A senior CIA lawyer advised Pentagon officials about the use of harsh interrogation techniques on detainees at Guantanamo Bay in a meeting in late 2002, defending waterboarding and other methods as permissible despite U.S. and international laws banning torture, according to documents released yesterday by congressional investigators.
Torture “is basically subject to perception,” CIA counterterrorism lawyer Jonathan Fredman told a group of military and intelligence officials gathered at the U.S.-run detention camp in Cuba on Oct. 2, 2002, according to minutes of the meeting. “If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.”
The document, one of two dozen released by a Senate panel investigating how Pentagon officials developed the controversial interrogation program introduced at Guantanamo Bay in late 2002, suggests a larger CIA role in advising Defense Department interrogators than was previously known. By the time of the meeting, the CIA already had used waterboarding, which simulates drowning, on at least one terrorism suspect and was holding high-level al-Qaeda detainees in secret prisons overseas — actions that Bush administration lawyers had approved.
Of course, senators also got to hear from William “Jim” Haynes II, the Pentagon’s former top lawyer who signed off on those techniques (he was also, ironically, a one-time Bush judicial nominee). Regrettably, Haynes came down with an acute case of Alberto Gonzales Disease.
Over the course of just a few minutes, Haynes said, “I don’t recall seeing this memorandum before and I’m not even sure this is one I’ve seen before…. I don’t recall seeing this memorandum and I don’t recall specific objections of this nature…. Well, I don’t recall seeing this document, either…. I don’t recall specific concerns…. I don’t recall these and I don’t recall seeing these memoranda…. I can’t even read this document, but I don’t remember seeing it…. I don’t recall that specifically…. I don’t remember doing that…. I don’t recall seeing these things.”
And making the scandal significantly more painful, newly released materials also showed that lawyers candidly talked about curtailing abuse when Red Cross observers came around, and even tried to hide detainees from the humanitarian group.
I remember a time — I believe it’s known as “pre-2001″ — when the United States used to accuse countries which did this of being guilty of disgraceful human rights abuses.