Salon.com: Torture planning began in 2001, Senate report reveals





The Senate Armed Services Committee has just released an exhaustive review of torture under the Bush administration that, among other revelations, torpedoes the notion that the administration only chose torture as a last resort. Bush officials have long argued that they turned to coercive interrogations in 2002 only after captured al-Qaida suspects wouldn't talk, but the report shows the administration set the wheels in motion soon after 9/11. The Bush White House began planning for torture in December 2001, set up a program to develop the interrogation techniques by the next month, and the military and the CIA began training interrogators in coercive practices in early 2002, before they had any high-value al-Qaida suspects or any trouble eliciting information from detainees.

As the report puts it, "The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees." The report undercuts the Obama administration's case for leniency against the CIA, since the agency was pursuing abusive techniques even before Department of Justice lawyers had issued their supposed legal justification for the techniques in August 2002. The report also shows that the administration appears to have attempted to use the abusive techniques to shore up its case for war in Iraq. Interrogators employed the techniques, which are notorious for producing bad intelligence, to get detainees to make statements linking Iraq and al-Qaida.

To hear former President Bush tell it, you would think the United States only turned to the techniques in desperation. When Bush announced the existence of the CIA's interrogation program in September 2006, for example, he argued that suspected al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah stopped cooperating with interrogators after his capture on March 28, 2002, forcing the agency to get rough. "We knew that Zubaydah had more information that could save innocent lives," Bush said. "But he stopped talking. As his questioning proceeded, it became clear that he had received training on how to resist interrogation," the president said. "And so, the CIA used an alternative set of procedures."

But that's not how it happened.


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