“ President Bush says he knew his top national security advisors discussed and approved specific details about how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, according to an exclusive interview with ABC News Friday.
"Well, we started to connect the dots, in order to protect the American people." Bush told ABC New's White House correspondent Martha Raddatz. "And, yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved." ”
President Says He Knew His Senior Advisers Discussed Tough Interrogation MethodsBy JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG, HOWARD L. ROSENBERG and ARIANE de VOGUE April 11, 2008
President Bush says he knew his top national security advisers discussed and approved specific details about how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, according to an exclusive interview with ABC News Friday.
"Well, we started to connect the dots in order to protect the American people." Bush told ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz. "And yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."
As first reported by ABC News Wednesday, the most senior Bush administration officials repeatedly discussed and approved specific details of exactly how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the CIA.
The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.
These top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding, sources told ABC news.
The advisers were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.
At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Dick Cheney, former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.
As the national security adviser, Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies.
The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of "combined" interrogation techniques -- using different techniques during interrogations instead of using one method at a time -- on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.
Contacted by ABC News, spokesmen for Tenet and Rumsfeld declined to comment about the interrogation program or their private discussions in Principals meetings. The White House also declined comment on behalf of Rice and Cheney. Ashcroft could not be reached.
ABC News' Diane Sawyer sat down with Powell this week for a previously scheduled interview and asked him about the ABC News report.
Powell said that he didn't have "sufficient memory recall" about the meetings and that he had participated in "many meetings on how to deal with detainees."
Powell said, "I'm not aware of anything that we discussed in any of those meetings that was not considered legal."
In his interview with ABC News, Bush said the ABC report about the Principals' involvement was not so "startling." The president had earlier confirmed the existence of the interrogation program run by the CIA in a speech in 2006. But before Wednesday's report, the extraordinary level of involvement by the most senior advisers in repeatedly approving specific interrogation plans -- down to the number of times the CIA could use a certain tactic on a specific al Qaeda prisoner -- had never been disclosed.
Critics at home and abroad have harshly criticized the interrogation program, which pushed the limits of international law and, they say, condoned torture. Bush and his top aides have consistently defended the program. They say it is legal and did not constitute torture.
In interview with ABC's Charles Gibson last year, Tenet said: "It was authorized. It was legal, according to the Attorney General of the United States."
The discussions and meetings occurred in an atmosphere of great concern that another terror attack on the nation was imminent. Sources said the extraordinary involvement of the senior advisers in the grim details of exactly how individual interrogations would be conducted showed how seriously officials took the al Qaeda threat.
It started after the CIA captured top al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah in spring 2002 in Faisalabad, Pakistan. When his safe house was raided by Pakistani security forces along with FBI and CIA agents, Zubaydah was shot three times during the gun battle.
At a time when virtually all counterterrorist professionals viewed another attack as imminent -- and with information on al Qaeda scarce -- the detention of Zubaydah was seen as a potentially critical breakthrough.
Zubaydah was taken to the local hospital, where CIA agent John Kiriakou, who helped coordinate Zubaydah's capture, was ordered to remain at the wounded captive's side at all times. "I ripped up a sheet and tied him to the bed," Kiriakou said.
But after Zubaydah recovered from his wounds at a secret CIA prison in Thailand, he was uncooperative. "I told him I had heard he was being a jerk," Kiriakou recalled. "I said, 'These guys can make it easy on you or they can make it hard.' It was after that he became defiant."
The CIA wanted to use more aggressive -- and physical -- methods to get information. The agency briefed high-level officials in the National Security Council's Principals Committee, led by then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and including then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, which then signed off on the plan, sources said. It is unclear whether anyone on the committee objected to the CIA's plans for Zubaydah.
The CIA has confirmed Zubaydah was one of three al Qaeda suspects subjected to waterboarding. After he was waterboarded, officials say Zubaydah gave up valuable information that led to the capture of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad and fellow 9/11 plotter Ramzi bin al-Shibh.
Mohammad, who is known as KSM, was also subjected to waterboarding by the CIA.
In the interview with ABC News Friday, Bush defended the waterboarding technique used against KSM.
"We had legal opinions that enabled us to do it," Bush said. "And no, I didn't have any problem at all trying to find out what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed knew."
The president said, "I think it's very important for the American people to understand who Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was. He was the person who ordered the suicide attack -- I mean, the 9/11 attacks."
At a hearing before a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay March 10, 2007, KSM, as he is known, said he broke under the harsh interrogation. COURT: Were any statements you made as the result of any of the treatment that you received during that time frame from 2003 to 2006? Did you make those statements because of the treatment you receive from these people?
KSM: Statement for whom??
COURT: To any of these interrogators. ?
KSM: CIA peoples. Yes. At the beginning, when they transferred me...?
Lawyers in the Justice Department had written a classified memo, which was extensively reviewed, that gave formal legal authority to government interrogators to use the "enhanced" questioning tactics on suspected terrorist prisoners. The August 2002 memo, signed by then head of the Office of Legal Counsel Jay Bybee, was referred to as the so-called "Golden Shield" for CIA agents, who worried they would be held liable if the harsh interrogations became public.
Old hands in the intelligence community remembered vividly how past covert operations, from the Vietnam War-era "Phoenix Program" of assassinations of Viet Cong to the Iran-Contra arms sales of the 1980s were painted as the work of a "rogue agency" out of control.
But even after the "Golden Shield" was in place, briefings and meetings in the White House to discuss individual interrogations continued, sources said. Tenet, seeking to protect his agents, regularly sought confirmation from the NSC principals that specific interrogation plans were legal.
According to a former CIA official involved in the process, CIA headquarters would receive cables from operatives in the field asking for authorization for specific techniques. Agents, worried about overstepping their boundaries, would await guidance in particularly complicated cases dealing with high-value detainees, two CIA sources said.
Highly placed sources said CIA directors Tenet and later Porter Goss along with agency lawyers briefed senior advisers, including Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and Powell, about detainees in CIA custody overseas.
"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.'"
Sources said that at each discussion, all the Principals present approved. "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."
Ashcroft was troubled by the discussions. He 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, sources said.
According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."
The Principals also approved interrogations that combined different methods, pushing the limits of international law and even the Justice Department's own legal approval in the 2002 memo, sources told ABC News.
At one meeting in the summer of 2003 -- attended by Cheney, among others -- Tenet made an elaborate presentation for approval to combine several different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time, according to a highly placed administration source.
A year later, amid the outcry over unrelated abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the controversial 2002 legal memo, which gave formal legal authorization for the CIA interrogation program of the top al Qaeda suspects that was leaked to the press. A new senior official in the Justice Department, Jack Goldsmith, withdrew the legal memo -- the Golden Shield -- that authorized the program.
But the CIA had captured a new al Qaeda suspect in Asia. Sources said CIA officials that summer returned to the Principals Committee for approval to continue using certain "enhanced interrogation techniques."
Rice, sources said, was decisive. Despite growing policy concerns -- shared by Powell -- that the program was harming the image of the United States abroad, sources say she did not back down, telling the CIA: "This is your baby. Go do it."Copyright © 2008 ABC News
When at times I naively consider how courageous I am in speaking truth to power I think about Ed, and how he as a black man has bravely confronted the emissaries of the occasionally arrogant white law enforcement community. Details are available on his website. (http://edwardlawson.com)
Ed has told me of his recent experiences with the Los Angeles Sheriffs department. As you read it please consider that Ed is a grown up and brilliant African American activist with dreadlocks, who is an expert in civil liberties and what the cops can and cannot do to someone.
In the early morning hours of Friday, May 18, 2007, Ed was arrested, roughed up, and imprisoned by Los a Angeles County Sheriff's deputy who was leading one of the Sheriff's department's, "high-octane, super secret-special gang task force" groups.
Ed's car was impounded, and he was hand cuffed, and bounced around in the metal, back seat of deputy sheriff's car, careening through a good deal of Los Angeles County.
He was then imprisoned in their primarily all-black jail, and he was finally released without his shoes, in the distant town of Carson, California.
What had started as just another ordinary day, for another Negro, (his word) in the "United States of America" had turned into a nightmare. What had happened to him was without a discernable reason, and without any explanation.
The next day, Ed shifted his word processor into high gear and wrote a letter to the honorable Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy D. Baca and asked Mr. Baca, if he would send him a copy of the deputy sheriff's arrest report and some other documents and records, relating to his arrest and incarceration.
Apparently the honorable Sheriff Leroy D. Baca ignored his request.
He wrote the honorable Sheriff Leroy D. Baca again. The honorable Sheriff Leroy D. Baca ignored him once again.
He has written to Sheriff Leroy D. Baca again and again and again and has yet to receive any of the documents or records requested.
What exactly had happened to Ed on the morning of May 18, 2007? The probable answer was revealed in a front page article written By Scott Glover and Matt Lait and published on October 4th 2007 in the Los Angeles Times: headlined : "Deputies compete in arrest contests" "Southeast L.A. competitions were meant to boost morale", official says.
Sheriff Baca calls this "a well-meaning but ill-conceived idea".
By Scott Glover and Matt Lait
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers)
Apparently bored the Sheriff's deputies in some of the "people of color" (p.o.c.) areas of Los Angeles, decided to make up a little contest. The contest was simple. The Sheriff's deputy, who could arrest the most p.o.c. and impound the most p.o.c. autos, would win the contest.
This is apparently what happened to Ed and to his car.
Ed had innocently wandered into the middle of a bunch of "the boys" from Simi Valley, amusing themselves, with the local color and a little game. Ed was the wrong p.o.c. in the wrong place and unwittingly playing in an unconscionable and bizarre contest. The kind of contest that reduces urban areas into theme parks for suburb bored police.
Sadly, after a year of writing, waiting and being ignored, the Honorable Sheriff Leroy D. Baca and his people have not done the right thing. Ed has received zero documents, zero records, and Ed has received zero relevant response to his reasonable requests.
And for a bonus the results from the Los Angeles Times expose on the Sheriff's deputies "little contest" is: zero investigation, zero firings, zero arrests, and (drum roll please) zero prosecutions.
How could this be? You may remember Edward Lawson from all the Oprah, Donahue and Larry King appearances about his 1983, landmark United State Supreme Court, Civil Rights Case, Kolender v Lawson (that's current San Diego County Sheriff Bill Kolender). (KOLENDER v. LAWSON, 461 U.S. 352 (1983)
Argued November 8, 1982, decided May 2, 1983, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_C._Lawson.
Edward Lawson, representing himself, took, the "California Walkman, I.D. Case" all the way to the United States Supreme Court and won. On May 2, 2008, Lawson will celebrate the 25th anniversary of his victory in the United State Supreme Court. Now is a different time, a different place, a different Sheriff, but the same old story. Does Lawson really have anything to celebrate? Do we as a nation of order, under constitutional law, have anything to celebrate, in the era of the error of the well meaning?
Shortly after the ruling Ed appeared on CNN's Crossfire. Pat Buchanan said to him "Mr. Lawson, what did you expect as a black man with dreadlocks walking in a white neighborhood?" Lawson replied "I thought that I was walking in an American neighborhood!"
Ed told me over and over for many years something like the following: "I respect the right of anyone to be a racist and say whatever they wish about me however, they may not restrict my rights in any way because of my race."
It would be a good thing if we could all "just get along and sing kumbaya together" but it just aint gonna happen.
I now take the unauthorized liberty of quoting some of the lyrics of a Tom Lehrer song "National Brotherhood Week" that I whip out for special occasions like this. For all of you "much younger folks." Lena Horne was a popular Black singer and Clark a big time racist Southern Sheriff.
Many life lessons are to be learned from Lehrer, and these lyrics are just a couple of them.
Oh, the white folks hate the black folks
And the black folks hate the white folks
To hate all but the right folks
Is an old established rule
But during National Brotherhood Week
National Brotherhood Week
Lena Horne and Sheriff Clark
Are dancing cheek to cheek
It's fun to eulogize
The people you despise
As long as you don't let 'em in your school ...
Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics
And the Catholics hate the Protestants
And the Hindus hate the Moslems
And everybody hates the Jews
Final question: Will Sheriff Baca and his deputies vote for Barak Obama?