Principals Without Principles

3 comments April 10th, 2008at 07:08am Posted by Eli

Does this really surprise anyone?

In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.

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.

Highly placed sources said a handful of 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.

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.

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 Cheney, former National Security Advisor 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.

Contacted by ABC News today, spokesmen for Tenet, Rumsfeld and Powell declined to comment about the interrogation program or their private discussions in Principals Meetings. Powell said through an assistant there were “hundreds of [Principals] meetings” on a wide variety of topics and that he was “not at liberty to discuss private meetings.”

Hey, you hear that flushing sound, Colin?  That’s the last remaining scraps of your reputation.  Remember when everyone thought you were a statesmanlike man of integrity?  Pretty awesome, wasn’t it?  And now you’re just another of Dubya’s war criminals.

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.

Then-Attorney General 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.”

Ashcroft sounds a lot more concerned with optics than ethics.  Powell had a little more of a big-picture concern, but didn’t do squat about it:

Then-National Security Advisor 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.”

So Condi is incompetent and evil!  Maybe she would make a perfect running mate for McTrainwreck.  And did Colin Powell always completely lack balls, or did he hand them over to Dubya when he assumed the Secretary Of State position?  Wasn’t this the point (or one of the points) where a Principled Man Of Conscience  says, “I cannot be party to this,” and resigns?  As opposed to, “Gee, I sure wish you guys wouldn’t do that, but okay.”  Heroic.

Entry Filed under: Bush,Cheney,Constitution,Prisoners,Republicans,Torture

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