Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Democrats hold back on second interrogations probe"

Senate Democratic leaders don't appear inclined to appoint an independent panel to investigate the Bush administration's interrogation program before the Senate Intelligence Committee completes its own probe near the end of the year.
The panel is investigating the legal underpinnings for the interrogation program as well as the value of the information it gathered. Republicans oppose the creation of a bipartisan commission for what they view as a backward-looking effort to vilify former President George W. Bush.

"One way or another there needs to be a public accounting of these troublesome policies," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Reid said the committee inquiry "will answer a lot of the questions the American people have."

Two Senate reports issued back to back this week were meant to answer some of those questions.

A Senate Armed Services Committee report draws a direct line between the Bush administration's approval of the CIA's harsh interrogation program and the military's abuse of prisoners at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Intelligence Committee issued a newly declassified narrative of the legal guidance provided to the CIA that allowed the secret detention and interrogations to go forward.

As early as April 2002, the narrative states, the CIA sought permission to use waterboarding — a form of simulated drowning — to break the resistance of a newly captured alleged terrorist, Abu Zubaydah. Permission came that July, delivered personally by the president's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, to CIA Director George Tenet.

Whether any Bush administration officials merit prosecution for breaking anti-torture laws will be determined by Attorney General Eric Holder, who was scheduled to go to Capitol Hill on Thursday to discuss the Justice Department budget.

Any attempt by Democrats to gain political advantage from an investigation could be tempered by a memo from National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, who privately told employees last week that "high-value information" was obtained in interrogations that included harsh techniques, though he deemed them unacceptable and counterproductive.
Howie P.S.: Experts have asked whether other "high-value information" was obtained using less "harsh" methods and whether the information that was gained could have been gathered without torture.

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