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Pelosi criticizes Truth Commission as inadequate, advocates criminal prosecutions February 25, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture.
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Glenn Greenwald

www.salon.com, February 25, 2009

This directly relates to the post I wrote earlier about Mark Benjamin’s report that the Senate Judiciary Committee appear to be on the verge of creating a “Truth Commission” to investigate Bush crimes, but this is newsworthy in its own right, and so I wanted to highlight it separately:

In an interview today with Rachel Maddow — to be broadcast on Maddow’s MSNBC show tonight (and transcripts of which I’ve obtained) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeatedly advocated the need for criminal prosecutions, not merely fact-finding.  She even directly criticized the proposal by Sen. Pat Leahy for a “Truth Commission,” on the ground that such a Commission would improperly immunize lawbreakers and thus foreclose prosecutions:

MADDOW: This is something that liberals have really been pushing. And you have stated your support for John Conyers convening an investigation into potential lawbreaking in the Bush administration.

PELOSI: Absolutely.

MADDOW: You’ve been outspoken about contempt of Congress charges related to the politicization of the Justice Department and that investigation. You have been less specific about how Congress should proceed on warrantless wiretapping and torture.  Why is that? . . .

PELOSI:  Senator Leahy has a proposal, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is a good idea. What I have some concern about though is it has immunity. And I think that some of the issues involved here, like the services part, politicizing of the Justice Department, and the rest, they have criminal ramifications, and I don’t think we should be giving them immunity.

Pelosi then acknowledged that the FISA bill passed by Congress in 2008 was flawed in many important respects, but said that the “part of the bill that was positive” was the requirement that the Justice Department’s Inspector General investigate the NSA eavesdropping program and issue a report (due this Summer) as to the scope and legality of Bush’s eavesdropping.  About that comment, Maddow asked Pelosi whether she would favor criminal prosecutions if, as many people expect, the IG Report concludes that the warrantless eavesdropping was illegal:

MADDOW:  Then in terms of your report, if the inspector general report that comes out this summer suggests that there has been criminal activity at the official level on issues like torture, or wireless wiretapping, or rendition, or any of these other issues…

PELOSI: No one is above the law. I think I have said that.

MADDOW: … you support a call for a criminal investigation, potential investigation.

PELOSI: Absolutely.

That’s pretty definitive.

Maddow then repeatedly, and rather relentlessly, asked Pelosi about how much she was told about the Bush’s use of torture and about the warrantless eavesdropping program and whether her having known about those programs was an obstacle to investigations and prosecutions.  Pelosi’s answers were largely evasive, but she was very emphatic — I believe for the first time — in claiming that while she was told by the CIA about potential “enhanced interrogation techniques” in “the abstract,” she was never told that these techniques were actually being used.  She also claimed that she put up “very strong resistance” to the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program (I’ve never seen any evidence of such resistance at all; the only letter from Pelosi that was disclosed was one from October, 2001, which merely raised a concern over whether the NSA had presidential authorization for the program, not whether the program itself was illegal).  But what matters here is that Pelosi insists that nothing she nor any other Democrat knew or did poses an obstacle in any way to full-scale criminal investigations.

This is the kind of debate and dispute that it is good to see in the Democratic caucus and that will hopefully grow — a debate between those (such as Leahy, Whitehouse and Conyers) who first want a “Truth Commission” to disclose Bush crimes and those (such as Pelosi, apparently) who believe that such a body is inadequate if it does not explicitly preserve the possibility of criminal prosecutions for high Bush officials and, in some circumstances (such as a finding by the IG that laws were broken), if it does not guarantee such an outcome.  It will be interesting to hear what Whitehouse, Leahy and Conyers have to say about Pelosi’s criticisms of their proposed “Truth Commission.”  I’ll post any comment I can get from them.

 

UPDATE:  Here is a response I received to Pelosi’s comments from Erica Chabot of Pat Leahy’s office:

Senator Leahy gave a statement on the Senate Floor today on his ideas for a Commission of Inquiry.  He also announced a Judiciary Committee hearing on the subject to be held next Wednesday. He mentions prosecutions in this statement.  I have pasted it below for your reference.

I linked to the text of Leahy’s speech earlier today (here).  The only argument he really makes against prosecutions is that “a failed attempt to prosecute for this conduct might be the worst result of all if it is seen as justifying abhorrent actions.”  That’s true for every prosecution.  Why continue to prosecute suspected murderers?  After all, they might be acquitted, and that could be seen as “justifying abhorrent actions.”  Moreover, as is true for every prosecution, before doing anything, prosecutors would gather and then carefully review all of the evidence, and thereafter assess the likelihood of conviction and only bring charges if there is a substantial likelihood of success. 

Ultimately, while Whitehouse and Conyers are proposing a Truth Commission with the explicit possibility of subsequent prosecutions, and Pelosi is arguing for prosecutions now, Leahy’s overt argument against prosecutions — no matter what his “Truth Commission” finds — is nothing more than an attempt, by definition, to place the President above and beyond the rule of law.  Whether she’s sincere or not about it, it’s at least good (and potentially productive) to see Pelosi being critical of such a lawless posture from the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman.

“Reconciliation” and “Looking Forward Not Backward:” Code for No Justice? February 19, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, About Justice, Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush.
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nuremberg-trial

The President of the Tribunal, Lord Chief Justice Lawrence, pronounces the sentences and reads the dissenting Russian opinion

 by Roger Hollander

www.rogerhollander.wordpress.com, February 19, 2009

 

(SEE UPDATE BELOW)

 

An essay entitled “Obama’s Justice: Reconciliation Not Retribution” appeared recently in the progressive online journal, Truthout.com (http://www.truthout.org/021809J).  Its author is Cynthia Boaz, assistant professor of political science at Sonoma State University, who is described as a specialist “in political development, quality of democracy and nonviolent struggle.”

 

Professor Boaz’s approach was most annoying in that she felt the need to set up a straw man (the notion that those who want justice want it for purposes of retribution) and resort to the ad hominem by characterizing those who are pushing for investigations and prosecution of the Bush era crimes as “disgruntled, self-identified progressives” and comparing them to “villagers wielding torches and pitchforks.”

 

But such annoyances pale in light of the implication of her thesis in support of Obama as a “unifier,” and his mission of “reconciliation, not retribution” in an attempt to justify Obama’s oxymoronic and disingenuous statement that he believes in the rule of law but would rather look forward rather than backward.

 

(To her credit Professor Boaz acknowledges that the Bush administration may have committed misdeeds “which in some cases, rise to the level of crimes against humanity” and does not argue that they should not be brought to justice.  Her point is that justice should not be politicized, that the president should not seek “retribution” for his predecessor)

 

In the real world justice in fact usually occurs in a political context – especially when crimes occur at the higher levels of government.  Obama recognizes this and his remarks to George Stephanopoulos were in response to overwhelming public sentiment for him to appoint a special prosecutor as reflected in his transition sounding exercise.  Presidents do appoint Special Prosecutors and the United States Attorney General.  Presidents grant pardons, often controversial and often of a political nature (Ford/Nixon; Reagan/Weinberger, North, Irangate).  The political and the judicial are indeed intertwined.

 

Talking about “reconciliation” and “looking forward rather than backward” is in itself a blatant political intrusion in the world of justice.  If Obama were not signaling to the heads of the Justice Committees in both houses of Congress (and the American people) that he would prefer for them to back off, then he simply would have affirmed his commitment to the rule of law and left it at that.

 

The evidence that is already in the public domain with respect to the knowingly false pretense for the invasion of Iraq, the high level authorization of torture, the extraordinary renditions, the wiretapping, the U.S. Attorney firings, etc. is so overwhelming that – in spite of the sacred principle of “innocent until proven guilty” – the American and world public cannot be faulted for demanding that the Nuremberg principles be applied to the neo-fascist Bush clique.  That former Vice President Cheney, who is universally considered to have been the Bush administration Godfather, has been making the rounds boasting about his role in committing in effect what are crimes against humanity, constitutes an open challenge to anyone who takes the rule of law seriously.  Given the literally millions of human beings whose lives have been destroyed or seriously debilitated by the actions of the Bush administration and the gross violations of constitutional and international law, the imperative for speedy justice within the context of due process is overwhelming.

 

What I fear is some kind of Truth Commission based on the premise of giving immunity for the sake of getting the truth out.  This, I believe, is what Obama was getting at with his “looking forward” remark and what Professor Boaz would like to see.  Such a notion mocks the concept and dignity of Justice.  It gives no closure to those who have suffered at the hands of high level war criminals and it has little or no deterrent effect.  What it is is politically expedient. 

 

Do I expect to ever see Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Wolfowitz et. al. in a United States court of law charged with high crimes?  Honestly I do not (but I didn’t ever expect to see the election of an Afro-American president in my lifetime either).  But genuine truth, reconciliation and justice demand that such high crimes be investigated and prosecuted; those who suffered deserve justice; and the future of what is left of constitutional democracy is worth fighting for.

What is more, if President Barak Obama or anyone else acts in any way to impede or frustrate the carrying out of justice, they become to some extent complicit with the principal perpetuators.

UPDATE (May 1, 2009)

There has been a lot of -pardon the pun – wate(boarding) under the bridge since I wrote this piece in mid February.  If you surf around my Blog or the many Blogs I post on it, you will find dozens if not hundreds of articles on the issue of torture and criminal responsibility for it.  Just today, for example, I posted an excellent article by Glenn Greenwald that appeared in salon.com which documented the words of, of all people, Ronald Reagan, who, in introducing the law that made torture a serious crime in the United States, states that torture is a crime, with no exception for extraordinary circumstances (including, presumably, the phony “ticking time bomb” scenario).  Ronald Reagan!

 

Professor Boaz, who is the target of my criticism in the original article above, had argued that those of us demanding that now President Obama take criminal action against the Torturers were misunderstanding the role of the presidency.  Investigation and criminal prosecution in the bailiwick of the Judicial System, not the presidency she tells us.  I wonder what she is thinking now that President Obama has heard, tried and exonerated the CIA agents who carried out the war crime known as torture.

 

During the longest eight years in history that we lived through under Bush/Cheney, one felt that what was happening as if it were in the realm of the surreal.  Anti-war election results, and the war escalates (excuse me, surges).  Torture with impunity.  Habeas Corpus out the window.  Warrantless wiretapping.  An ideologically politicized Justice Department.  Signing Statements allowing the President to ignore laws passed by Congress.  Dr. Strangeglove figures such as Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, Gonzales; and Darth Vader himself disguised as Dick Cheney, bunker and all.

 

May the goddess help me, I am having the same surrealistic dizziness all over again.  The Attorney General declares that waterboarding is torture.  Torture is a crime.  Therefore … do nothing about it.  The President releases evidence in the form of the infamous torture memos that, that along with photographic and other (International Red Cross, for example) evidence, leaves no doubt about the nature and extent of the torture; and then he proceeds to grant amnesty to those who committed the crimes.  They were only following orders, he says, as the Nuremburg amnesia sets in alongside the swine flu.  Pelosi and Reid want investigations … in secret (!).  The mainstream media, as it did under Bush/Cheney, plays along with the Alice in Wonderland fantasies, and the maniacs on the neo-Fascist Right have convinced a signficant percentage of Americans that torture is not a crime under “certain circumstances.”  The torture memos written by John Yoo and Jay Bybee are so patently phony and Kafkesque that Yoo is invited to teach law in Orange County and Bybee is made a Federal Judge.

 

It has been suggested that President Obama doesn’t feel there is the political will to prosecute the war criminals, which is why he has been so wishy-washy, but that he has released the tortue memos and is soon to release more photos as a way to achieve that will.  I don’t believe this, but that doesn’t matter.  Only by latching on to the the issue like a pit bull and refusing to let go can we who believe in Decency and Justice bring the American War Criminals to justice.

torture-with-bush

abu-ghraib-matthew-langley

 

 

 

 

Rumsfeld Knew His Guys Were Torturing People to Death, Which Is a Serious Crime February 14, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Economic Crisis, Torture.
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 Stephen Pizzo, News for Real. Posted February 13, 2009. www.alternet.org

71% of Americans want to see Bush investigated, and it’s about time Obama’s team hightailed their way over to court to start doing it.

During the Bush years Americans the boogeyman used to keep Americans cowed was the real or imagined threat of imminent terrorist attack.

Now we have a new president – and we have  a new boogeyman – the economic meltdown. .

Now don’t get me wrong. Anyone who’s read this column over the  past few years knows I’ve been Chicken Littling about the financial house of cards for a long time.  And, now that it’s finally collapsed, it’s even worse than I predicted, and getting worse by the day.

Which is why Obama and his team are on the tube night and day talking about nothing else — as if Americans are concerned about nothing, which isn’t true.

71% of Americans want to see Bush administration investigated

71% of Americans are in favor of an investigation into the possible misuse of the Department of Justice by the Bush administration according to a Gallup poll released yesterday.
That’s a pretty startling number, even for those of us who’ve been arguing for investigations for some time now. After all, Obama didn’t get 71% of the vote, which means that a lot of folks who voted for McCain also want equal justice applied equally.

One reason for this surprisingly robust groundswell for investigations may be that each day, formerly secret Bush-era documents surface that truly shock the conscience.

Just yesterday the ACLU got it’s hands on a truly smoking gun memo written for then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. This document informed Rumsfeld that those he’d tasked with beating  information out of suspected terrorists had not just tortured them, but tortured some of them, to death. In other words, they murdered them.

No, I’m not kidding. Here read the original document yourself.  http://www.aclu.org/images/torture/asset_upload_file293_38710.pdf

If Rumsfeld had been, say, some local police captain in charge of these guys, this document would make him – at very least – accessory-after-the-fact to murder. He not only conspired to keep this evidence secret, but did not report this as the crime it is, nor order the perpetrators arrested, charged and put on trial.

There’s a legal name for this crime: “Misprison of a Felony.” Defined here as: 

“The failure to perform a public duty…Misprision is a versatile word that can denote a number of offenses. It can refer to the improper performance of an official duty…The most familiar and popular use of the term misprision describes the failure to report a crime….The first Congress passed a misprision of felony statute in 1789. The statute holds, “Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony … conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States” is guilty of misprision of felony and can be punished with up to three years in prison.

Under the federal statute, the prosecution must prove the following elements to obtain a misprision of felony conviction:

(1)another person actually committed a felony;
(2)the defendant knew that the felony was committed;
(3)the defendant did not notify any law enforcement or judicial officer; and
(4)the defendant took affirmative steps to conceal the felony.”

As for Rumsfeld, this document,  the crimes it describes,  and the available evidence indicate that, were he charged for misprison of a felony, he would be found; guilty on each count.

toon

(An aside: Chances are very good that other high-placed officials in the Bush administration saw this document as well. A prosecutor and grand jury can find out just who else’s chestnuts are in this particular fire.)
I am completely sympathetic to the extraordinary economic burden Obama and his team shouldered on January 21. But during the campaign it was Obama himself who posited the notion that a president had to be capable of do “more than one important thing at a time.”

The economic meltdown – likely the worst since the Great Depression – demands immediate and intense attention. But the economy is not the only thing that melted down during the Bush years. Core American values melted down as well, and require equally urgent attention from this new administration.

Because America’s strength and moral authority in the world don’t flow solely from a robust US economy, but also by an unswerving adherence to a unique and lofty set of moral values. Both the economy and our moral authority need urgent and immediate repair. Obama needs to work night and day to return health and stability to our economy. He also needs to work night and day to restore our moral authority. And that can only be accomplished by holding those who so despoiled our national soul accountable for their (well-documented) crimes.

But so far I’ve not seen a glimmer that Obama or his Attorney General, Eric Holder, have the stomach for real investigations that could lead to real crimes and real prosecutions. For example, even though Obama has repeatedly promised to lift the many lids of secrecy the Bush administration slammed down on the public’s right to know, he hasn’t. It’s currently just as hard to get information and documents about the Bush years out of the Obama administration as it was to get the same out of the Bush folks themselves.

Obama administration goes to bat for
 secrecy

sfgate.com – For the second time this week, the Obama administration has gone to court in San Francisco to argue for secrecy in defending a terrorism policy crafted under George W. Bush – in this case, wiretapping that President Obama denounced as a candidate. (Full Story)  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/02/12/MN8615T51C.DTL

They need to be told to keep their promise and loosen up, to release the kind of hard evidence we need to fully know what crimes were committed, by whom, where, when and how many.

To help get this message through to them please sign this petition.  http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/383/t/4089/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=26673

The must. Who says so? Just 71% of the people they represent. That’s who.

One more thing. Now that the Obama folks have those documents, they also have constructive knowledge of felonies committed. Which means if they don’t investigate and prosecute, they may be the next ones found guilty of misprision of a felony. Ya know?

(For more Bush administration documents see the Document Drawer at — 

http://www.bushproject.com

Poll: Most Want Inquiry Into Anti-Terror Tactics February 13, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture, War.
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inquiryA man protesting Bush’s domestic wiretapping program. Polls show that Americans want investigations of the Bush administration. (Photo: AFP)

12 February 2009

by: Jill Lawrence, USA TODAY

  Washington – Even as Americans struggle with two wars and an economy in tatters, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds majorities in favor of investigating some of the thorniest unfinished business from the Bush administration: Whether its tactics in the “war on terror” broke the law.

    Close to two-thirds of those surveyed said there should be investigations into allegations that the Bush team used torture to interrogate terrorism suspects and its program of wiretapping U.S. citizens without getting warrants. Almost four in 10 favor criminal investigations and about a quarter want investigations without criminal charges. One-third said they want nothing to be done.

    Calls to Move On: Even reversed, Bush policies divide

    Even more people want action on alleged attempts by the Bush team to use the Justice Department for political purposes. Four in 10 favored a criminal probe, three in 10 an independent panel, and 25% neither.

    The ACLU and other groups are pressing for inquiries into whether the Bush administration violated U.S. and international bans on torture and the constitutional right to privacy. House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and his Senate counterpart, Patrick Leahy, have proposed commissions to investigate.

    Asked Monday about Leahy’s plan, President Obama said he would look at it. He added, “my general orientation is to say, let’s get it right moving forward.” Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have declined to rule out prosecutions. Leon Panetta, named to head the CIA, said this month that CIA officers would not be prosecuted for harsh interrogations authorized by the Bush White House.

    Leahy, D-Vt., this week proposed a “truth commission” to assemble facts. He said the panel could offer immunity from prosecution for everything but perjury. “We need to get to the bottom of what happened and why,” he said.

    Conyers, D-Mich., has called for a panel that would gather facts and make recommendations, and could possibly lead to prosecutions. “This isn’t payback,” he said. “We are getting things straightened out for the future.”

    The Republican viewpoint was summed up recently by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. “If every administration started to re-examine what every prior administration did, there would be no end to it,” he said. “This is not Latin America.”

    The politics of any investigation would be delicate. “You’d need people who haven’t made up their minds,” says Tom Kean, a Republican who co-chaired the 9/11 Commission.

Obama Leaves Door Open To Investigating Bush, But Wants To “Look Forward” January 11, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture.
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(Roger’s note: I have little hope that Bush and Cheney and the rest of the criminal gang will be brought to justice in my or their lifetime, much less under the presidency of Barack Obama.  I hope I am wrong.  The anticipated reaction of the CIA, FBI, military, radical right — you name it — would be overwhelming, and the mainstream media, as usual, would fall over dead.  What I would appreciate from Obama, however, would be a recognition of this dynamic as opposed to the mealy mouthed “inclination to look forward rather than look backward.”  It is both an insult to one’s intelligence and to the notion of rule of law and justice). 

Sam Stein, www.huffingtonpost.com

January 11, 2009

Responding to the most popular inquiry on the “Open for Questions” feature of his website, Barack Obama said on Sunday that he is “evaluating” whether or not to investigate potential crimes of the Bush administration, but that he was inclined to “look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

The answer was delivered during an interview to This Week With George Stephanopoulos. But the question itself has been weeks in the work.

The Obama transition team, as part of its efforts to open up the political process, had allowed web users to vote on questions for the incoming administration to field. To the top rose a query from Bob Fertik, president of Democrats.com and a former Clinton White House technology official, asking whether the incoming administration would appoint a special prosecutor to “independently investigate the greatest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping.”

On Obama’s website, a December statement from Vice President-elect Joe Biden on the topic was offered as a response (similar older statements were used to address several other national security-related questions, which the transition team has avoided discussing). But Stephanopoulos made the matter moot by posing the question directly to the president-elect.

“We’re still evaluating how we’re going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth,” said Obama. “And obviously we’re going to look at past practices. And I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards. And part of my job is to make sure that for example at the CIA, you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering up.”

Pressed a bit — was he ruling out prosecution? — the president-elect suggested that decision would be that of his attorney general.

“I think my general view when it comes to my attorney general is that he’s the people’s lawyer. Eric Holder’s been nominated,” said Obama. “His job is to uphold the Constitution and look after the interests of the American people, not be swayed by my day-to-day politics. So ultimately, he’s going to be making some calls. But my general belief is that when it comes to national security, what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.”

I asked Fertik to share his thoughts on the president-elect’s answer. This is what he had to say:

It’s absurd to talk about “upholding the Constitution” and say “no one is above the law” if you refuse to look “back” at those who have subverted the Constitution and broken the law. And you can’t have one set of rules for “national security” and a different set of rules for everything else.
So if there’s any hope for prosecution in Obama’s answer, it is that Attorney General Eric Holder will truly be “the people’s lawyer” and fully represent us by prosecuting torturers, wiretappers, and other criminals who committed their crimes from secret undisclosed locations hidden within the Bush-Cheney administration.

 

Cheney Was Key in Clearing CIA Interrogation Tactics December 17, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
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torture(Art: Julia Nissen)

www.truthout.org

16 December 2008

by: Greg Miller, The Los Angeles Times

The vice president says that the use of waterboarding was appropriate and that the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should stay open until “the end of the war on terror.”

    Reporting from Washington – Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that he was directly involved in approving severe interrogation methods used by the CIA, and that the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should remain open indefinitely.

    Cheney’s remarks on Guantanamo appear to put him at odds with President Bush, who has expressed a desire to close the prison, although the decision is expected to be left to the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama.

    Cheney’s comments also mark the first time that he has acknowledged playing a central role in clearing the CIA’s use of an array of controversial interrogation tactics, including a simulated drowning method known as waterboarding.

    “I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared,” Cheney said in an interview with ABC News.

    Asked whether he still believes it was appropriate to use the waterboarding method on terrorism suspects, Cheney said: “I do.”

    His comments come on the heels of disclosures by a Senate committee showing that high-level officials in the Bush administration were intimately involved in reviewing and approving interrogation methods that have since been explicitly outlawed and that have been condemned internationally as torture.

    Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, Cheney said, the CIA “in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn’t do. And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it.”

    Waterboarding involves strapping a prisoner to a tilted surface, covering his face with a towel and dousing it to simulate the sensation of drowning.

    CIA Director Michael V. Hayden has said that the agency used the technique on three Al Qaeda suspects in 2002 and 2003. But the practice was discontinued when lawyers from the Department of Justice and other agencies began backing away from their opinions endorsing its legality.

    Cheney has long defended the technique. But he has not previously disclosed his role in pushing to give the CIA such authority.

    Cheney’s office is regarded as the most hawkish presence in the Bush administration, pushing the White House toward aggressive stances on the invasion of Iraq and the wiretapping of U.S. citizens.

    Asked when the Guantanamo Bay prison would be shut down, Cheney said, “I think that that would come with the end of the war on terror.” He went on to say that “nobody can specify” when that might occur, and likened the use of the detention facility to the imprisonment of Germans during World War II.

    “We’ve always exercised the right to capture the enemy and hold them till the end of the conflict,” Cheney said.

    The administration’s legal case for holding detainees indefinitely has been eroded by a series of court rulings. Obama has pledged to close the facility, which still holds 250 prisoners.

    Cheney’s remarks are the latest in a series of interviews granted by Bush and senior officials defending their decisions as they prepare to leave office. Bush recently said his main regret was that U.S. spy agencies had been so mistaken about Iraq’s alleged weapons programs. Cheney and the Bush administration have been accused of “cherry-picking” intelligence to support going to war with Iraq.

    Cheney said that those mistakes didn’t matter, and that the U.S. invasion was justified by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s ability to reestablish destructive weapons programs. The vice president brushed off a series of findings questioning that view, including a 2006 Senate report concluding that Hussein lacked a “coherent effort” to develop nuclear weapons and had only a “limited capability” for chemical weapons.

    “This was a bad actor and the country’s better off, the world’s better off, with Saddam gone, and I think we made the right decision in spite of the fact that the original [intelligence] was off in some of its major judgments,” he said.

    Miller is a writer in our Washington bureau.

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