Wednesday, January 8, 2014

CIA Lawyer: Stopping Torture 'Would Have Been Easy,' But I Approved It Anyway

John Rizzo describes how he decided not to put halt to torture; Calls Bush "stand-up guy" for his role

Jon Queally
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)
Rizzo believes that President Bush was not aware of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques. Yet in his memoir, Bush (pictured here with former CIA Director George Tenet in 2001) claims Tenet briefed him on the program. John Rizzo, the chief legal counsel for the Central Intelligence Agency during the Bush presidency in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 has been opening up about what he experienced during those years as the administration, the agency, and its operatives, in the words of former Vice President Dick Cheney, "took the gloves off" in their war against terrorism.
In his latest confessional piece, titled "I Could Have Stopped Waterboarding Before It Happened," published in Politico Magazine, Rizzo recounts a visit from unnamed members of the White House's Office of Legal Council (OLC) in April of 2002 and how they described for him the series of what they called "enhanced interrogation techniques" or EITs they were hoping to employ on CIA-held detainees.

Asked to approve them, Rizzo contemplated rejecting the "most frightening and terrifying" techniques—including the well-known water torture the OLC lawyers called 'waterboarding.' However, even though he admits forbidding them "would have been a relatively easy thing to do," he decided (while smoking a cigar and walking around CIA headquarters) that use of most of the practices should go forward.

That euphemism of "enhanced interrogation techniques" became a famous fill-in for torture sanctioned by the Bush White House, but even before the techniques became public knowledge (years later), Rizzo acknowledges he knew immediately that the CIA was about to go over the line.

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