Though many have long presumed that the Bush administration participated in the formulation of CIA interrogation policy, until now, direct evidence has remained illusive. That is, until now. On Wednesday, the Washington Post published an article stating that several former CIA officials had confirmed that the president provided two separate memos specifically approving the use of controversial interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.
According to the Post, CIA officials knew that the use of these techniques could potential prove troubling to Americans and wanted to make sure that they had cover, in writing, from the White House. While the CIA itself formulated the interrogation policy based on authority that the president granted to “wage war on al Qaeda,” it knew that any public debate over specifics like waterboarding could prove contentious. As a result, officials asked the White House for explicit written authorization.
Some sources for the story claimed that the CIA pushed for the policy and framed the issue in a way that left the White House with little recourse but to approve it. Other sources claimed that the White House itself was clear from the beginning about the kind of policies it wanted to implement. Most of the former CIA officials argued that the CIA did not push the use of these interrogation techniques because they knew they were widely regarded as torture. This is the very fact that made them nervous and spurred their repeated request s for written approval from the administration.
At the end of the day, it does not matter who suggested torture first. It is now clearer than ever that the CIA, the Justice Department and the White House all played a role in approving the use of torture, and despite years of backlash regarding these techniques, the administration has not seemed to change its position at all. When asked for a statement by the Associated Foreign Press, White House officials simply stated that “the United States does not currently use waterboarding, but that it would not rule out the use of such techniques in the future.”