ABC News has a remarkable new report out:
Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.
The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.
The advisers were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.
At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.
As the national security adviser, Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies.
What you see above is one of the techniques used at Abu Ghraib, one of the mildest forms of "enhanced interrogation". It was approved by these principals - all along the line to waterboarding. If you ever believed that these kinds of tactics were "improvised" by people at the lowest level of the chain of command and managed to "shock" the president and his senior aides, when they were revealed, then you need to read this story:
According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."
The Principals also approved interrogations that combined different methods, pushing the limits of international law and even the Justice Department's own legal approval in the 2002 memo, sources told ABC News.
At one meeting in the summer of 2003 -- attended by Vice President Cheney, among others -- Tenet made an elaborate presentation for approval to combine several different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time, according to a highly placed administration source.
Now absorb the fact that many of these techniques, including the one above, were explicitly and in detail, approved by the highest officers in the land. Including Condi Rice. She did so even after Abu Ghraib was known about and after Jack Goldsmith had withdrawn the OLC's "legal" sanction.