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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Grown Ups

by digby

Marcy reported this today, which is very disturbing:

John Rizzo, the man who worked with both Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury to pre-authorize torture, is still being paid by you and me to make sure that the CIA follows the law.

I am honestly surprised by this. It's one thing for the administration to say they don't want to prosecute those who were involved in the torture regime. It's quite another to continue to employ one of its architects. There is very good reason to fire him right now and it speaks to some of the bigger issues swirling around the revelations in the SASC report released last night.

One of the things I think people fail to recognize about this program is that there were quite a few people who objected. Indeed, the one who we probably most need to hear from these days is none other than the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, who pulled his men out of the field and told his people that they would not participate in these tactics. Jane Mayer writes today:

By June 2002—again, months before the Department of Justice gave the legal green light for interrogations—an F.B.I. special agent on the scene of the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah refused to participate in what he called “borderline torture,” according to a D.O.J. investigation cited in the Levin report. Soon after, F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller commanded his personnel to stay away from the C.I.A.’s coercive interrogations.

What did the F.B.I. see in the spring of 2002? And exactly who was involved? How high up was this activity authorized? Is it off-limits for criminal investigation?
These are all questions that still need to be answered. The report indicates that Mueller pulled the FBI out of this after an NSC meeting in 2002 where the interrogation policy was discussed:

According to the SASC report an NSC meeting about the Abu Zubaydah interrogations was held in 2002:

[Former head of the OLC Daniel] "Levin stated that a DOJ Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) attorney gave advice at the meeting about the legality of CIA interrogation techniques. Levin stated that in connection with this meeting, or immediately after it, FBI Director Mueller decided that FBI agents would not participate in interrogations involving techniques the FBI did not normally use in the United States, even though OLC had determined such techniques were legal,"

When asked about the FBIs withdrawal from the torture regime, Condi Rice told Senator Levin she had "general recollection that FBI had decided not to participate in the CIA interrogations but I do not recall any specific discussions about withdrawing FBI personnel from the Abu Zubaydah interrogation."

Apparently she didn't think the mere fact that the FBI "had decided not to participate in torture" was worth worrying about.

It's been known for a while that FBI interrogation specialists were appalled at the CIAs torture program, from the Inspector General Glen Fine's report (pdf) on the interrogations at Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq. It needs to be read in the context of the SASC Report and the OLC memos to really understand just how vociferously the FBI objected to what the Bush administration did.

And one of the sticking points revealed in the report is that none other than John Rizzo, the Acting General Counsel for the CIA who worked with Yoo and Bybee to "legalize" the torture, stonewalled Fine when he asked to interview Abu Zubaydah as part of his probe. And the excuse he used was just amazing: that AZ "could make false allegations against CIA employees." (Maybe they should have let the FBI could waterboard him 80 or 90 times to get him to cough up the truth...)

The issue here is that there were people in the government who raised objections, serious objections. Most importantly, the FBI raised objections and they were the government experts on the subject. (Remember, until the Bush administration the CIA was not responsible for interrogations.) The idea the "everybody" lost their heads after 9/11 simply because they were desperately trying to keep the boogeyman from killing us all in our beds is simply not true. There were grown-ups around. They just weren't listened to.