Remember those unprinicipled “principals’ meetings“? The ones where Attorney General Ashcroft reportedly exprressed qualms about the propriety of discussing torture in the White House? Secretary Rice confirmed to the Senate Armed Services Committee that they took place and that the Department of Justice was providing verbal cover for torture and abuse before it provided written memos on the subject. From today’s New York Times:
Senior White House officials played a central role in deliberations in the spring of 2002 about whether the Central Intelligence Agency could legally use harsh interrogation techniques while questioning an operative of Al Qaeda, Abu
Zubaydah, according to newly released documents.
In meetings during that period, the officials debated specific
interrogation methods that the C.I.A. had proposed to use on Qaeda operatives held at secret C.I.A. prisons overseas, the documents show. The meetings were led by Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, and attended by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft and other top administration officials.
The documents provide new details about the still-murky early
months of the C.I.A.’s detention program, when the agency began using a set of harsh interrogation techniques weeks before the Justice Department issued a written legal opinion in August 2002 authorizing their use.
Congressional investigators have long tried to determine exactly who authorized these techniques before the legal opinion was completed.
The documents are a list of answers provided by Ms. Rice and John B. Bellinger III, the former top lawyer at the National Security Council, to detailed questions by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is investigating the abuse of detainees in American custody. The documents were provided to The New York Times by Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the committee.
A hearing is going on now in the Senate Armed Services Committee. The audio should be available here.
Update: here are the documents referenced in the New York Times piece: