The Drudge Report is trying to spin today’s news as if it deflects the blame for the Dubya Squad’s torture policy from Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales.
“Paper: Gonzales drafts ghost-written by Cheney lawyer,” says Drudge.
Nice try, but the news actually ties Gonzales closer to the torture memos than before:
[The CIA] asked for a legal review — the first ever by the government — of how much pain and suffering a U.S. intelligence officer could inflict on a prisoner without violating a law that imposes severe penalties, including life imprisonment and execution, on convicted torturers.
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel took up the task, and at least twice during the drafting, top administration officials were briefed on the results.
White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales chaired the meetings on this issue, which included detailed descriptions of interrogation techniques such as “waterboarding,” a tactic intended to make detainees feel as if they are drowning.
He raised no objections and, without consulting military and State Department experts in the laws of torture and war, approved an memo that gave CIA interrogators the legal blessings they sought.
…it goes on…
Gonzales approved in — after limited consultation — an Office of Legal Counsel memo suggesting various stratagems that officials could use to defend themselves against criminal prosecution for torture.
Drafted at the request of the CIA, which sought legal blessing for aggressive interrogation methods for Abu Zubaida and other al Qaeda detainees, the memo contended that only physically punishing acts “of an extreme nature” would be prosecutable.
It also said that those committing torture with express presidential authority or without the intent to commit harm were probably immune from prosecution.
The memo was signed by Jay S. Bybee, then an assistant attorney general and now a federal appellate judge, but written with significant input from [John] Yoo, whom Gonzales had tried to hire at the White House and later endorsed to head Justice’s legal counsel office.
During the drafting of the memo, Yoo briefed Gonzales several times on its contents.
He also briefed Ashcroft, Bellinger, Addington, Haynes and the CIA’s acting general counsel, John A. Rizzo, several officials said.
At least one of the meetings during this period included a detailed description of the interrogation methods the CIA wanted to use, such as open-handed slapping, the threat of live burial and “waterboarding” — a procedure that involves strapping a detainee to a board, raising the feet above the head, wrapping the face and nose in a wet towel, and dripping water onto the head.
Tested repeatedly on U.S. military personnel as part of interrogation resistance training, the technique proved to produce an unbearable sensation of drowning.
State Department officials and military lawyers were intentionally excluded from these deliberations, officials said.
Gonzales and his staff had no reservations about the legal draft or the proposed interrogation methods and did not suggest major changes during the editing of Yoo’s memo, two officials involved in the deliberations said.
The memo defined torture in extreme terms, said the president had inherent powers to allow it and gave the CIA permission to do what it wished.
, its conclusions were cited approvingly in a Defense Department memo that spelled out the Pentagon’s policy for “exceptional interrogations” of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.