes all the stories that tends to call into question all the stories implying that Ashcroft didn’t know about what an out of control, run amok Yoo was doing.

    Instead of Ashcroft as a befuddled Mr. Magoo, with Yoo and Addington working behind his back, you have Ashcroft attending meeting after meeting after meeting to specifically review and approve detailed torture plans that were laid out.

    In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings

    Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of “combined” interrogation techniques … on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break

    a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects

    Tenet … regularly sought confirmation from the NSC principals

    [Ashcroft]agreed with the general policy decision to allow aggressive tactics and had repeatedly advised that they were legal. But he argued that senior White House advisers should not be involved in the grim details of interrogations,

    Discussions were so detailed the interrogations after approval were like choreography. The story refers to Tenet telling Gibson last year that the tortures interrogations were legal according to ASHCROFT, the AG.

    Ashcroft Ashcroft Ashcroft – not Yoo, not Bybee – Ashcroft. Over and over the story gets in the punch that Ashcroft’s pretense that he didn’t know what Yoo was doing is not only belied by all the meetings where everyone looked directly to Ashcroft for DOJ’s approvals, but also that it reflects a pretty cowardly pattern of wanting to hand out the approvals, but then disclaim knowledge of what was going on. It sounds more and more like on things like the wiretap approvals, his references to the Whitehouse just shoving something in front of him and him not knowing what was going on were as much because HE did not WANT to know as that the WH deliberately cut him out.

    “Why are we talking about this” is not the mantra you want to hear from the Attorney General of the United States.

  39. klynn says:

    We are in the anniversary season of Donald Vance’s return to the US and the Donald Vance & Nathan Ertel v. Donald Rumsfeld original filing.

    In light of new (not really) information, I wonder what changes for Vance & Ertel?

    For a revisit to their story there are links below… If you have 25 minutes, the Chicago Public Radio piece is well worth listening to. Every time I listen, I’m struck by the constant failure of this administrations policies.





  40. klynn says:


    I have tried to post a comment regarding Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel a few times. Every attempt has been lost for some reason…

    One last try here.

    In honor of the anniversary of Vance’s return to the US and their suit filing, I recommend this Chicago NPR story. It’s 24 minutes long.


    I am sure neither is surprised by this round of torture information…

  41. Mary says:

    55 – Yes, some did that, but I think there are lots of problems with that attitude, since with the current court, it was a tough job for Stevens to cobble his 5 for the Hamdan opinion, and they relied VERY HEAVILY on what the UCMJ said and that the President couldn’t legislate around what Congress had passed. The MCA does a very good job (too bad Yoo was gone and they had more competent drafters involved) of addressing and puncturing all the arguments on which Stevens rested his opinion.

    And if you end up with some directly competing statements from Congress (like adoption of the GCs and generic references several places in UCMJ about the principles v. the “have at ‘em boys” express and implicit provisions of the DTA and MCA) the Court will pretty much have to go with the most recent expressions.

    Not only did the MCA murder the arguments in Hamdan, it went back and killed the grounds for habeas that were established in Rasul and which did not have to be addressed directly when the Court considered the DTA, because the Court decided the DTA was only for “future” cases and not for pending cases. Not only does MCA make it for all cases, but it suspends habeas pretty much everywhere but the US, not just at GITMO.

    So they are going to need some new arguments, new grounds, new approaches. The problem there is a mish mash of cases with wildly varying facts and different levels of legal expertise in the representations and different GOALS in the representation as well, so that there is not really a good, solid, systematic way to approach the worst aspects of the legislation – it’s going to be catch as catch can on what the Court does, for example, on Boumedain(sp) and it’s specific arguments and facts.

    I do like the original ruling at GITMO, though, about the failure of the MCA and the failure of all the CSRTs to include “unlawful” or “illegal” in the combatant status findings.

    Reid and all the passive aggressive assists from so many Dems well and thoroughly screwed the nation and I find it very hard to like any of them.

    60 – that’s just the guy that google images gives you when you put in “limbo” on restricted safe search.

    62 – I think you some good points on Hadley. If he was the “source” griping about why they don’t just do things and instead keep coming back and TELLING the Principals all about what they are going to do, then I have to ask – – – who feels good about the fact that Congress dropped, Good Little Soldier, Sacrifice My Troops For My Boss’ Vanity Any Day, Hayden into Tenet’s slot? That “only waterboarded three” – sez who? Is that when the briefings stopped because now CIA was just getting it done, not talking about it?

    88 – or that Afghan becoming someone’s idea of a “failed state” dis-in-contracted them.

    95 – Not that odd. The order has been out for a long time and the fact that Bush created this “unlawful enemy combatant” concept has been kicked to the curb a few times. It ties directly to the January Gonzales memo released back during his confirmations.

  42. Mary says:

    98 – thanks for that link – I am about to disappear into a lot of work, but maybe I can borrow some headphones and listen to that while I am doing real work too.

    • klynn says:

      Sorry I posted twice. I guess two out of four attempts on the tubes is pretty good when the screen seems to refresh and go blank when I click “submit”. Something is up on my end I imagine.

      Mary, when you listen, make sure you are out of ear shot of others — especially children. You might be surprised what will come out of you as you listen to their horror…

  43. radiofreewill says:

    While I’m really curious as to who was ‘on-board’ with The President’s Torture Program, and who was ‘duped,’ as well as who stood their ground on Principles and Rejected Cruel and Inhumane Treatment of Other Human Beings, it does seem clear that the article references ’sources’ from both the Briefers’ and Briefees’ sides.

    IOW, witnesses to the Whole Story are indicating that by putting their stories together, it would be possible to discern Who Were the Torture-Authorizers.

    This is the point in the game where the Chessplayer realizes he’s already in a Mating Net…

    We should get to see some Gooper Coping Skills on display in the not too distant future.

  44. danps says:

    Oh and by the way, an additional feature of our torture regime is that we now get to hear the Iranian media crow about how lousy we are on human rights. We’re keeping some awesome company these days. W. might be attending the opening ceremony just so he doesn’t risk China pointing out the obvious.

  45. maryo2 says:

    The White House
    February 7, 2002

    Memorandum for
    The Vice President [Dick Cheney]
    The Secretary of State [Colin Powell]
    The Secretary of Defense [Donald Rumsfeld]
    The Attorney General [John Ashcroft]
    Chief of Staff to the President [Andrew Card]
    Director of Central Intelligence [George Tenet]
    Assitant to the President for National Security Affairs [Condoleezza Rice]
    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff [General Richard Myers]

    SUBJECT : Humane Treatment of a1 Qaeda and Taliban Detainees

    1. Our recent extensive discussions regarding the status
    of a1Qaeda and Taliban detainees confirm that the application
    of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment
    of Prisoners of War of August 12, 1949 (Geneva) to the
    conflict with a1 Qaeda and the Taliban involve complex
    legal questions. By its terms, Geneva applies to conflicts
    involving “High Contracting Parties” which can only be
    states. Moreover, it assumes the existence of “regular”
    armed forces fighting on behalf of states. However, the
    war against terrorism ushers in new paradigm, one in
    which groups with broad, international reach commit horrific
    acts against innocent civilians sometimes with the direct
    support of states. Our Nation recognizes that this new
    paradigm — ushered in not by us, but by terrorists –
    requires new thinking in the law of war, but thinking that
    nevertheless be consistent with the principles of Geneva.

    2. Pursuant to my authority as Commander in Chief and Chief
    Executive of the United States, and relying on the opinion
    of the Department of Justice dated January 22, 2002, and on
    the legal opinion rendered by the Attorney General in his
    letter of February 1, 2002, thereby determine as follows:

    a. I accept the legal conclusion of the Department of
    Justice and determine that none of the provisions
    of Geneva apply to our conflicts with a1 Qaeda in
    Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world because,
    among other reasons, a1 Qaeda is not a High Contracting
    Party to Geneva.

    b. I accept the legal conclusion of the Attorney General
    and the Department of Justice that I have the authority
    under the Constitution to suspend Geneva as between
    the United States and Afghanistan, but I decline to
    exercise that authority at this time. Accordingly I
    determine that the provisions of Geneva will apply to our
    present conflict with the Taliban. I reserve the right
    to exercise this authority in this or future conflicts.

    c. I also accept the legal conclusion of the Department of
    Justice and determine that common Article 3 of Geneva
    does not apply to either a1 Qaeda or Taliban detainees,
    because, among other reasons the relevant conflicts
    are international in scope and common Article 3 applies
    only to “armed conflict not of an international character.”

    d. Based on the facts supplied by the Department of
    Defense and the recommendation of the Department of
    Justice, I determine that the Taliban detainees are
    unlawful combatants and, therefore, do not qualify as
    prisoners of war under Article 4 of Geneva. I note
    that, because Geneva does not apply to our conflict
    with a1 Qaeda, a1 Qaeda detainees also do not qualify
    as prisoners of war.

    3. Of course, our values as a Nation, values that we share
    with many nations in the world, call for us to treat detainees
    humanely, including those who are not legally entitled to
    such treatment. Our Nation has been and will continue to
    be a strong supporter of Geneva and its principles. As
    a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall
    continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent
    appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in
    a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.

    4. The United States will hold states, organizations, and
    individuals who gain control of United States personnel
    responsible for treating such personnel humanely and
    consistent with applicable law.

    5. I hereby reaffirm the order previously issued by the
    Secretary of Defense to the United State Armed Forces
    requiring that the detainees be treated humanely and,
    to the extent appropriate and consistent with military
    necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles
    of Geneva.

    6. I hereby direct the Secretary of State to communicate my
    determinations in an appropriate manner to our allies, and
    other countries and international organizations cooperating
    in the war against terrorism of global reach.

    -George Bush

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