CIA inspector general was ‘bothered’ by ‘excessive’ waterboarding
Last August, in response to an ACLU lawsuit, the Obama administration released a partially declassified 2004 report from the CIA’s Inspector General on that agency’s detention and interrogation programs. The report’s descriptions of the treatment of detainees were sufficiently shocking to prompt Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a prosecutor to look into allegations of abuse.
Now additional documents (pdf), newly obtained by Judicial Watch under a FOIA request, make clear the depth of Inspector General John Helgerson’s own concerns about the allegations in his 2004 report.
The documents include timeslines and redacted descriptions of CIA briefings of members of Congress — primarily the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence oversight committees — regarding the treatment of detainees and the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.
At a July 13, 2004 briefing, Inspector General Helgerson presented his then-secret report to Chairman Porter Goss (R-FL) and ranking member Jane Harman (D-CA) of the House Permanent Select Committee of Intelligence. He began by expressing doubts about the so-called “Bybee Memo” of August 1, 2002, which served to justify the use of waterboarding. According to the description in the document:
“The IG indicated that the 1 August memo did not address Article 16 of the [United Nations] Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. … The question was whether CIA’s use of the enhanced techniques would transgress US obligations under Article 16. The IG indicated he was also bothered in that the DOJ 1 August document did not address interrogations as we carried them out.”
“The IG then turned to the waterboard issue,” the description continues. “He said that three people had been interrogated with the waterboard. On one, the IG felt it had been used excessively, beyond what the IG thought was the agreement with DOJ. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) got 183 applications.”
The inspector general’s concerns are particularly striking in light of an earlier briefing, which had occurred a few weeks prior to the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in March 2003, and at which Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) had appeared to signal his approval of the technique as then described.
The February 4, 2003 briefing was presented by CIA Deputy Director of Operations James Pavitt and General Counsel Scott Muller to Roberts and a staffer sitting in for ranking member Jay Rockerfeller (D-WV). According to the description:
“The enhanced techniques were described in considerable detail, including how the water board was used. The General Counsel described the process by which the techniques were approved by a bevy of lawyers from the NSC, the Vice President’s office and the Justice Department, including the Criminal Division and the Attorney General who opined that the techniques were legal under U.S. law. … Senator Roberts posed no objection to what he had heard. It seemed clear that he supported the interrogation effort.”
It appears that the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which took place a few weeks following this briefing, may have violated the guidelines which were described to Roberts at that time, prompting Helgerson’s later description of it as “excessive” and as going beyond the agreement with the Department of Justice.
Blogger emptywheel has slammed the Reuters news service for taking the CIA claims described in these new documents at face value and not noticing the lies and misrepresentations that were being offered even to Congressional oversight committees. The waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed may be one more area where Congress was kept in the dark.