Bush administration officials from Vice President Dick Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, The Associated Press has learned.
The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved.
A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the meetings described them Thursday to the AP to confirm details first reported by ABC News on Wednesday. The intelligence official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the issue.
Between 2002 and 2003, the Justice Department issued several memos from its Office of Legal Counsel that justified using the interrogation tactics, including ones that critics call torture.
“If you looked at the timing of the meetings and the memos you’d see a correlation,” the former intelligence official said. Those who attended the dozens of meetings agreed that “there’d need to be a legal opinion on the legality of these tactics” before using them on al-Qaida detainees, the former official said.
The meetings were held in the White House Situation Room in the years immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks. Attending the sessions were Cheney, then-Bush aides Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
(ABC News link added by this writer.)
The Washington Post reports on telecom-FBI data sharing, and a government report which found that "U.S. intelligence agencies have contradictory rules that govern classification of information, including inconsistencies over what would constitute harm if the information were disclosed".
In other news, the Army Times reports that the U.S. military seems to be getting desperate when it comes to recruiting more high-grade cannon fodder:
The Defense Department has announced a new get-tough policy with colleges and universities that interfere with the work of military recruiters and Reserve Officer Training Corps programs.
Under rules that will take effect April 28, defense officials said they want the exact same access to student directories that is provided to all other prospective employers.
Students can opt out of having their information turned over to the military only if they opt out of having their information provided to all other recruiters, but schools cannot have policies that exclude only the military, defense officials said in a March 28 notice of the new policy in the Federal Register.
The Pentagon, according to the Christian Science Monitor,
has gone hundreds of billions of dollars over budget in recent years on key weapons systems, including aircraft, ships, and satellite, said a government audit. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said for the sixth year in a row that the Pentagon had significantly gone over budget, but according to a report presented to Congress this week, the problem is getting worse.