3 December 2014, US Senate: Select Committee on Intelligence: Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program: Findings and Conclusions, Executive Summary (unclassified version) (PDF)
DEC. 9, 2014
Bush Team Approved C.I.A. Tactics, but Was Kept in Dark on Details, Report Says
WASHINGTON -- For four years, according to Central Intelligence Agency records, no one from the agency ever came to the Oval Office to give President George W. Bush a full briefing on what was happening in the dark dungeons of Afghanistan and Eastern Europe. For four years, interrogators stripped, slammed and soaked their prisoners without the president's being told exactly what was going on.
By the time the C.I.A. director came in April 2006 to give Mr. Bush the agency's first briefing about the interrogation techniques it had been using since 2002, more than three dozen prisoners had already been subjected to them. And when told about one detainee being chained to the ceiling of his cell, clothed in a diaper and forced to urinate and defecate on himself, even a president known for his dead-or-alive swagger "expressed discomfort," according to a report released Tuesday.
The report, the declassified executive summary of a larger classified study prepared by the Senate Intelligence Committee, has raised questions about what Mr. Bush knew and what the C.I.A. told him about an interrogation program that has tarred the United States as a nation that tortured. The emails, memos, reports and other documents examined by the Senate committee collectively portray a White House that approved the brutal questioning of suspects but was kept in the dark about aspects of the program, including whether it really worked.
"The C.I.A. repeatedly provided incomplete and inaccurate information" to the White House, the report concludes. Not only did the agency overstate the effectiveness of the interrogations in obtaining meaningful intelligence that could not be gained elsewhere, the report says, but specific questions posed by White House officials "were not answered truthfully or fully."
Even to the extent that the president and his advisers understood the program, they kept other top administration figures out of the loop, including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. An internal C.I.A. email from July 2003 said that the White House was "extremely concerned Powell would blow his stack if he were to be briefed on what's been going on."
Still, the report does not fully answer the question of what Mr. Bush or his advisers knew because the committee did not interview them. In recent days, Mr. Bush and other veterans of his administration said they were not misled about the program. "It was approved, including the techniques, by the National Security Council," former Vice President Dick Cheney said in an interview Monday. "It produced results and saved lives."
He dismissed the inquiry by the Democratic-controlled committee, saying that "they didn't interview the people who were involved in the program."
In its response to the committee's report, the C.I.A. denied that it had systematically misled the president's team. "We cannot vouch for every individual statement that was made over the years of the program, and we acknowledge that some of those statements were wrong," the agency said. "But the image portrayed in the study of an organization that -- on an institutional scale -- intentionally misled and routinely resisted oversight from the White House, the Congress, the Department of Justice, and its own O.I.G. simply does not comport with the record," it said, referring to the Office of the Inspector General.
The committee report contrasts with Mr. Bush's own account of the origin of the interrogation program in the spring of 2002 with the capture of Abu Zubaydah, a top Qaeda figure. In his memoir, "Decision Points," Mr. Bush wrote that the C.I.A. had drawn up a list of interrogation techniques approved by the Justice Department. "I took a look at the list of techniques," he wrote. "There were two that I felt went too far, even if they were legal. I directed the C.I.A. not to use them." He did not identify the techniques in the book.
A year later, after the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, described as the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Mr. Bush wrote that George J. Tenet, then the C.I.A. director, asked for permission to use the harsh tactics. Thinking about the 3,000 victims of Sept. 11 and the widow of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter killed by Mr. Mohammed, Mr. Bush wrote that he responded, "Damn right."
When Mr. Bush's book was published in 2010, it confused some in the C.I.A., who said they did not think he had ever been briefed on specific interrogation techniques. John A. Rizzo, a former C.I.A. general counsel, wrote in his own book published this year that neither he nor Mr. Tenet was aware of Mr. Bush being briefed on specific techniques.
But Condoleezza Rice, who was the president's national security adviser in his first term, has written about discussions with Mr. Bush about the program, at least on a general level. Another senior White House official from that era said in an interview this year that he, too, recalled the president being briefed and rejecting at least one technique. Bill Harlow, a former C.I.A. spokesman who helped Mr. Tenet write his own memoir, checked with the former director in response to a request this year and said that Mr. Tenet "said that while he did not personally brief the president" on the techniques, "as the program was being established, he has no doubt that either Condi or Steve Hadley did at the time." Stephen J. Hadley was Ms. Rice's deputy.
Other accounts indicated that the president's staff deliberately shielded him from graphic descriptions of the interrogations. According to "500 Days" by the journalist Kurt Eichenwald, Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel, took Mr. Tenet's request to use harsh techniques on Abu Zubaydah to the president. When Mr. Bush asked what kind of techniques, Mr. Gonzales replied, according to the book, "Mr. President, I think for your own protection, you don't need to know the details of what's going on here." Mr. Bush agreed, saying: "All right. Just make sure that these things are lawful."
Gen. Michael V. Hayden, another former C.I.A. director, said in a previous interview that Mr. Bush was also not told the countries where the agency had established secret interrogation prisons. The Senate report confirms that, saying that after Mr. Bush approved transferring Abu Zubaydah to one such prison, it was the last time he or Mr. Cheney was told which countries were being used "as a matter of White House policy to avoid inadvertent disclosures of the location of the C.I.A. detention sites."
The documents suggest some hesitation on Ms. Rice's part. In the summer of 2002, when she requested a delay in using the techniques to learn more about them, the C.I.A. told her that "countless more Americans may die unless we can persuade A.Z. to tell us" what he knows. Ms. Rice relented. A few days later, her legal adviser told Mr. Tenet's chief of staff that the C.I.A. had approval to use the techniques but that "there would be no briefing of the president on this matter," the Senate report says.
An email from Mr. Rizzo said that Mr. Bush would be briefed as part of an annual covert action review "by Rice or VP or Counsel to the President or some combination thereof" but "will not apparently get into the details of the techniques themselves."
Some urged that Mr. Bush be made more aware of what was happening. A May 2004 review by the C.I.A.'s inspector general recommended that Mr. Tenet brief the president on the techniques. Mr. Tenet said he would "determine whether and to what extent the president requires a briefing on the program."
In an April 6, 2006, letter to Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, then the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, the C.I.A. inspector general said that Mr. Tenet, who had by then stepped down, and Porter J. Goss, his replacement, "both advised me that they had made requests to brief the president."
Mr. Goss arrived at the White House two days later for the briefing. Whether Mr. Bush's "discomfort" led to a change in policy is not clear. By then, the program was winding down. Five months later, in September 2006, Mr. Bush finally acknowledged the program publicly, and ordered the last of the C.I.A. prisons shut and the remaining detainees transferred to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
In his speech announcing those moves, Mr. Bush mentioned no discomfort and offered no regrets. In passages cleared by the C.I.A., he argued that the interrogations had prevented major terrorist attacks. The Senate report on Tuesday concludes that was not true and that Mr. Bush had once again been misinformed.