Torture Watch

By Dan Froomkin
10:18 AM ET, 05/21/2009

Here's something new for the torture timeline.

Many of us have long wondered what sort of legal guidance the CIA got for the abusive measures it used on Abu Zubaydah before getting the verbal go-ahead from the White House and the Justice Department in mid-July for waterboarding and the like. (The infamous August 1 memos put it all in writing.)

Ari Shapiro reports for NPR: "The public record includes testimony from Ali Soufan, a former FBI interrogator who was with Zubaydah during April and May of 2002....Soufan testified that in the first two months of Zubaydah's interrogation, a CIA contractor used nudity, sleep deprivation, loud noise and extreme temperatures during interrogations. That contractor has been identified as a psychologist named James Mitchell."

Sources tell NPR that "nearly every day, Mitchell would sit at his computer and write a top-secret cable to the CIA's counterterrorism center. Each day, Mitchell would request permission to use enhanced interrogation techniques on Zubaydah. The source says the CIA would then forward the request to the White House, where White House counsel Alberto Gonzales would sign off on the technique. That would provide the administration's legal blessing for Mitchell to increase the pressure on Zubaydah in the next interrogation....

"Attorneys who have worked in the White House counsel's office describe it as 'highly unusual' for the White House to tell interrogators what they can and cannot do."

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