DAILY MAIL: The White House was directly implicated for the first time last night in the decision to torture Al Qaeda prisoners. Sources say that Vice President Dick Cheney and a handful of other top politicians met in secret and agreed to the mistreatment of prisoners, according to ABC TV News and the Associated Press. As part of the decision-making process, they were given demonstrations of the techniques used. And as a direct result, the CIA was given the go-ahead to punch suspected terrorists, deprive them of sleep, and practise waterboarding — simulated drowning.
According to the sources, Mr Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Attorney General John Ashcroft met in the White House following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. They agreed to authorise what they call “enhanced interrogation techniques” as the Bush administration has defined “torture” only as actions which are designed to cause serious injury or death.
President George Bush does not seem to have been present at the meetings and great precautions appear to have been taken to keep him out of the decision-making process.But there was speculation last night that Mr Cheney – who is very close to the president – would almost certainly have told him in secret. It is claimed that the decision could not have been made without his implicit consent.
According to the sources, Mr Ashcroft – the nation’s chief legal officer at the time – ruled that the interrogation techniques were legal. However, he said he was worried by the White House meetings to discuss them. He argued that senior presidential advisers should not be involved in the grim details. At one meeting he apparently said: “Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.” MORE
HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST: Since August 2002, nearly 100 detainees have died while in the hands of U.S. officials in the global “war on terror.” According to the U.S. military’s own classifications, 34 of these cases are suspected or confirmed homicides; Human Rights First has identified another 11 in which the facts suggest death as a result of physical abuse or harsh conditions of detention. In close to half the deaths Human Rights First surveyed, the cause of death remains officially undetermined or unannounced. Overall, eight people in U.S. custody were tortured to death.
Despite these numbers, four years since the first known death in U.S. custody, only 12 detainee deaths have resulted in punishment of any kind for any U.S. official. Of the 34 homicide cases so far identified by the military, investigators recommended criminal charges in fewer than two thirds, and charges were actually brought (based on decisions made by command) in less than half. While the CIA has been implicated in several deaths, not one CIA agent has faced a criminal charge. Crucially, among the worst cases in this list – those of detainees tortured to death – only half have resulted in punishment; the steepest sentence for anyone involved in a torture-related death: five months in jail.
THE EYES OF RICHARD CHENEY: Veep’s Got A Pretty Fly Rod For A White Guy
MCCLATCHEY NEWSPAPERS: Since Wednesday, the blogosphere has been atwitter over a photograph on the White House Web site of Cheney with a caption that said he was fly-fishing on the Snake River in Idaho. The photo is a tight shot of Cheney’s face sporting dark sunglasses and his trademark grin. What’s stirring all the buzz is the reflection in the vice president’s dark glasses. Some thought that the reflection looked like a naked woman and, this being Cheney and this being the Internet Age, they immediately shared that thought with the world. In a Google search for the words “Dick Cheney” and “sunglasses,” 79,300 hits came back at mid-afternoon on Thursday. By 7 p.m., the count was 130,000.
The vice president’s office saw little humor in the buzz.”Clearly the picture shows a hand casting a rod,” grumbled spokeswoman Meagan Mitchell.As journalists, however, the word of an official spokeswoman isn’t good enough. So McClatchy/Tribune Information Services photo editor George Bridges used the latest digital technology to enlarge the picture, took a close look at Cheney’s sunglasses and concluded that Mitchell was telling the truth. The image is of the vice president’s hand on his fly rod.”In one lens of his sunglasses you can clearly tell it is a sleeved arm of Cheney or a fishing companion. The other lens has an extreme distortion that, without looking at it closely, could be misconstrued,” said investigative photo editor Bridges. MORE
BREAKING: A Marine wanted in the brutal slaying of a pregnant colleague who had accused him of rape was arrested Thursday night in Mexico after a three-month international manhunt, authorities said. FBI agents and Mexican authorities arrested Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean around 4 p.m. He is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, whose burned remains were found in January in the backyard of his home near Camp Lejeune. “You know my name. You know who I am,” Laurean told The Associated Press at the Michoacán state Attorney General’s Office in Morelia, the state capital. Asked if he wanted to say anything, Laurean simply said “proof,” without explaining.