POLITICS
06/22/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Abu Ghraib Ties To Gitmo Shown By DOJ Memos

Yesterday, in his remarks at the American Enterprise Institute, former Vice President Dick Cheney protested that everyone had Abu Ghraib all wrong!

In public discussion of these matters, there has been a strange and sometimes willful attempt to conflate what happened at Abu Ghraib with the top-secret program of enhanced interrogations.

At Abu Ghraib, a few sadistic prison guards abused inmates in violation of American law, military regulation, and simple decency. For the harm they did to Iraqi prisoners and to America's cause, they deserved and received Army justice.

And it takes a deeply unfair cast of mind to equate the disgraces of Abu Ghraib with the lawful, skillful, and entirely honorable work of CIA personnel trained to deal with a few malevolent men.

But maybe there has been a "willful attempt to conflate what happened at Abu Ghraib with the top-secret program of enhanced interrogations," precisely because the two things are infinitely conflatable! Dan Froomkin takes on the issue in a report on Nieman Watchdog today and finds that Cheney's words just don't comport to observable reality:

A bipartisan report from the Senate Armed Services Committee released in December definitively concluded that the administration's repeated explanations of the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere was a pack of lies. "The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of 'a few bad apples' acting on their own," the report found. "The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees."

Similarly, in his book "The Torture Team," [Phillipe] Sands documents how the Pentagon initially tried to blame officers at Guantanamo for the brutal interrogation regime there. As Sands wrote in this Vanity Fair excerpt, Bush administration officials insisted that "techniques were not imposed or encouraged by Washington, which had merely reacted to a request from below." They even maintained that the legal justification was initiated there as well. "It was not the result of legal positions taken by politically appointed lawyers in the upper echelons of the administration, and certainly not the Justice Department."

But, Sands wrote: "The real story, pieced together from many hours of interviews with most of the people involved in the decisions about interrogation, goes something like this: [The February 2002 memo in which Bush exempted war-on-terror detainees from the Geneva Conventions] was not a case of following the logic of the law but rather was designed to give effect to a prior decision to take the gloves off and allow coercive interrogation; it deliberately created a legal black hole into which the detainees were meant to fall. The new interrogation techniques did not arise spontaneously from the field but came about as a direct result of intense pressure and input from Rumsfeld's office. The Yoo-Bybee Memo was not simply some theoretical document, an academic exercise in blue-sky hypothesizing, but rather played a crucial role in giving those at the top the confidence to put pressure on those at the bottom. And the practices employed at Guantánamo led to abuses at Abu Ghraib.

"The fingerprints of the most senior lawyers in the administration were all over the design and implementation of the abusive interrogation policies. Addington, Bybee, Gonzales, Haynes, and Yoo became, in effect, a torture team of lawyers, freeing the administration from the constraints of all international rules prohibiting abuse."

It's important to note that President Barack Obama's decision to not release the most recent spate of detainee photos, is one that will preserve the disinformation spread by his predecessor::

The White House disinformation campaign has been so successful, however, that Abu Ghraib is still widely seen as an isolated incident - and not as the result of public policy decisions. That's the biggest reason why President Obama's recent decision to fight the court-ordered release of more prison-abuse photos was such a blow to accountability...The photos Obama is now trying to keep secret are said to depict prisoner abuse very much like that at Abu Ghraib - but at several other locations, including Guantanamo.

Froomkin's piece is the eighth in a series of stories on this matter, so don't just make do with these excerpts.

MORE:
Establishing the connection between the Bush White House and Abu Ghraib [Nieman Watchdog]

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