Bush-era official objected on interrogation view

Apr 4, 2012, 1:28 AM

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – A memo released Tuesday on harsh interrogation techniques shows that a former State Department official strongly dissented from the George W. Bush administration’s secret legal view in 2005 that an international treaty against torture did not apply to CIA interrogations in foreign countries.

Until now, the February 2006 analysis by Philip Zelikow has been a high-level, classified, internal critique of the Bush administration’s controversial interrogation policies. At the time he wrote his criticism, Zelikow was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s representative on terrorism issues to the National Security Council’s deputies committee.

The State Department released Zelikow’s memo under the Freedom of Information Act to the National Security Archive, an advocacy group for openness in government.

In late 2005, Bush signed a bill containing a provision sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that the senator believed applied international standards of cruel and degrading treatment to U.S. interrogation practices.

However, a May 2005 secret Justice Department interpretation of the law exempted CIA interrogation practices like waterboarding carried out in foreign countries.

In his five-page memo, Zelikow wrote that the State Department earlier had agreed with the Justice Department’s view.

But “that situation has now changed” in light of McCain’s amendment, Zelikow wrote.

“Under American law, there is no precedent for excusing treatment that is intrinsically `cruel’ even if the state asserts a compelling need to use it,” Zelikow’s memo stated.

“If the techniques, taken together, are intrinsically cruel, inhuman or degrading _ i.e., if under American constitutional law they would be either considered cruel and unusual or shock the conscience, then they are prohibited.”

It “appears to us that several of these techniques, singly or in combination, should be considered `cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,'” Zelikow stated.

“The techniques least likely to be sustained are the techniques described as `coercive,’ especially viewed cumulatively, such as the waterboard, walling, dousing, stress positions and cramped confinement,” Zelikow’s analysis concluded.

In an interview Tuesday following the document’s release, Zelikow said, “I believe that the Department of Justice’s opinion was an extreme reading of the law and because the Justice Department opinion was secret, the only way the president could hear an alternative interpretation was for someone like me to offer it.”

“It was bureaucratically and personally awkward for a State Department official to challenge the Department of Justice on the interpretation of American constitutional law, but I had worked on constitutional law years earlier,” said Zelikow.

Zelikow said that “the problem of the codes of conduct we adopted in a twilight war like this have been alleviated in recent years, but the basic issues are not going away.”

The document released by the State Department on Tuesday was marked “draft,” but Zelikow said it was in fact the version circulated within the Bush administration.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Abortion-rights activists chant after handcuffing themselves to the front steps of Los Angeles City...
Associated Press

EU Parliament condemns US abortion ruling, seeks safeguards

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly condemned the end of constitutional protections for abortion in the United States and called for such safeguards to be enshrined in the EU’s fundamental rights charter. In a 324-155 vote with 38 abstentions, European Parliament lawmakers adopted a resolution that crystalized the anger seen in […]
7 hours ago
A hiring sign is displayed at a gas station as a customer walks past in Buffalo Grove, Ill., Thursd...
Associated Press

U.S. jobless claims rise to 235k, most in nearly six months

WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week and while layoffs remain low, it was the fifth consecutive week that claims topped the 230,000 mark and the most in almost six months. Applications for jobless aid for the week ending July 2 rose to 235,000, up 4,000 from the previous week and […]
7 hours ago
(File Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)...

3 arrested after 86 undocumented immigrants found in Phoenix

Three people were arrested last week for allegedly conspiring to smuggle nearly 90 undocumented immigrants into Phoenix for profit, authorities said. 
7 hours ago
Associated Press

UK warship seizes advanced Iranian missiles bound for Yemen

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A British Royal Navy vessel seized a sophisticated shipment of Iranian missiles in the Gulf of Oman earlier this year, officials said Thursday, pointing to the interdiction as proof of Tehran’s support for Yemen’s Houthi rebels in the embattled country. The British government statement was striking in that it […]
7 hours ago
FILE - Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian gestures during a press conference at the ...
Associated Press

China lashes out at US, British intelligence services

BEIJING (AP) — The United States is “the biggest threat to world peace, stability and development,” China said Thursday, continuing its sharp rhetoric in response to U.S. accusations of Chinese spying and threats to the international order. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s comments came a day after the head of the FBI and the leader […]
7 hours ago
FILE - Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks with reporters following a closed-door ...
Associated Press

Dems want to tax high earners to protect Medicare solvency

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats want to boost taxes on some high earners and use the money to extend the solvency of Medicare, the latest step in the party’s election-year attempt to craft a scaled-back version of the economic package that collapsed last year, Democratic aides told The Associated Press. Democrats expect to submit legislative […]
7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Bush-era official objected on interrogation view