Another in a long history of non-denial denials. Or lies.

Press Briefing by Dana Perino

James S. Brady Briefing Room

October 5, 2007

12:39 P.M. EDT

….With that, I’ll take your questions.

Q I wanted to ask about the President’s statement this morning on the interrogation method. He said — he repeated, obviously, what he did yesterday, that the government doesn’t torture — the U.S. government doesn’t torture people. But these memos make it sound like the definition of what’s permissible is so expansive that you could say we don’t torture and almost anything could be true falling into that. What do you say to that?

MS. PERINO: Well, what I say is the United States’ policy and our laws is not to torture. We meet the laws and we also meet our international obligations. There’s a public document that interprets the statute that is from the Office of Legal Opinion, from the Justice Department. It’s on the website for anybody to read. Any additional documents are classified for a reason, because they have to deal with interrogation techniques.

[emphasis added]

Not exactly.

It’s really not a question now if this administration approved torture:

AWOL military justice

Why the former chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions resigned his post.

By Morris D. Davis

December 10, 2007

I had instructed the prosecutors in September 2005 that we would not offer any evidence derived by waterboarding, one of the aggressive interrogation techniques the administration has sanctioned. Haynes and I have different perspectives and support different agendas, and the decision to give him command over the chief prosecutor’s office, in my view, cast a shadow over the integrity of military commissions. I resigned a few hours after I was informed of Haynes’ place in my chain of command…

[emphasis added]

Coming in From the Cold: CIA Spy Calls Waterboarding Necessary But Torture

ABC News

By RICHARD ESPOSITO & BRIAN ROSS

Dec. 10, 2007

…A leader of the CIA team that captured the first major al Qaeda figure, Abu Zubaydah, says subjecting him to waterboarding was torture but necessary…

I wonder if he’s had an opportunity to tell that to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey?

Hmmm. Senator Russ Feingold has a similar question:

December 10, 2007

The Honorable Michael B. Mukasey

Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue,NW

Washington, DC 20530

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

During the hearing on your nomination to be Attorney General and in your answers to questions submitted for the record, you repeatedly refused to answer questions related to interrogation techniques on the grounds that you had not yet been briefed on the CIA’s interrogation and detention program. I was disappointed with these responses. Familiarity with the CIA program should have been irrelevant to a legal opinion about practices such as waterboarding, which have been employed by dictatorships for generations and historically condemned by our own government.

Nonetheless, now that you have been sworn in as our nation’s Attorney General and presumably have been briefed on the program, I urge you to provide your views on its legality to Congress at the earliest possible date. As a member of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, I believe that a full and informed exchange between yourself and Congress is critically important if our intelligence activities are to be conducted consistent with our laws and Constitution and subject to appropriate congressional oversight. Such transparency would also be long overdue, given the refusal of the Department of Justice to provide to Congress any legal opinions on the program.

I oppose any interrogation techniques not authorized by the Army Field Manual, as do majorities of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. I do not believe that their use is legally or morally defensible or that they make our nation safer. It is my hope that, under your leadership, the Department of Justice will take a fresh look at the CIA’s program, and that you will urge the President not to veto legislation that would end the use of so-called “alternative interrogation techniques.” I request that you provide current and any past Department legal analyses to Congress, and that you provide your views on the program to Congress at the earliest possible date.

Sincerely,

s/

Russell D. Feingold

UNITED STATES SENATOR

The senator from Wisconsin certainly knows how to ask a question. One can wonder if he’ll get an answer.

Somebody is trying to do a little finger pointing:

Hill Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002

In Meetings, Spy Panels’ Chiefs Did Not Protest, Officials Say

By Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen

Washington Post Staff Writers

Sunday, December 9, 2007; A01

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said…..

[emphasis added]

Methinks that some “U.S. Officials” have an agenda when it comes to passing around the blame. Or is it not so subtle blackmail?


For Immediate Release

12/09/2007

Contact:

Brendan Daly/Nadeam Elshami

202-226-7616

Pelosi Statement on Washington Post Report on Congressional Briefing of Administration Interrogation Techniques

Washington, D.C. — Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement on a report in today’s Washington Post about a congressional briefing on Administration interrogation techniques:

“On one occasion, in the fall of 2002, I was briefed on interrogation techniques the Administration was considering using in the future.  The Administration advised that legal counsel for the both the CIA and the Department of Justice had concluded that the techniques were legal.

“I had no further briefings on the techniques.  Several months later, my successor as Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, was briefed more extensively and advised the techniques had in fact been employed.  It was my understanding at that time that Congresswoman Harman filed a letter in early 2003 to the CIA to protest the use of such techniques, a protest with which I concurred.”

[emphasis added]

Did anyone ask for an independent legal opinion? Did anyone bother to read the ICCPR, the CAT, or Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113C, Section 2340 before accepting that “legal counsel for the both the CIA and the Department of Justice had concluded that the techniques were legal”?

It’s not as if dubya’s administration has a credible history when it comes to informing members of Congress:

Warrensburg Daily Star-Journal, November 22, 2005

…During a question and answer session Professor XXX XXXXX asked whether it was true that Skelton and members of Congress had the same information as the president, which the White House has recently suggested as it defends the decision to go to war.

Skelton said that while as a ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, he and Republican Duncan Hunter were privy to a higher level of intelligence than many in Congress, “I did not have the same intelligence that was available at the White House. I had nothing to tell me of any dissenters or other opinions regarding specific intelligence and whether it was credible.”

[emphasis added]

Eventually a whole bunch of people are going to have to answer for this at The Hague. How convenient that the United States is not a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  Interestingly, Afghanistan is.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  The ICC is based on a treaty, joined by 105 countries.

The ICC is a court of last resort.  It will not act if a case is investigated or prosecuted by a national judicial system unless the national proceedings are not genuine, for example if formal proceedings were undertaken solely to shield a person from criminal responsibility.  In addition, the ICC only tries those accused of the gravest crimes…

[emphasis added]

We’re now informed that tapes of interrogations were destroyed:

Press Briefing by Dana Perino

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

December 7, 2007

12:42 P.M. EST

…Q Dana, is this something that you would characterize the President’s feeling about — is this something that’s sort of seen as understandable, or is this something that you’re embarrassed about?

MS. PERINO: I would say that the President supports General Hayden. General Hayden made a statement yesterday to his employees in which he said that the decision was made by the agency, it was made in consultation with the agency’s lawyers. And he said — and I quote — that “the tapes posed a serious security risk and were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the program, exposing them and their families to retaliation from al Qaeda and its sympathizers….”

Uh, if we’re so concerned about exposing CIA personnel (and their families) to a risk of retaliation, why did such an individual go talk about all this stuff on ABC News? Just asking.

Could it be that the tapes were destroyed because they could potentially be used as evidence in a trial at The Hague? Just asking.

[Update]

Uh, oh. The White House press folks got restive today:

Press Briefing by Dana Perino

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

December 11, 2007

12:38 P.M. EST

….Q Did the questioning of al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah conform with the interrogation program approved by President Bush?

MS. PERINO: I can’t comment on any specifics. So you might want to rephrase your question. It’s not — what you’re asking me is not something that I can confirm or respond to in that way.

Q I’m asking if it was within the guidelines — the interrogation techniques, was that within the guidelines of these programs approved by the President?

MS. PERINO: I will say that all interrogations — all interrogations have been done within the legal framework that was set out after September 11th, and they are measures that have been tough and limited. They are safe, and they have been very effective in helping prevent terrorist attacks on this country. All of the — the entire program has been legal.

Q Are you saying that whatever was done in this case was not torture?

MS. PERINO: I am saying that the United States does not torture. The President has been —

Q No, I’m asking you if what was done in this case was not torture, in your opinion.

MS. PERINO: I’m saying the United States does not torture. And the reason I’m answering it that way, Bill, is because I just said to Terry, I cannot comment on any specific case. I don’t comment on any specific technique. General Hayden, the Director of the CIA, is in front of — having briefings today and tomorrow up on Capitol Hill; those are in closed session, and that’s the appropriate place for these things to be discussed.

But I can say that any interrogations have been legal, and that they have been fully briefed to the United States Congress.

Q But when you have a former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, now saying that waterboarding was used — since you’re saying the interrogations were legal; he’s saying on the record now, waterboarding was used in at least one case. You’re saying waterboarding is legal?

MS. PERINO: Ed, I’m saying I’m not commenting on any specific technique. I’m not commenting on that gentleman’s characteristics of any possible technique. I’ve given you a very general statement about interrogations being legal, limited and —

Q You just said it was legal.

MS. PERINO: I’m sorry?

Q You said it was within the legal framework.

MS. PERINO: Yes.

Q Everything that was done.

MS. PERINO: Yes.

Q So waterboarding is legal.

MS. PERINO: I’m not commenting on any specific techniques. And you can ask me all sorts of different ways, and we can go back and forth, but I’m not going to do it, Ed.

Q Okay. The New York Times today also reports that — and I know you can’t comment on specifics of the investigation about the CIA tapes so as not to jeopardize the investigation, but The New York Times quotes one former CIA official, or intelligence official putting out the notion that the White House was almost not pushing hard enough to say to the CIA, don’t destroy the tapes. Can you at least on the record push back on that? Is the White House comfortable with that notion out there that you were not really forcefully telling the CIA, don’t destroy the tapes?

MS. PERINO: As I said earlier, and as I said yesterday, I cannot comment on it. We are cooperating with the Justice Department and the CIA in order to help them in their efforts to gather facts on this. We’ve been asked not to comment on it by our Counsel’s Office, and so I’m not going to.

Q But just generally speaking, I mean, does the President believe it is good practice for the intelligence agencies to be destroying things like tapes of interrogations?

MS. PERINO: If I were to answer that question the way that you want me to, it would be extrapolated and applied to the specific case at hand. And so, as reasonable as I understand your question to be, I’m in the position where I cannot answer it….

….Q Dana, can I come back to the waterboarding question? I understand the rationale for not wanting to discuss specific techniques — it’s to not tip off America’s enemies, to help them train as to how to evade what questioning they get. After a retired team member is on nationwide television explaining exactly what was done, is there an al Qaeda operative anywhere who doesn’t know that this might be in the arsenal?

MS. PERINO: Obviously, al Qaeda listens closely to everything that we do and say, and that’s something that we should be — that we should keep in mind. What the President said is that he’s going to do what it takes to protect this country in a legal way. The intelligence community has worked very hard in order to do that. Remember that the — and this is classified for a reason. We don’t talk about specific techniques. We don’t think it’s prudent. We don’t think it’s a good idea to do so.

But it is discussed in the appropriate arena, which is on the Hill. And General Hayden, again, is up there today, answering questions probably about all the questions that you’re asking me, which are questions that he can answer in a closed setting. And I think it’s reasonable, and that people should be able to agree that it’s reasonable, that such matters of sensitivity should remain classified and not spoken about publicly.

Q But, in fact, it has been spoken about in public. So what, at this point —

MS. PERINO: Oftentimes I’m asked about things that are in the newspaper. Just because someone comes out and talks about it doesn’t mean that I’m obligated to confirm it or to talk about it. That’s not necessarily the way that it works.

Q It’s true that things are classified for a reason, but the reason they are classified is very often to spare the government embarrassment, and it is therefore just as reasonable to ask that that not be the case.

MS. PERINO: I’m not able to comment on it. I’ve given you all that I can.

Q You just have picked a man to sell public diplomacy. All over the world, there is an understanding that we do torture. They’ve seen the photographs, they’ve heard everything. You ought to be bound and determined to clear that up.

MS. PERINO: I actually disagree, Helen. I think that people, what they have seen, is a United States that is helping people develop their democracies. We have spread hope and liberty. We expand trade.

Q (Inaudible) women fell on (inaudible) as trying to do that (inaudible) —

MS. PERINO: We do everything that we can, that we can, to help other people. And I will tell you that it is al Qaeda and violent extremists who actually have delivered a very different message, and people see that. And that is one of the reasons you’ve seen a turnaround in Iraq.

Q Why (inaudible) the fourth person to handle that job? ….

….Q Okay. And yesterday you said that you weren’t allowed to characterize the President’s reaction to the CIA tape destruction story. Who stopped you from characterizing the President’s reaction?

MS. PERINO: As I said before, the Counsel’s Office has requested that we not make any further comment beyond what I’ve already said; so that’s where it came from….

….Q Has the President asked again recently of the Department of Justice whether all interrogation techniques currently being used are legal? And with the arrival of a new Attorney General, will he again seek assurances from the Department of Justice that all interrogation techniques are legal?

MS. PERINO: Well, I would refer you to Justice Department in terms of what the Attorney — the new Attorney General is seeking. But in 2004 the Office of Legal Counsel issued a memo, and I would refer you to Steve Bradbury’s comment when we dealt with this I think three months ago.

Q The President feels no need to follow up on that?

MS. PERINO: No….

[emphasis added]

Now might be a good time to review the “Nüremberg Principles”:

Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nüremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal, 1950.

Principle I

Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment.

Principle II

The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law.

Principle III

The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible Government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.

Principle IV

The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

Principle V

Any person charged with a crime under international law has the right to a fair trial on the facts and law.

Principle VI

 The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

 (a) Crimes against peace:

 (i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;

 (ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

 (b) War crimes:

 Violations of the laws or customs of war include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labour or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

 (c) Crimes against humanity:

 Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connexion with any crime against peace or any war crime.

Principle VII

Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.

[emphasis added]

You think a few people are going to start thinking about lawyering up?