MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Wednesday night explained a legal memo that advised the Bush Administration that so-called enhanced interrogation techniques were torture and therefore illegal.
Wired reporter Spencer Ackerman obtained the memo, written by State Department counselor Philip Zelikow, through a Freedom on Information Act request.
Bush told NBC’s Matt Lauer in 2010 that he authorized the use of enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding because his “lawyer said it was legal, said it did not fall within the Anti-Torture Act.” But Zelikow’s memo warned the Bush Administration in 2006 that the interrogation techniques used on terror suspects by the CIA were “a felony war crime.”
“As a top lawyer at the Bush State Department, Philip Zelikow circulated the memo within the Administration that said, essentially, that the Administration was kidding itself in trying to say that there was some way around the law,” Maddow explained. “They were trying to give a legal green light to CIA interrogator to torture people, but that green light, he said, was a sham.”
In 2009, Zelikow said that the Bush Administration attempted to collect and destroy all copies of the memo.
“If the Republican Party were the still the party of John McCain, this would open up a whole new can of political worms,” Maddow said, “because the Obama Administration, remember, looked into Bush Administration ordered torture and they decided not to prosecute any of it.”
Upon taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama abolished CIA secret prisons, banned the use of torture and promised to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. In doing so, he vowed not to prosecute former Bush Administration officials, saying it was a “time for reflection, not retribution.”
Watch video, courtesy of MSNBC, below:
With reporting by David Edwards