ABC broke some news yesterday that, more than any news before it, places high-ranking Bush administration officials in the center of a criminal conspiracy:
In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News… — whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.
The high-level discussions about these “enhanced interrogation techniques” were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed — down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic….
The advisers were members of the National Security Council’s Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.
At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.
… this is the first time sources have disclosed that a handful of the most senior advisers in the White House explicitly approved the details of the program. According to multiple sources, it was members of the Principals Committee that not only discussed specific plans and specific interrogation methods, but approved them….
Highly placed sources said CIA directors Tenet and later Porter Goss along with agency lawyers briefed senior advisers, including Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and Powell, about detainees in CIA custody overseas.
“It kept coming up. CIA wanted us to sign off on each one every time,” said one high-ranking official who asked not to be identified. “They’d say, ‘We’ve got so and so. This is the plan.'”
Sources said that at each discussion, all the Principals present approved….
According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: “Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.”
It’s not just History which will not judge this kindly, Mr. Ashcroft. If a federal judge ever gets his or her hands on this case, I imagine there will be a criminal judgment of conspiracy to commit torture.
Federal law, specifically 18 USC 2340, includes in its definition of torture the threat of imminent death. Waterboarding, which creates the threat of imminent death in the person subjected to it, is therefore an act of torture under federal law.
Furthermore, the same federal law specifies that U.S. citizens U.S. nationals, and individuals on U.S. soil who commit torture whether here or overseas “shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.”
Finally, the same federal law stipulates that “A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.”
Is the United States of America a nation governed by laws, or is the United States of America a nation government by people unaccountable to the law?
In a nation of laws, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet and John Ashcroft would be charged with the felony crime of Conspiracy to Commit Torture.
In a nation of unaccountable power, these members of the Bush administration would get off scot-free, without so much as a grand jury.
Watch and see what happens. It will tell you what kind of country you live in.