The Torture Gang: The Entire Bush Administration

One of the defenses that John Yoo [pdf] and Jay Bybee [pdf] made in response to the Office of Professional Responsibility [OPR] Report with which I’m sympathetic is the argument that, if they are going to be held accountable, so should all the other Executive Branch lawyers who approved of torture. Jay Bybee even included a pretty little graph of all the other lawyers who approved torture (I’ve excerpted the list at the end of the post).

To support his case that everyone in the Bush Administration signed off on this torture, Bybee included extensive descriptions of the approval top Bushies gave to torture (though he admittedly seems to have forgotten to include Cheney and Addington–maybe that has something to do with the defense fund that got set up around the time this letter got drafted).

There are the meetings during the drafting of the memo, during which Condi and Hadley and Gonzales were briefed on Abu Zubaydah’s torture, including the night before the torture memos were signed:

[Bellinger] hosted the initial meeting with OLC and the CIA on April 16, 2002, and assumed responsibility for briefing NSC Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Deputy NSC Advisor Stephen Hadley, and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales. Report at 40, 42. He continued to attend meetings during the summer (id at 46,61), including the July 13,2002 meeting, where Yoo provided him with a copy of the Memorandum. Id. at 47. Bellinger also attended an NSC meeting with Rice, Hadley, and [Moseman] (CIA Director Tenet’s Chief of Staff) the day before the memos were due, which included a discussion of the proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. Id at 61

Then there were details concerning the July 29, 2003 meeting, attended by Tenet, Muller, Cheney, Condi, Ashcroft, Gonzales, and Bellinger. Though Ashcroft would contest the description of what he said at this meeting, the OPR Report says (Bybee reveals) that Ashcroft strongly endorsed the program’s legality.

Later, at a meeting [redacted] Ashcroft “forcefully reiterated the view of the Department 0f Justice that the techniques employed by CIA were and remain lawful and do not violate either the anti-torture statute or US obligations under the [CAT].” Report at 107-08. At the same meeting. Ashcroft and Philbin gave a “lengthy explanation of the law and the applicable legal principles” regarding the interrogation program. Id at 109. [2 lines redacted] Ashcroft himself “had reviewed and approved them as lawful under US law.”

Most strikingly, Bybee explains that the National Security Council got together on July 2, 2004 to discuss “interrogating” a detainee (who Bybee says is named Janat Gul though note my doubts here).

Deputy Attorney General James Comey. Comey joined Ashcroft at a NSC Principals Meeting on July 2, 2004 to discuss the possible interrogation of CIA detainee Janat Gul. Report at 123. Ashcroft and Comey conferred with Goldsmith after the meeting, leading to Goldsmith’s letter to Muller approving all ofthe techniques described in the Classified Bybee Memo except for the waterboard. Id (PDF 26-27)

As I said, Bybee seems to be focusing on people like Condi and Ashcroft and Bellinger, to the exclusion of people like Cheney (I’ll come back to that). But he does lay out several high level meetings Bush’s top aides–many of them lawyers–attended and did not object to torture.

But note: I’m getting these references from Bybee’s citations of the OPR Report, not from the OPR Report itself. In the publicly released OPR Report, these meetings appear behind page after page of complete redaction.

Much of this information–particularly discussions of Ashcroft’s approval of torture at the July 29, 2003 meeting–have appeared elsewhere (the CIA IG Report and the SSCI narrative include a discussion of that meeting). But in the OPR Report, the discussion of the July 29, 2003 meeting appears in the huge redacted section that extends from PDF 111 to 116.

So why did CIA or DOJ redact all discussion of these meetings approving torture?

If DOJ has decided this was all sloppy but not legally sanctionable, then why is our government still hiding complicity of the torture gang?

Here are the lawyers that appear in Bybee’s pretty little graphic:

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