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Debate Over Interrogations Sharply Divided Bush White House


Debate Over Interrogations Sharply Divided Bush White House
By Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane | NY Times

Acutely aware that the agency would be blamed if the policies lost political support, nervous C.I.A. officials began to curb its practices much earlier than most Americans know: no one was waterboarded after March 2003, and coercive interrogation methods were shelved altogether in 2005....The real trouble began on May 7, 2004, the day the C.I.A. inspector general, John L. Helgerson, completed a devastating report. In thousands of pages, it challenged the legality of some interrogation methods, found that interrogators were exceeding the rules imposed by the Justice Department and questioned the effectiveness of the entire program.

The proclamation that President George W. Bush issued on June 26, 2003, to mark the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture seemed innocuous, one of dozens of high-minded statements published and duly ignored each year.

The United States is “committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example,” Mr. Bush declared, vowing to prosecute torture and to prevent “other cruel and unusual punishment.”

But inside the Central Intelligence Agency, the statement set off alarms. The agency’s top lawyer, Scott W. Muller, called the White House to complain: The statement by the president could unnerve C.I.A. interrogators he had authorized to use brutal tactics on Al Qaeda prisoners, Mr. Muller said, raising fears that political winds could change and make them scapegoats.

White House officials reaffirmed their support for the C.I.A. methods. But the exchange was a harbinger of the conflict between the coercive interrogations and the United States’ historical stance against torture that would deeply divide the Bush administration and ultimately undo the program.

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