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What Did Democrats Really Know About Bush's Torture Program?

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In an interview with Newsweek last month, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who now chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and has launched a “review” and “study” of the CIA’s interrogation methods, said, “"I now know we were not fully and completely briefed on the CIA program.”

Feinstein was reacting to a secret report by the International Committee of the Red Cross that was leaked, which described, in shocking detail, the techniques used to interrogate 14 “high-value” detainees.

Interestingly, the magazine quoted an unnamed “U.S. Official” who disputed the charge, and claimed “that members of Congress received more than 30 briefings over the life of the CIA program and that Congressional intel panels had seen the Red Cross report.”

Whether that unnamed official was Hayden is unknown. A representative for the former CIA chief did not return calls for comment.

To cast further doubt on Hayden’s claims, Congress should speak to Mary O. McCarthy, a former deputy inspector general at the CIA.

Three years ago, McCarthy said senior agency officials lied to members of Congress during an intelligence briefing in 2005 when they said the agency did not violate treaties that bar, cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment of detainees during interrogations, according to a May 14, 2006, front-page story in The Washington Post.


"A CIA employee of two decades, McCarthy became convinced that 'CIA people had lied' in that briefing, as one of her friends said later, not only because the agency had conducted abusive interrogations but also because its policies authorized treatment that she considered cruel, inhumane or degrading," The Washington Post reported.

"In addition to CIA misrepresentations at the session last summer, McCarthy told the friends, a senior agency official failed to provide a full account of the CIA's detainee-treatment policy at a closed hearing of the House intelligence committee in February 2005, under questioning by Rep. Jane Harman (California), the senior Democrat," The Washington Post reported. "McCarthy also told others she was offended that the CIA's general counsel had worked to secure a secret Justice Department opinion in 2004 authorizing the agency's creation of "ghost detainees" - prisoners removed from Iraq for secret interrogations without notice to the International Committee of the Red Cross - because the Geneva Conventions prohibit such practices."

In 2004, McCarthy was tapped by the CIA's Inspector General John Helgerson to assist him with internal investigations about the agency’s interrogation methods.

"In his report, Mr. Helgerson...raised concern about whether the use of the techniques could expose agency officers to legal liability," according to a November 9, 2005 story in The New York Times published the same month the tapes were destroyed. "They said the report expressed skepticism about the Bush administration view that any ban on cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment under the treaty does not apply to CIA interrogations because they take place overseas on people who are not citizens of the United States."

"The officials who described the report said it discussed particular techniques used by the CIA against particular prisoners, including about three dozen terror suspects being held by the agency in secret locations around the world," The New York Times reported.

New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer wrote in her book, The Dark Side, that it is believed that the torture tapes were two years after Harman wrote her letter advising against it because Democratic members of Congress who were briefed about the tapes began asking questions about whether the interrogations were illegal

"Further rattling the CIA was a request in May 2005 from Sen. Jay Rockefeller, ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, to see over a hundred documents referred to in the earlier Inspector General's report on detention inside the black prison sites," Mayer wrote in her book. "Among the items Rockefeller specifically sought was a legal analysis of the CIA's interrogation videotapes.

"Rockefeller wanted to know if the intelligence agency's top lawyer believed that the waterboarding of [alleged al-Qaeda operative Abu] Zubaydah and [alleged 9/11 mastermind] Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, as captured on the secret videotapes, was entirely legal. The CIA refused to provide the requested documents to Rockefeller.

"But the Democratic senator's mention of the videotapes undoubtedly sent a shiver through the Agency, as did a second request he made for these documents to [former CIA Director Porter] Goss in September 2005."

The May 2005 request from Rockefeller that Mayer wrote about took place during the same month that Steven Bradbury, the former head of the OLC, wrote three legal opinions reinstating the torture techniques his predecessor, Jack Goldsmith, had withdrawn.

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Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor of Truthout.org and the founding editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, http://www.pubrecord.org. He is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit (more...)
 

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