[JURIST] US Vice President Dick Cheney and other top White House officials approved controversial interrogation methods, including waterboarding [JURIST news archive], in secret meetings, AP reported Friday. An unnamed former senior intelligence official confirmed an earlier ABC News report [text] that the officials asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to sign off on the lawfulness of the techniques before approving them for use during CIA interrogations of suspected terrorists.
Democratic lawmakers and rights groups quickly denounced the actions alleged in the news reports. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) Thursday said [press release]:
Today's press reports bring yet another astonishing disclosure about the Bush administration and its use of torture. According to ABC News, officials at the highest level of the administration in dozens of meetings signed off on specific CIA interrogation practices for particular prisoners – such as waterboarding, slapping, pushing, sleep deprivation, and combinations of these techniques. Who would have thought that in the United States of America in the 21st century, the top officials of the executive branch would routinely gather in the White House to approve torture?
Attorney General John Ashcroft reportedly said that "History will not judge this kindly." He was right. History will not judge kindly the CIA's so-called "enhanced interrogation program" or the legal fictions invented to justify it. History will not judge kindly an administration that authorized brutal and illegal interrogation techniques that shamed America in the eyes of the world and put our own soldiers at greater risk.
Congress and the American people still have much to learn about the administration's approval of torture, warrantless wiretapping, and other abuses. Long after President Bush has left office, our country will continue to pay the price for his administration's renegade repudiation of the rule of law and fundamental human rights.
On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union called on Congress to appoint a special counsel [letter, PDF; press release] to investigate the allegations that top Bush administration officials may have approved interrogation techniques that qualify as torture.