Surprise! Congress Knew More Than They've Let On

In Uncategorized on February 23, 2010 at 11:00 pm
United States House Permanent Select Committee...

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Newly released documents obtained by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Amnesty International show that members of Congress were more informed about the use of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques than they have admitted.

The documents — mostly CIA authored summaries of briefings given to Congressional leaders — show that some of them were told details of the enhanced interrogation techniques being used and, in at least one case, made it clear they saw no need to pursue a request to further investigate.

“Quickly, the Senator interjected that he saw no reason for the Committe to pursue such a request and could think of ‘ten reasons right off why it is a terrible idea’ to do any such thing as had been proposed.” a CIA briefer wrote after meeting with Pat Roberts, then the Republican head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The briefer was referring to a request made by Roberts’ predecessor, Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, for the committee “to undertake its own assessment of the enhanced interrogation.”

In that same briefing, the CIA informed Roberts that they planned to destroy videotapes of the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and others.

“Senator Roberts listened carefully and gave his assent,” the memo-writer noted.

To his credit, in the same memo it’s reported that when the CIA described one “interrogation” (the CIA used the quotation marks) which “included the cocking of a pistol (reportedly unloaded) near his blind-folded face, and the brandishment of an electric hand held drill” — “Senator Roberts winced.”

The New York Times also reports that Roberts released a statement saying the memo does not “begin to represent the entirety of my oversight of interrogations” and that he later did persuade the CIA to brief more Senate staffers on the program.

Another document released reveals that 68 members of Congress and staff attended at least one of scores of briefings on the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.

Still another document — this from 2004 — describes a secret briefing by the military to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the wake of the revelations about abuse at Abu Ghraib. The CIA — which was invited to the briefing — took very careful notes.

“There is no evidence or indication that anyone in intel directed it,” Major General Don Ryder told the committee. “These acts appear to have been committed by undisciplined soldiers who lost their values and did not understand what they were doing on a midnight shift.”

When Representative Porter Goss asked if there were “widespread problems.” Ryder first said “Any case is inappropriate.”

Goss — Are there dozens of such cases?


Ryder — There is a total of 35 known cases. From December 2002 to today, 25 deaths, 10 others are soldier misconduct. Of the 25 deaths, 14 are undetermined or natural causes. One is justified manslaughter, with a solider following ROE (Editor’s note — rules of engagement). There are two ongoing homicide investigations. Ten other cases of physical abuse, and two cases of sexual assault against females.

“In eight cases there may have been abuses during interrogation,” Ryder added when Goss asked if these were “cases of gratuitous acts or part of assigned procedures.”

Representative Jane Harman said “This is a 10 in the Richter Scale. This is totally unsatisfactory and I am disgusted. It is not satisfactory to tell me about rules and procedures. We need to know a lot more.”

Tom Parker, the policy director for counterterrorism and human rights for Amnesty International USA released a statement saying:

“These documents reveal that members of Congress colluded in covering up evidence of the US Government’s torture program. This is hardly the kind of oversight in which the American people can have faith.”

  1. A large part of the 68-members document was released before by Pete Hoekstra’s office, I believe. This was when he was trying to catch Nancy Pelosi in a lie about whether or not she knew about waterboarding. From what I recall, the documents specifically say when EITs were discussed in general and when EITs were discussed including waterboarding. Before this whole thing blew up in 2005, very few Congressmen had been explicitly briefed on waterboarding. It’s interesting to see how many more Republicans than Democrats were briefed before torture went public, also.

    Whether or not Democrats with Intelligence privileges knew about waterboarding, they had the ability to ask and find out. There’s no excuse for anyone who held the chair or ranking member of the intelligence committees or the majority/minority leader slots to not have known starting from 2002.

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