Legal expert: President Bush may have ordered torture of terror suspects
David Edwards and Andrew Bielak
Published: Saturday March 10, 2007
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The US government began hearings on Friday to determine if 14 accused terrorists currently being held at Guantanamo Bay can be deemed enemy combatants. The hearings, which have been closed to independent observers, are receiving heavy criticism for their secretive nature and what some are calling pre-determined outcomes.

"The administration has been almost pathological in trying to find ways to keep these people from ever seeing a real judge or a real lawyer," John Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, told the Associated Press, "and the reasons are obvious."

Turley, among many legal analysts, believes that the likelihood that torture tactics were used on the detainees has heightened the administration's state of secrecy for fear of public retribution. The law professor also suggested that President Bush not only knew about the torture program but may have ordered it.

"It seems pretty clear that they've been tortured," Turley told the AP, "and that the president knew they were being tortured, and may have even ordered their torture through techniques like water boarding."

Last September, CIA sources told ABC News that the harshest, technique they were authorized to use on "high-value detainees, such as the 9/11 attacks architect Khalid Sheikh Mohamed...was called 'water boarding,' in which a prisoner's face was covered with cellophane, and water is poured over it (pictured above) -- meant to trigger an unbearable gag reflex."

Brian Ross and Richard Esposito reported for ABC's The Blotter that "new rules issued by the Pentagon today prohibit water boarding, though there was no clear acknowledgement that it was permitted previously," and that "CIA officers told ABC News that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed lasted the longest under water boarding, two and a half minutes, before beginning to talk."

"It seems likely now that the president may have not only known about the torture program, but may have ordered it," Turley told the AP. "That would be truly otherwordly, where the United States could be accused of running a torture program."

The list of detainees has a number of high-profile suspects, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, and former al-Qaeda military chief Abu Zubaydah.

Having been held in a secret CIA detention facility until recently, the 14 detainees were moved to Guantanamo Bay by President Bush in September after knowledge of the CIA's "black sites" became public.

The following video report from the Associated Press contains the interview with Turley: