22 May 2008

WaPo: "Interrogation Tactics Were Challenged at White House"

There are several problems with this WaPo report:

1. The title is increadibly misleading. "Interrogation Tactics Were Challenged at White House"

If someone were to browse the headlines (many people just do that you know), they would gain a completely false picture of what the article is about. The title suggests that the 'White House' - euphemism for the President and his advisors - challenged the interrogation tactics. This is of course false. We know that the President and his advisors were the ones behind the mistreatment. In fact the challenge came not from the President and his advisors but by a career lawyer at the Justice Department. The article even mentions "the cool reception the dissenters got among some officials at the White House".

2. Chertoff raised 'concerns' about the 'effectiveness of the military's methods'.

But a few sentences later we read "One of Chertoff's concerns, according to the report, was that even if FBI agents interviewed detainees after they were harshly interrogated by the CIA, "he did not think this approach would successfully prevent the statement from being 'tainted' by any prior enhanced interview techniques."

This isn't a concern rather a minute concern and again is misleading.

According to Philippe Sands book Torture Team (pp.88-89) [and the NYT], Chertoff "advised the CIA on the legality of coercive interrogation techniques based on the Bybee/Yoo memo. Chertoff liked a tough approach and was a fan of Jack Bauer, the lead in 24, and his fictitious Counter-Terrorism Unit colleagues, praisingn them for showing the kind of character and tenacity that would help America defeat terrorism. For Chertoff, it seemed, there was no line dividing fiction from reality. 'That is what we do every day,' he said of 24, 'that is what we do in the government, that's what we do in private life when we evaluate risks.'"

Where did Sands get this from? From the Washington Post!

3. "then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, who sources say disliked some of Yoo's conclusions and resented his back-channel discussions with the White House".

More 'concerns'? But Yoo, according to Sands (pp. 226-227) and Yoo himself, "objected to the pretence that back in 2002 the Attorney-General was out of the loop. That was wrong. 'No opinion of that significance could ever issue from the Justice Department without the review of the Attorney Genral's staff, in particular that of his counsellor, or without the Attorney General's personal approval.'

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