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Torture Watch

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."

By Dan Froomkin  |  May 21, 2009; 10:18 AM ET
Categories:  Torture  
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The cynical Dick Cheney will make a speech today. Maybe he can explain the advice he got. But here is my opinion was that the legal advice he got was of the most cynical nature and could only be taken as a joke except they took it as serious and that's serious.

Posted by: repudar711 | May 21, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Who the heck is this so-called "CIA contractor". That term tells me that it was not actual CIA. If the press or no one else investigates who this person worked for that is even more of the cynical nature of what happened. And the CIA did not just do anything on their own for heavens sake. They were told to do it by Cheney.

Posted by: repudar711 | May 21, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Is there an arrest warrant out for James Mitchell for violations of national and international law? Anyone care to ask the Attorney General why not?

Posted by: fletc3her | May 21, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

What? Are you sure they didn't pass each request to Nancy Pelosi? To hear the dead-enders talk about it, she is as culpable as anyone.

Over at Topic A, Karl Rove has just come out with this statement: "This issue cannot remain unresolved. Leaving it so will reflect badly on Democrats unless a speedy release of CIA documents and testimony under oath by Pelosi...bear[s] out the speaker's explosive charge."

For Karl Rove to suggest anyone testify under oath is BEYOND preposterous--how can WaPo publish this bilge? Are you now The Onion?

Secondly, "this issue" is not why a Congressman doesn't reveal classified information (which would be illegal for her to do), but why we were torturing people in the first place. Mr Rove may try to reframe the "debate" but the American people aren't buying.

Of course, that's his best thing--turning his own weakness against his opponent. Dan, please suggest that to clear the air, it be arranged that Pelosi testify under oath on this if Karl testifies under oath on USA firings, Plame, WHIG, etc.

While we're on that subject, how about a compromise on the Cheney torture-is-effective files: release those docs in exchange for releasing his Plame testimony, energy commission member list, and where he was when Sharon Tate was murdered.

Next, Gonzales set a world for record for "can't recall" in testimony, while Pelosi seems to recall pretty well.

Furthermore, it's not just Dems who sometimes find the CIA untrustworthy: Dick Cheney set up a shadow intelligence operation to find "evidence" the CIA could not. The Bush/Cheney administration selectively declassified/released CIA info to support its actions even though key findings and summaries came to opposite conclusions. Why aren't Republicans in Congress concerned about that?

Posted by: camsoccer | May 21, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

"how can WaPo publish this bilge? Are you now The Onion?"

Please don't associate the George Will Lie Factory™ with the smart, topical humor of the Onion. It's an offense to comedy everywhere.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | May 21, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

It's about time somebody outed James Mitchell.

Mitchell's use of communist techniques to coerce propaganda and confessions is an affront to professional interrogators like Ali Soufan, Matthew Alexander and George Pilo (who interrogated Saddam).

Posted by: boscobobb | May 21, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

We need to find out more about Mitchell. What motivated him to want to do these abhorrent things?

Posted by: troyd2009 | May 21, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

"Is there an arrest warrant out for James Mitchell for violations of national and international law? Anyone care to ask the Attorney General why not?"

Looking forward, President George W. Obama does not see any torture occuring. And, as in the previous administration, the AG is just a figurehead. Prosecutorial decisions are still made in the WH.

Posted by: dickdata | May 21, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Seems that Abu Zubayda was also deliberately deprived of medication while in severe pain after being wounded, right at the beginning of his journey through hell.

Posted by: cristca9 | May 21, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

***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.***

hmmmm... no wonder all those millions of white house emails were disappeared.

Posted by: mycomment | May 21, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

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