In the April 28, 2005 e-mail, Comey appears to suggest that he was told the legal opinion needed to be drafted quickly to provide retroactive cover for torture that already occurred.
Gonzales's Chief of Staff Ted Ullyot "mentioned at one point that OLC didn't feel like it could accede to my request to make the opinion focused on one person because they don't give retrospective advice," Comey wrote to his then Chief of Staff Chuck Rosenberg. "I said I understood that, but that the treatment of that person had been the subject of oral advice, which OLC would simply be confirming in writing, something they do quite often."
The identity of the detainee Comey had referred to is unknown.
Steven Bradbury, who was the acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel during Bush's second term, signed the May 2005 memos to reverse efforts led by former Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith in 2003 and 2004 to scrap earlier OLC memos asserting Bush's powers.
Senior Bush administration officials, including Addington and Cheney, were furious at the attempts by Goldsmith, with Comey's and Philbin's support, knocked down memos by previous OLC lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee.
Yoo and Bybee had worked closely with the White House to create legal arguments for Bush to claim his Commander-in-Chief power essentially let him operate beyond the law.
In the May 2005 memos, Bradbury reinstated key elements of the Yoo-Bybee memos clearing the way for additional use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" against detainees.
In another email, Comey wrote that Bradbury had clearly succumbed to pressure from Cheney and Addington because he wanted to be nominated for the job as head of OLC.
"I have previously expressed my worry that having Steve as 'Acting'--and wanting the job--would make him susceptible to just this kind of pressure," Comey wrote in his e-mail to Rosenberg.
In her book, The Dark Side, author and New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, recounted the episode Comey had described in his emails and wrote, "the White House was so pleased with Bradbury's work that the day after he completed his opinion legalizing the cruelest treatment of U.S.-held in history, President Bush sent his name forewarned to the FBI to begin work on a background check, so that Bradbury could be formally nominated to run the OLC. Evidently, the White House had received the 'work product' it wanted; Bradbury had passed his probation."
One day after Bradbury signed the last of three torture memos issued in May 2005, copies of which were declassified and released in April, Comey sent another e-mail to Rosenberg. 1 | 2
"In stark terms I explained to him what this would look like some day and what it would mean for the president and the government," says Comey's May 31, 2005, e-mail to Rosenberg.
In that same e-mail, Comey said that he and Philbin and Bradbury met with Gonzales that morning to prepare him for his meeting with the Principals Committee, which was chaired by Rice.
Gonzales "began by saying that Dr. Rice was not interested in discussing details [of the list of torture techniques] and that her attitude was that if DOJ said it was legal and CIA said it was effective, then that ended it, without a need for detailed policy discussion.
"Pat [Philbin] and I urged [Gonzales] in the strongest possible terms to drive a full policy discussion of all techniques. I said I was not going to rehash my concerns about the legal opinion, but it was simply not acceptable for Principles [sic] to say that everything that may be 'legal' is also appropriate. In stark terms, I explained to him what this would look like some day and what it would look like for the President and the government--I told him it would all come out some day and be presentedin the way I was presenting it."
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