As part of the discussion in his book explaining how the CIA shifted from torture to killing, Mark Mazzetti tells the story of how the CIA balked at engaging in further torture after the Detainee Treatment Act.
After President Bush signed the bill into law, then-CIA Director Porter Goss wrote the White House saying the CIA would refuse to torture unless and until they got a guarantee they wouldn’t be prosecuted for doing it. In response, the Bush Administration sent Andy Card to the CIA to try to calm them down.
Card drove out to Langley intending to soothe the fears at CIA headquarters, but his visit was a disaster. Inside a packed conference room, Card thanked the assembled CIA officers for their service and their hard work but refused to make any firm declarations that agency officers wouldn’t be criminally liable for participating in the detention-and-interrogation program.
The room became restless. Prodded by his chief of staff, Patrick Murray, Porter Goss interrupted Card.
“Can you assure these people that the politicians will not walk away from the people who carried out this program?” Goss asked. Card didn’t answer the question directly. Instead, he tried to crack a joke.
“Let me put it this way,” he said. “Every morning I knock on the door of the Oval Office, walk in, and say, ‘Pardon me, Mr. President.’ And of course, the only person the president can’t pardon is himself.”
Card giggled after he said this, but his joke landed with a thud. The White House chief of staff, when asked whether President Bush would protect CIA officers from legal scrutiny, had suggested that the most they might be abel to rely on is a presidential pardon after the indictments and convictions were handed down. (127-128)
Goss effectively repeated a request the CIA had made, unsuccessfully, as early as July 13, 2002 (when, it should be said, Goss was ostensibly in charge of overseeing the program at the House Intelligence Committee, though there’s no reason to believe he knew about the earlier request): for an Administration guarantee that everyone involved in the torture program would be shielded from criminal consequences for kidnapping and torturing.
And in response, Card implied to these CIA officers and executives two things:
- President Bush would pardon anyone convicted of crimes related to torture
- Bush, himself, was ultimately exposed to prosecution for those crimes as well (all the more so, since he couldn’t pardon his own crimes)
Now, Card wouldn’t have even tried such a joke unless he knew his audience knew that the torture program was based on a Presidential Finding — what we know to be the September 17, 2001 Gloves Come Off Memorandum of Notification.
There’s fairly clear evidence that CIA’s officers did know about it.