M A I N   N E W S

US legal adviser defended torture, says report

New York, June 14
The Office of Legal Counsel, US Government’s ultimate legal adviser, had drafted a memorandum that defended most interrogation methods involving intentional inflicting of pain and permanent damage in response to CIA question about what to do with top Al-Qaida captive Abu Zubaydah who had turned uncooperative.

The memorandum was drafted by former OLC lawyer John Yoo. Officials of the White House said last week that such legal reasoning was insignificant and did not reflect the President’s orders, a media report said today.

It was drafted after President George W. Bush’s chief counsel Alberto Gonzales held meetings with Defence Department counsel William Haynes and David Addington and Vice-President Dick Cheney’s counsel, who discussed specific interrogation techniques, ‘Newsweek’ magazine quotes a source as saying.

The magazine reports about the long-running battle over interrogation tactics inside the Bush administration, a struggle that continued until the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in April.

That battle, it said, was touched off by the handling of the first senior Al-Qaida operative captured amid fighting in Afghanistan, Ibn Al-Shaykh al-Libi. The initial approach was to read him his rights like any arrestee, one former member of the FBI team said.

“He was basically cooperating with us.” But President Bush had declared war on Al-Qaida, and in a series of covert directives, he had authorised the CIA to set up secret interrogation facilities and to use new, harsher methods, the magazine said.

Al-Libi’s capture, some sources say, was a turning point in the government’s internal debates over interrogation methods.

FBI officials brought their plea to retain control over al-Libi’s interrogation to FBI Director Robert Mueller. The CIA station chief in Afghanistan, meanwhile, appealed to agency’s hawkish counter-terrorism chief Cofer Black.

He called CIA Director George Tenet, who went to the White House. Al-Libi was handed over to the CIA. “They duct-taped his mouth, cinched him up and sent him to Cairo” for more-fearsome Egyptian interrogations, says the ex-FBI official.

The FBI, with its “law enforcement” mindset, found itself more and more marginalised. The struggle extended to the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in 2002, as “high-value” suspects were shipped there for interrogation, the report says.

Even within the CIA and the Defence Intelligence Agency, the debates never ceased. The agency, say senior intelligence officials, made sure it had explicit, written authorisation from lawyers and senior policymakers before using new interrogation techniques.

At the same time, the agency felt intense pressure to extract information from suspects. So it began experimenting with methods like water-boarding and open-handed slapping.

Later, CIA officials went to OLC lawyer Yoo for an opinion on bolder methods. Another high-value Al-Qaida suspect captured toward the end of 2002, Mohamed al-Qatani, provoked a major change of approach at Guantanamo Bay.

So the CIA and military interrogators came up with new tactics based on the sorts of methods that US Special Forces are specifically trained to resist, a Defence source was quoted as saying. — PTI

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |