This piece was reprinted by OpEdNews with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
Chairing the White House meetings on torture techniques, Rice famously sent off the malleable, affable, can-do Tenet with: "This is your baby, go do it." And so he did.
Zelikow later worked for Rice as Counselor of the State Department, where in early 2006 he wrote a memo, the text of which has just been released, which identified several of the CIA interrogation techniques as illegal. Not surprisingly, all copies of that memo were ordered destroyed. But, alas, one was squirreled away, reportedly at State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. It is now available.
Brennan's very close working relationship with then-CIA Director George Tenet on torture issues landed him in the room as Tenet's aide when the "Principals" met in the White House on torture techniques. (It was not until 2003 that Tenet appointed Brennan to head the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, a unit also very much involved with the issue of interrogation.)
The "Principals" included Rice, Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Tenet.
The evidence is overwhelming that Brennan was deeply involved not only in the discussion of various "enhanced interrogation techniques," but also in the planning of the faux-legal memoranda from Ashcroft's Justice Department.
Those "legal opinions" made it possible for George W. Bush to tell NBC's Matt Lauer in November 2010 that waterboarding is legal "because the lawyer said it was legal. " I'm not a lawyer, but you gotta trust the judgment of people around you and I do."
Reports this week that the Polish government is going after Polish officials who allowed the CIA to establish a black site in Poland for "high-value" detainees brings to mind what Jane Mayer wrote in the New Yorker in 2007 about black sites:
"Among the few C.I.A. officials who knew the details of the detention and interrogation program, there was a tense debate about where to draw the line in terms of treatment. John Brennan, Tenet's former chief of staff, said, 'It all comes down to individual moral barometers.'
"Setting aside the moral, ethical, and legal issues, even supporters, such as John Brennan, acknowledge that much of the information that coercion produces is unreliable. As he put it, 'All these methods produced useful information, but there was also a lot that was bogus.'"
Brennan In His Own Words
Perhaps the most damning evidence on Brennan's role in torture, rendition (aka kidnapping), black prisons and such comes from his own mouth. Here are excerpts from the PBS "NewsHour" with Margaret Warner on Dec. 5, 2005:
"MARGARET WARNER: This issue [rendition of terrorist suspects to third countries] and the separate one of reported secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe is expected to come up during her [Condoleezza Rice's] five-day European tour. ... So are renditions necessary and effective in fighting terrorism?
"JOHN BRENNAN: I think it's an absolutely vital tool. I have been intimately familiar now over the past decade with the cases of rendition that the U.S. Government has been involved in. And I can say without a doubt that it has been very successful as far as producing intelligence that has saved lives.
"WARNER: So is it -- are you saying both in two ways -- both in getting terrorists off the streets and also in the interrogation?
"BRENNAN: Yes. The rendition is the practice or the process of rendering somebody from one place to another place. It is moving them and the U.S. Government will frequently facilitate that movement from one country to another."
Quite frankly I think it's rather arrogant to think that we are the best in every case in terms of eliciting information from terror suspects. So other countries and other services have a long experience in dealing with this challenge because they are confronting terrorism on a day-to-day basis.
Brennan later tried to square the circle in defending his role in this "dark side" business, in an interview with PBS's Frontline in 2006 in which he spoke directly of CIA Director Tenet's concern to have explicit legal approval for what Zelikow and many others now concede was torture. In fact, Brennan came close to making an "act of contrition," saying: