[JURIST] The US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence [official website] on Wednesday released a report [text] by the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] indicating that former attorney general John Ashcroft and former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice in 2002 approved the use of waterboarding and other extreme interrogation techniques used by CIA agents against Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives] detainees. According to the report, Rice approved of the methods as a matter of policy while she was serving as national security adviser, and Ashcroft later approved of the legality of the techniques:
On July 17, 2002, according to CIA records, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) met with the National Security Adviser, who advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. This advice, which authorized CIA to proceed as a policy matter, was subject to a determination of legality by OLC...In a written opinion on the techniques, the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) [official website] wrote that only federal law could prohibit their use and that they did not violate the country's Anti-Torture Statute [18 USC § 2340 text]. Several of the memoranda mentioned in the report were declassified earlier this month [JURIST report], but the report also indicated that there are additional memos that remain secret.
On July 24, 2002, according to CIA records, OLC orally advised the CIA that the Attorney General had concluded that certain proposed interrogation techniques were lawful and, on July 26, that the use of waterboarding was lawful. OLC issued two written opinions and a letter memorializing those conclusions on August 1, 2002.
The report supports many of the conclusions of a Novemeber Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) [official website] report [text, PDF; JURIST report] detailing the extent of top Bush administration officials' involvement in implementing the techniques, which was declassified [JURIST report] on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, President Barack Obama said that he would not rule out the possibility of prosecuting [transcript; JURIST report] lawyers responsible for authoring the memoranda regarding the techniques. Obama had previously said that he would not pursue prosecutions of CIA interrogators [statement], a pledge which drew sharp international criticism [JURIST report]. Earlier this month, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) released a final version of a report [JURIST report] calling on current Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to determine whether any criminal laws were violated. In March, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also called for an investigation [JURIST report] into Bush administration policies through the formation of a "truth commission."