Thursday, April 10, 2008

The gang's all here

We don't have to wonder who should be on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity:

In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency ...
The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" tortures were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

The advisers were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.

At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

As the national security adviser, Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies. [My editing from Orwellian to plain English in the first paragraph - Nell.]

What a surprise to see that Colin Powell took part, after all the exertions of Larry Wilkerson and other loyalists to paint him as out of the loop and shocked, shocked...
and Wilkerson Armitage, as Powell's deputy, is likely to have attended some of these sessions himself.

Wondering who was the source for this story?

Then-Attorney General Ashcroft was troubled by the discussions. He agreed with the general policy decision to allow aggressive tactics and had repeatedly advised that they were legal. But he argued that senior White House advisers should not be involved in the grim details of interrogations, sources said.

According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

Update: 10 April, 3:00 pm - Emptywheel has a different and very plausible possibility for the source, and corrects my misunderstanding of who would have been Powell's deputy at Principals meetings. She helpfully lists all the deputies.

Update: 20 April, 3:30 pm - Cogent further post and comments at Emptywheel on the question of sourcing. Most persuasive to me are cases for Robert Mueller (FBI Director) and David Ayres, Ashcroft's chief of staff.

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At 12:50 PM, April 10, 2008, Blogger Thomas Nephew said...

I'll play the role of nitpicker here, and note that it's possible to read this as not necessarily condemning Powell.

1) Just because the Principals Committee officially included him -- which is all the report actually conveys -- that doesn't mean that he attended the meetings in question. "Typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies" doesn't quite get there either.

2) The report doesn't say which position Powell or others took at these meetings. Boiled down, the report says to me that there were meetings, and here are the people who may have attended those meetings. Perhaps it doesn't matter legally who said what, but I would think it has some bearing.

Of those attending, Rice seems to me the one person one could say must have been at all meetings, and must have signed off on whatever recommendations there were. That's where the report eventually goes, I think.

At 2:56 PM, April 10, 2008, Blogger Nell said...

True enough, but it sounded to me as if there were enough of those meetings that it's inconceivable to me that Powell did not attend at least one. (Or at least Armitage; Wilkerson was Powell's aide, but Armitage was the next in line for attendance at these things.) They went on in 2003 and 2004 as well as 2002.

Emptywheel has a different, and very plausible, take on who was the probable source for the story.

At 2:30 PM, April 15, 2008, Blogger Thomas Nephew said...

it's inconceivable to me that Powell did not attend at least one.
Sure, but I can't tell whether that implies his assent to what happened - "just" his failure to blow the whistle. Powell sure doesn't need my help though, and may well not deserve it.

I think Emptywheel's narrative makes sense.


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