In yesterday’s New York Times, Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti reveal how top White House and congressional officials all came to agree that torture was legal in 2002:
This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.
According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.
Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.
This is one of those articles where I just can’t figure out when to stop the excerpt, because it’s just so compelling. My favorite bit is this: “The process was ‘a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm,’ a former C.I.A. official said.” That’s a pretty good summation of the Bush administration.