While the former president was busy unapologetically bragging about being a war criminal last week, the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility was disproving Cheney's claim that a CIA memo justified waterboarding. Michael Isikoff reports:
Cheney has publicly called for the release of the CIA’s still classified memo and another document, insisting their disclosure will bolster his claim that the rough interrogation tactics he vigorously pushed for while in the White House yielded actionable intelligence that foiled terrorist plots against the United States.
But a just released report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility into the lawyers who approved the CIA’s interrogation program could prove awkward for Cheney and his supporters. The report provides new information about the contents of one of the never released agency memos, concluding that it significantly misstated the timing of the capture of one Al Qaeda suspect in order to make a claim that seems to have been patently false.
The memo also omitted any references to a notorious incident in which another high level CIA detainee, Ibn Al-Shaykh al-Libi, provided “false information” about Al Qaeda’s supposed connections to Iraq in order to stop his Egyptian interrogators from abusing him, the Justice report states. (Al-Libi was transfered by the CIA to Egyptian custody under the agency's "extraordinary rendition" program.)
The CIA memo, called the Effectiveness Memo, was especially important because it was relied on by Steven G. Bradbury, then the Justice Department’s acting chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, to write memos in 2005 and 2007 giving the agency additional legal approvals to continue its program of “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.” The memo reviewed the results of the use of EITs – which included waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and forced nudity – mainly against two suspects” Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the report states. One key claim in the agency memo was that the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogations of Zubaydah led to the capture of suspected “dirty bomb’ plotter Jose Padilla. “Abu Zubaydah provided significant information on two operatives, Jose Padilla and Binyam Mohammed, who planned to build and detonate a ‘dirty bomb’ in the Washington DC area,” the CIA memo stated, according to the OPR report. “Zubaydah’s reporting led to the arrest of Padilla on his arrival in Chicago in May 2003 [sic].”
But as the Justice report points out, this was wrong. “In fact, Padilla was arrested in May 2002, not 2003 ... The information ‘[leading] to the arrest of Padilla’ could not have been obtained through the authorized use of EITs.” (The use of enhanced interrogations was not authorized until Aug. 1, 2002 and Zubaydah was not waterboarded until later that month.) “ Yet Bradbury relied upon this plainly inaccurate information” in two OLC memos that contained direct citations from the CIA Effectiveness Memo about the interrogations of Zubaydah, the Justice report states.
The torture that was used to provide "evidence" of WMD's to take us into war was used by Bradbury--falsely--to "prove" that it in itself was productive. Dick and Liz "Baby Dick" Cheney will maintain their commitment to that lie, and George Bush is probably simple-minded enough to continue to believe it. But, once again, we know that torture saved no lives, American or otherwise. In fact, the revelation that America tortured has probably been responsible for the conversion of more anti-American terrorists than any other single factor.
This new OPR report exists to disprove that, but it won't make the front pages, and it won't shake the Cheney-Bush narrative that this form of "toughness" kept America safe. It won't shake it unless it gets a much more public airing. There's still time to take a look backward on this.