Addington’s Multiple Choice Torture Memos

When I read the transcript from the House Judiciary Committee’s Assholes Who Torture hearing after the torture memos got released, one thing became clear. Addington was hiding his involvement with the Bybee Two memo (about techniques) by answering questions only about Bybee One.

Twice during the hearing, David Addington answered a question about the  Bybee One memo (abstract authorization for torture–which had been declassified long before this hearing), but made sure to clarify in the record that his answer pertained specifically to that memo. This suggests his answers may have been dramatically different had he been asked about the Bybee Two memo (concrete techniques–the one released last month). If I’m right, it suggests that Addington discussed the Bybee Two memo on his September 25, 2002 field trip to Gitmo with John Yoo, Jim Haynes, and John Rizzo (and others). 

In the first of these exchanges, Jerry Nadler asks Addington what role he had in drafting the Bybee memo (without specifying which one he meant).

Mr. NADLER.  Mr. Addington, It has been reported in several books and in the The Washington Post that you contributed to the analysis or assisted in the drafting of the August 1, 2002 interrogation memo signed by Jay Bibey. [sic] Is this correct?


Mr. NADLER. You had nothing to do with that.

Mr. ADDINGTON. No. I didn’t say I had nothing to do with it. You asked if I assisted in contribution, and let me read to you something I think will be helpful to you.

Addington filibusters for a bit, so Nadler interrupts and instructs him to tell what his role was (did I mention this was the Assholes Who Torture hearing?). 

Mr. NADLER. Wait a minute. Mr. Addington, please, we don’t need all these quotes.


Mr. NADLER. Just tell us what your role was, if you can.

Mr. ADDINGTON. Yes, I will.

At which point Addington asks precisely which one Nadler was talking about.

Mr. NADLER. Because you said it wasn’t nonexistant but you didn’t help shape it. So what was it?

Mr. ADDINGTON. Mr. Chairman, my recollection, first of all, I would be interested in seeing the document you are questioning me about. I think you are talking about a document of August 2002.

Mr. NADLER. Yes.

Mr. ADDINGTON. It would be useful to have that in front of me so I can make sure that what I am remembering relates to the document you have and not a lot of other legal opinions I looked at. But assuming you and I are talking about the same opinion, my memory is of Professor Yoo coming over to see the counsel of the President and I was invited in the meeting, with the three of us, and he gave us an outline of here are the subjects I am going to address. And I remember, when he was done, saying, ‘‘Here are the subjects I am going to address,’’ saying, ‘‘Good,’’ and he goes off and writes the opinion. Now, in the course of my work—thank you. [my empahsis]

Addington is handed a copy of the memo and reads its title–Bybee to Gonzales, so Bybee One, which would distinguish it from Bybee Two, which was Bybee to John Rizzo–into the record.

You have a copy of it? Thanks. Let me just look at it. I will give it back to you. It is August 1, 2002, memorandum for Alberto Gonzales, counsel of the President, re: standards of conduct for interrogation under 18 USC Sections 2340 and 2340(a). I believe that this is the result of the process I was just describing where he came over and said, ‘‘These are the subjects I am going to address,’’ and we said, ‘‘Good.’’ [my emphasis]

Nadler got an answer (finally) out of Addington about the generalized Bybee One memo (the groundwork for which, as we discussed yesterday, had been established through a series of memos dating back nine months, which would make it thoroughly unsurprising that Yoo knew precisely which topics Addington wanted covered). But he got no answer about Addington’s involvement in Bybee Two, the one that lays out waterboarding and the like. 

Which is particularly relevant given Addington’s admission that he worked much more closely on the CIA related torture than on the DOD related torture.

Mr. NADLER. Mr. Addington, you stated to Ms. Wasserman Schultz earlier in this hearing that your involvement in the CIA interrogation program was greater than your involvement in the military program. What was your involvement in the CIA interrogation program?

Mr. ADDINGTON. We had a number of meetings, as you might imagine. An example was the one I described earlier with the Justice Department to obtain legal advice on the program. A number of the lawyers and the relevant parts of the executive branch would be involved in working on the legal advice on such a matter.

To which Bill Delahunt follows up later.

Mr. DELAHUNT. And I think you, Mr. Addington, indicated that you had multiple conversations regarding enhanced interrogation techniques at the CIA.

Mr. ADDINGTON. With the Office of Legal Counsel, office of general counsel at CIA.

Mr. DELAHUNT. Did the issue of waterboarding arise during the course of those conversations?

Mr. ADDINGTON. I think you will find that over the years, as lawyers in the group talk, at various times, there would be discussion of particular techniques. As I indicated to the Chairman at the beginning of this, when the subject came up——

Mr. DELAHUNT. Was waterboarding one of them?

Mr. ADDINGTON. That is what I am answering, because I know where you are headed. As I indicated to the Chairman at the beginning of this thing, I am not in a position to talk about particular techniques, whether they are or aren’t used or could or couldn’t be used or their legal status.

Addington dodges the question–did you discuss waterboarding with (from Addington’s context) Yoo and Rizzo during the process of writing Bybee Two–by appealing to the still-classified nature of Bybee Two.

All of which brings us to the second time Addington went out of his way to clarify which August 1, 2002 memo was being discussed–when Debbie Wasserman Schultz asked if he mentioned the Bybee memo (speaking of the more abstract one) while in Gitmo.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Addington, there are press reports that state that in September of 2002, you and other Administration lawyers visited Guantanamo Bay. A JAG attorney in Guantanamo, Diane Beaver, is quoted in a ‘‘Vanity Fair’’ article as saying that the message from you and the other visitors was ‘‘do whatever needed to be done.’’ And just weeks after that visit, interrogators at Guantanamo Bay began to developing a far harsher interrogation program than they had ever used before. Did you visit Guantanamo Bay in September of 2002, as has been reported?

Addington filibusters for some time, regaling Wasserman Schultz with accounts of how many times he had been to Gitmo in his career, even back to when he worked at DOD (yeah. Assholes Who Torture). When she asks if he remembers speaking with Diane Beaver–the author of the crappy legal opinion that ended up authorizing harsh interrogation at Gitmo–he claims not to remember (though he remembers the later encounter, at which he is reported to have told Beaver, "great minds think alike," which sure suggests he remembered the earlier meeting). 

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. On one of those trips, did you meet with JAG attorneys?

Mr. ADDINGTON. I don’t recall it. I remember when Ms. Beaver, Col. Beaver, who was referenced, I think, in Mr. Sands’ ‘‘Vanity Fair’’ article, I did not remember meeting her there. The only time I remember meeting her is over at the office of general counsel at the Department of Defense many years later.

After further discussion about the trip, and Addington’s admission he watched an interrogation, Wasserman Schultz asks the first time about the memo, and Addington first dodges by answering a question about Bybee One that he couldn’t answer about Bybee Two.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. On any of the trips, did you discuss interrogation methods that were directly referenced in the memo that we have been discussing here for this hearing?

Mr. ADDINGTON. I am not sure I remember this memo having methods discussed in it, frankly. [my emphasis]

So Wasserman Schultz asks more generally about whether Addington recommended methods, which puts Addington into full Gonzolesque "I don’t recall" mode.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Did you discuss specific types of interrogation methods that interrogators should use while at Guantanamo Bay on the detainees?

Mr. ADDINGTON. I don’t recall doing that, no.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. That means you didn’t or you don’t recall doing it?

Mr. ADDINGTON. It means I don’t recall doing it, as I said.

Wasserman Schultz asks again (though makes the mistake of asking whether Addington discussed techniques "with those who would be administering the interrogation"). Which is when Addington says he was more involved in the CIA program than the DOD one (which Nadler references to in a question above). So Wasserman Schultz asks about the memo again. And once again, Addington makes it clear in the reference that he’s referring to Bybee One, and not Bybee Two, by making clear it’s the one addressed to Gonzales and not Rizzo. Addington ends this line of questioning by giving an incredibly parsed denial of using specific words to encourage certain techniques, but not of encouraging them in the first place.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. So I am pretty clear on why I am asking you the questions and which one I am asking you. On one of the trips that you took, it was weeks after the August 1, 2002 interrogation memo was issued by the Office of Legal Counsel. Did you have any discussions on that trip about that recent Department of Justice legal advice on interrogations? Did you ever discuss the memo which offered legal advice on interrogations with anyone at Guantanamo Bay on any of your trips there?

Mr. ADDINGTON. I am fairly certain, I won’t be absolute, but fairly certain that I did not.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. That you did not ever——

Mr. ADDINGTON. Discuss this August 1, 2002 legal opinion to the counsel of the President from the Department of Justice.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. So you deny the suggestion then in their report that you encouraged Guantanamo Bay interrogators to do whatever needed to be done.

Mr. ADDINGTON. No—yes, I do deny that.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. You do deny that.

Mr. ADDINGTON. Yes. That quote is wrong. [my emphasis]

Interestingly, given his suggestion he worked with Rizzo and Yoo on Bybee Two, the one instance in which he doesn’t make a distinction between Bybee One and Two is when he says he didn’t speak about SERE techniques in reference to "the August 1, 2002 memorandum."

Mr. SCOTT. Mr. Addington, did you ever discuss the SERE program in connection with the August 1, 2002 memorandum?

Mr. ADDINGTON. No. I didn’t think I did so, but I don’t have any reason to dispute the quotation from Mr. Bradbury that the Chairman just read [that ‘‘The CIA’s use of the waterboarding procedure was adapted from the SERE training program.’’].

Though given the context (I presume he still had it before him), it would be safe to assume he was answering about Bybee One, not Bybee Two.

All of which leads me to believe you can trace a pretty direct line from the Bybee Two memo though that September 25, 2002 field trip to Gitmo to the torture at Gitmo. 

43 replies
  1. ezdidit says:

    Has Congress discussed what enhanced methods of interrogation would be appropriate to this line of questioning?

    I would now like to see the Nadler-Wasserman-Schultz memos.

  2. klynn says:

    All of which leads me to believe you can trace a pretty direct line from the Bybee Two memo though that September 25, 2002 field trip to Gitmo to the torture at Gitmo.

    Oh thank you! That was the point I tried to make (although poorly via a question) about the torture timeline you had up when I mentioned the late September trip. And, it puts an interesting angle to: the October 2002 (including Bush speech) activity, the detainee death in Nov 02 even more and the Rummy note from Dec. 02 in the full torture spotlight.

    Here’s to drawing lines from dot to dot.

    Thank you EW!

    • emptywheel says:

      Oh, Mary’s been working that point forever (seeing how it’s Derby day, I’m pretty sure we won’t see her). But it’d sure be nice to pin them talking about Bybee Two on their field trip.

      • bmaz says:

        Hell of a race. Actually, two of them; the one Mine That Bird was running and the one all the rest of the horses were running. Was like Mine That Bird had warp drive and the rest were on impulse power down the stretch.

        I think Mary was the girl in the hat I kept seeing…..

        • Loo Hoo. says:

          Cool. Didn’t know Mary was into the thoroughbreds. Knew she had horses, but dang!

  3. KiwiJackson says:

    Finally Addington is called to account, may he be called on an international stage. The Torquemada ofthis time called up as MR would want. We raised 300 for you emptywheel, at work that was donated to the site. You deserve that and more. Where is the heavyduty fundraiser for your efforts, is it yet coming?

  4. bobschacht says:

    Ga-a-a-a-a. 171 pages! Here’s hoping the commenters can help you sort through the transcript from the House Judiciary Committee’s Assholes Who Torture hearing! How one might maintain focused attention through all that obfuscating is beyond me!

    The table of contents is not helpful. For others who might otherwise be at a loss, the questioning actually begins on page 37, a fact not noted in the Table of Contents. What would be helpful is a real table of contents, or maybe an index, for pp. 37-87, detailing which principal witness was speaking.

    Bob in HI

  5. SparklestheIguana says:

    I remember watching this on Cspan and Addington being just unspeakably haughty and disdainful. Do we know for a fact Addington believes Congress has a right to exist? I know he carries around a copy of the Constitution in his pocket, but his naked contempt for the hearings was repulsive.

    And yet EW remarked how tame and professorial he was under questioning in the Libby trial. Out of respect for the judiciary? PJF induced an out of character timidity?

    • emptywheel says:

      I think PJF kicked his ass.

      These word games were apparent even during this hearing. But with five minutes, what is someone supposed to do (and I remember thinking that Nadler and Wasserman Schultz did a pretty good job, FWIW).

      Fitz had the ability to keep Addington on the stand forever. ANd I suspect he had means to shine a flashlight up Addington’s ass even further. So Addington all of a sudden not only played nice, but babbled on and on.

  6. Mary says:


    Too bade Mine is a gelding. Of course with a wonderful race apparently all the news that is the news has to do with Michelle Obama wearing a pair of expensive tennis shoes. argh

    7- yep, the one with the wide brim.

    • Hmmm says:

      OMG, just watched it. Either he was getting paid by the word, or he was getting paid by the minute, or much more likely he was simply trying to slow things down to an extreme degree so that Nadler wouldn’t be able to get through his questions, or follow chains of questioning very far, before timing out. So I don’t think Addington was remotely nuts, just extremely obstructionist.

    • skdadl says:

      It’s outrageous, isn’t it, when he stops proceedings to make his notes? I was scanning the YouTubes of the hearing earlier this aft, and I remembered that he’d done that, but it is still a jaw-dropper.

      Steve Cohen’s barnacle-branch zinger still makes me laugh too. That was so neatly done (in response to Addington’s gassy position on Fourth Branch, that the VP belongs to neither the executive nor the legislative branch but is “attached by the Constitution to the latter”). Cohen: “So he’s kind of like a barnacle?” Addington: “I don’t consider the Constitution a barnacle.” Cohen: [something like] “I meant the VP.”

    • pdaly says:

      Thanks for writing that! I was asking myself what he was writing down.
      At first I thought he was going to send a message to Nadler saying he cannot talk about this, but he could have leaned into the microphone and done the same thing.

      Why make a note to himself? Did he not trust the transcription to record Nadler’s question and Addington’s unspoken obfuscation (same date, different memo) in case he was ever brought up on charges of lying to Congress?

      I thought Addington searching for quotes in Yoo’s book was hilarious. How funny that Addington would use Yoo’s words to act as his own testimony. No need to speak himself. Less chance of birthing a lie.

      • Hmmm says:

        Why make a note to himself? … searching for quotes in Yoo’s book …

        To consume time.

        • pdaly says:

          Those time limits during Senate and House hearings drive me crazy sometimes.
          The inane questions seem to take forever and then when the questioning becomes pointed, “time is up! Next questioner”

      • emptywheel says:

        First, I thikn the Yoo stuff was very shrewd. We have no idea–in fact, I doubt highly–whether Yoo would say the things he wrote in his book under oath. But Addington can do so–all he’s saying is that Yoo wrote something. So it’s a way to introduce Yoo’s side without him being accountable for it. There’s another point or two where Addingotn tries to make excuses for Yoo.

        As to writing notes? I don’t know that’s what he’s doing–though it sure seems to be. He may have been taking notes so if he was asked something later (for example, about Bybee Two), he’d be prepared with the exact language used before. He was parsin this all so closely, I believe, it was important for him to have the language ready at hand.

        • pdaly says:

          I saw Yoo sitting to Addington’s left in that YouTube video. Was Yoo not sworn in? (I guess I could answer this question if I downloaded that testimony–but I figure you know the answer off the top of your head), because it seems a dangerous thing for Addington to draw attention to Yoo’s words. A questioner could turn to Yoo and ask him to confirm the scenario is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

          bmaz’s point is interesting. Wouldn’t have known about this technique. But then again, Addington already was annoying me and probably the questioners.
          Wonder if future hearings could ask more open ended questions about “a memo” instead of “the memo”
          For example, “Did you have anything to do with a memo on or around Aug 01, 2002 that dealt with waterboarding?”

          • emptywheel says:

            Yoo was sworn in IIRC.

            But he also had his very own golden shield from (ha!) Steven Bradbury, saying he couldn’t talk about who he spoke with or anything else that would be hidden by attorney-client privilege (plus some). So if Yoo had been asked, Yoo would have said, “mean old Steven Bradbury won’t let me answer.”

            It’s a neat gimmick those two had going for them.

    • Mary says:

      Unbelievable. He knows that they have time limits too, he’s really emphasizing the ass in passive agressive as much as he can on that one.

      Very cute how he uses Yoo’s book and Yoo’s statements to answer a question that is being put to HIM, under oath, as to his own knowledge and participation.

      He was well coached for the Libby trial – they knew that kind of crap would come off so unlikeable that it would do anything but help Libby, so he wore a different hat.

      25 – I’ve seen a little on that, discussion on handoffs being extra slow bc of suspicions of torture. Also on the Irish front, IIRC it is Ireland that has some special concerns re: the Binyam Mohamed revelations and the Jeppeson case, bc the torture taxi used Irish airport(s)

      27 – now that I’m scrolling I see that you were at the same place first, “… whether Yoo would say the things he wrote in his book under oath. But Addington can do so–”

      38 – sorry for the false impression, I was teasing back at bmaz (all the Derby hats have huge, poke an eye out, brims. I wasn’t there (have gone several times, but no this year). I hot walked and groomed and did a tiny bit of breezing a the “dogfood track” of Ellis when I was young, but I don’t race horses. I do have racetrack retirees who we have used for jumping and eventing and over the last few yaars while i’ve dealt with some back issues for pasture decoration. I have done a lot of something called dressage and have a couple of “warmblood” horses who have a special aptitude for that discipline, but while I love dressage most as a sport, I love my thoroughbreds most as breed.

  7. emptywheel says:

    You know, I don’t blame him for writing the notes. He–and Yoo–were trying to get through this hearing without doing anything they could be indicted for (Addington’s formative experience, remember, was Iran-Contra).

    That said, when you look back you see just how hard he was trying to stay out of the pokey.

    • bmaz says:

      It is a trick many attorneys try to imprint on clients heading into a deposition. Writing it down interrupts the flow annoys the examiner and gives the witness time and a structure to think clearly through and come up with the least harmful answer. So, my guess is that it is part this and part he wanted to remember a question that was indeed problematic.

      • bmaz says:

        I should point out, upon reflection, that there are some forums of questioning where you would have the witness able to take notes like this, and many that you would not want to less the other side demand the notes be made a part of the record or later produced. In those instances, you train the witness to simply stop and mentally think through the question deliberately. Same disquieting effect on the examiner though.

  8. skdadl says:

    Oh, I just remembered my question. Last June, did we/the subcommittee know that there was a second memo, even if it was still classified? At what point did that become known?

    • emptywheel says:

      Yes, they knew the memo existed.

      Admittedly, it’s hard to keep an unseen memo in mind while trying to look good on TV grilling Addington. But we’ve known the second memo addressed specific tehcniques since the first one came out in 2004, I think.

  9. JohnLopresti says:

    Considerably OffTopic, London Review of Books article 2008 by Gareth Pierce, criminal defense, civil rights, practitioner in UK. The impression is she managed to keep Irish rebel clients from torcha in UK years ago, and during the prior US adminsitration managed to keep muslim UK clients from extradition to tocha by US.

  10. behindthefall says:

    I got through 2;00 of that video. What a … I don’t know what. Takes notes, makes little noises to himself, has bushels of little mannerisms — was the only requirement for employment by the Bush Administration the ability to avoid responding to the sense of a question?

  11. lysias says:

    Has Addington still not succeeded in finding work since the end of the Bush/Cheney administration?

    I wonder if he still takes the Metro in to D.C. from his home in Virginia every workday.

  12. Leen says:

    Delahunt turned the screws on Addington during that hearing
    DELAHUNT: Oh I can understand why [the President] doesn’t talk about it.

    ADDINGTON: Because you gotta communicate with al Qaeda. If you do — I can’t talk to you, al Qaeda may watch C-SPAN.

    DELAHUNT: Right. Well, I’m sure they are watching, and I’m glad they finally have a chance to see you, Mr. Addington.

    ADDINGTON: Yeah, I’m sure you’re pleased.

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