A newly declassified narrative of the Bush administration's advice to the CIA on harsh interrogations shows that the small group of Justice Department lawyers who wrote memos authorizing harsh interrogation techniques were operating not on their own but with direction from top administration officials, including then-Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
At the same time, the narrative suggests that then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell were largely left out of the decision-making process.
Specifically, the narrative states:
In the spring of 2003, the DCI [Director of Central Intelligence] asked for a reaffirmation of the policies and practices in the interrogation program. In July 2003, according to CIA records, the NSC [National Security Council] Principals met to discuss the interrogation techniques employed in the CIA program. According to CIA records, the DCI and the CIA’s General Counsel attended a meeting with the Vice President, the National Security Adviser, the Attorney General, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General, the Counsel to the President, and the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council to describe the CIA’s interrogation techniques, including waterboarding. According to CIA records, at the conclusion of that meeting, the Principals reaffirmed that the CIA program was lawful and reflected administration policy.
According to CIA records, pursuant to a request from the National Security Adviser, the Director of Central Intelligence subsequently briefed the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense on the CIA’s interrogation techniques on September 16, 2003.
In addition to these and other revelations, the narrative is useful to anyone who's having trouble keeping up with the bevy of OLC memos and other factoids that have come to light in the last several years. It's a short document, and I recommend reading it.
Quite frankly, it's astonishing, the amount of information that has been revealed in only a week about the crafting of the torture policies. Between the OLC memos, the Senate Armed Services Committee report and this narrative from the Senate Intelligence Committee, we now have a far more comprehensive portrait of the evolution of the legal advice regarding torture, as well as the role of various members of the Bush administration in the crafting of that policy. And I don't see how this news doesn't continue to add to the building momentum for the investigation/prosecution of those involved in torture.