How Cheney Dictated The Torture Memos

Dan Froomkin has a superb summary. The OPR report will be fascinating - because it gets to the heart of the matter. Bush seems to believe that his role was to maximize national security using all legal methods. Cheney clearly decided to set up a torture program from the first week after 9/11. So how does Cheney's obsession - and that is no hyperbole - with torturing prisoners square with Bush's insistence on legality and "we-don't-torture"? Cheney instructs the lawyers to fix the law to make torture appear "legal." And, especially after Ashcroft was dispatched, the Justice Department would do anything Cheney wanted. As Comey put it in 2005:

In his April 27 e-mail, Comey describes telling Gonzales directly about his "grave reservations" about the second memo. Gonzales's response? "The AG explained that he was under great pressure from the Vice President to complete both memos, and that the President had even raised CHENEYJScottApplewhiteAP it last week, apparently at the VP's request and the AG had promised they would be ready early this week."

Comey also notes that OLC lawyer Patrick Philbin had previously reported that then-acting OLC director Steve Bradbury "was getting constant similar pressure from [White House counsel] Harriet Miers and [Cheney counsel] David Addington to produce the opinions." Comey adds: "Parenthetically, I have previously expressed my worry that having Steve as 'Acting' -- and wanting the job -- would make his susceptible to just this kind of pressure."

By the end of the April 27 e-mail it appears that Gonzales has agreed to give Comey a chance to alter the second memo. But in the April 28 e-mail, Comey recounts a conversation with Ullyot, Gonzales's chief of staff, in which it becomes clear that Comey has been outflanked by Cheney and that the memo will go out as written.

Comey concludes: "People may think it strange to hear me say I miss John Ashcroft, but as intimidated as he could be by the WH, when it came to crunch-time, he stood up, even from an intensive care hospital bed. That backbone is gone."

And so lawless torture buried deeper into the system of American government.