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Obama Picks a Conscience for the CIA

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It seems strangely appropriate that it bore the Orwellian title: Humane Treatment of al-Qaeda and Taliban Detainees.  In the memorandum, Bush lifts language verbatim from the Gonzales/Addington memo of Jan. 25 and makes it his own. He claims, for example, "the war against terrorism ushers in a new paradigm [that] requires new thinking in the law of war."

He then attempts to square a circle, directing (twice in the two-page memo) that "detainees be treated humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva."

Exegesis by the Senate

On Dec. 11, 2008, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, of the Senate Armed Services Committee released a report on the abuse of detainees — a report 18 months in the making and approved by the committee by voice vote without dissent.

Not surprisingly, every organ of the Fawning Corporate Media draped a smokescreen around President Bush's own role, by blaming everyone's favorite bête noire, former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. [For a non-FCM approach, see's "Torture Trail Seen Starting with Bush."]

It was not as though the President's own fingerprints were missing. The first subhead was: Presidential Order Opens Door to Considering Aggressive Techniques, and the first words of the first sentence of the first paragraph were, "On Feb. 7, 2002, President Bush signed a memorandum stating…"  Later in that same paragraph the committee report again refers to "the President's order," adding that "the decision to replace well-established military doctrine, i.e., legal compliance with the Geneva Conventions, with a policy subject to interpretation, impacted the treatment of detainees."

"Conclusion 1" of the Senate Armed Services Committee report states:

"Following the President's determination [of Feb. 7, 2002], techniques such as waterboarding, nudity, and stress positions … were authorized for use in interrogations of detainees in U.S. custody."

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Participants in detainee interrogations understood that the basis for the harsh tactics stemmed from policies approved by Bush.

According to a report by a panel headed by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger on the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top commander in Iraq, instituted a "dozen interrogation methods beyond" the Army's standard practice under the Geneva Convention.  Sanchez explained that he based his decision on "the President's memorandum," which he said allowed for "additional, tougher measures" against detainees, the Schlesinger report said.

In addition, an FBI e-mail of May 22, 2004 from a senior FBI agent in Iraq stated that President Bush had signed an Executive Order approving the use of military dogs, sleep deprivation, and other tactics to intimidate Iraqi detainees.

In the e-mail, the FBI official sought guidance in confronting an unwelcome dilemma. He asked if FBI personnel in Iraq were required to report the U.S. military's harsh interrogation of detainees when such treatment violated FBI standards but fit within the guidelines of a presidential Executive Order.

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Thus, what happened in many of the jail cells and interrogation chambers stemmed directly from of Bush's Feb. 7, 2002, memo and other presidential and vice presidential decisions.

No doubt it has long since occurred to Bush that he was mistaken to have put his fate in the dubious hands of his sadistic lawyers; foolish to sign his name to an executive order clearly in violation of international law as well as the U.S. War Crimes Act of 1996; and foolish in the extreme to continue to let Gonzales roam the White House without adult supervision.

Shifting Blame

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)

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