NBC Sees Scandal in 'Abusive' Interrogations; MSNBC: 'More Lies'
She reminded viewers that “after a political firestorm, devastating pictures from Abu Ghraib and a Supreme Court ruling,” last year the President promised “the United States does not torture” and “I will not authorize it,” yet the New York Times reported that in 2005 the Justice Department under Alberto Gonzales issued memos “authorizing much harsher techniques, including head-slapping, waterboarding, frigid temperatures and 'combined effects' -- using several practices simultaneously, despite dissent on his staff. Today leading Democrats vowed to pass new laws.” Without any consideration for how the memos could have been written to allow the use of the techniques in only the most dire circumstances, and thus the techniques may not have been employed, Mitchell warned: “There's also a big impact on foreign policy. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has promised U.S. allies that the administration does not use torture, even though officials say she knew about the memos.”
MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, not surprisingly, led with the topic and at the top of the next hour, 9pm EDT, MSNBC's Live with Dan Abrams began by re-playing Mitchell's report, a story Abrams set up while “More Lies?” was displayed on screen under a photo of President Bush.
An excerpt from the lead of the October 4 New York Times article, at the top of the front page, “Secret U.S. Endorsement of Severe Interrogations,” by Scott Shane, David Johnston and James Risen (Risen is the reporter who divulged the interception of overseas phone calls to suspected terrorists):
When the Justice Department publicly declared torture "abhorrent" in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.A transcript of the October 4 NBC Nightly News story, which followed the lead story on Senator Larry Craig's refusal to leave the Senate:
But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales's arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.
The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures....
BRIAN WILLIAMS: One of the other big stories of this evening: New revelations, first reported by the New York Times, that the Bush administration secretly authorized abusive interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects, including torture, despite denial from everyone from President Bush on down. And the policy remains even though the Supreme Court ruled against it. Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, has more.
ANDREA MITCHELL: After a political firestorm, devastating pictures from Abu Ghraib and a Supreme Court ruling, last year the President made this promise:
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, SEPTEMBER 6, 2006: The United States does not torture. It's against our laws and it's against our values. I have not authorized it and I will not authorize it.
MITCHELL: But as first reported by the New York Times, a full year earlier, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales approved two secret memos, specifically authorizing much harsher techniques, including head-slapping, waterboarding, frigid temperatures and “combined effects” -- using several practices simultaneously, despite dissent on his staff. Today leading Democrats vowed to pass new laws.
SENATOR TED KENNEDY ON THE SENATE FLOOR: The White House overruled all those pesky officials who told them what they didn't want to hear, who told them that torture is wrong and illegal.
SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY: The President and those working with him are saying basically we're above the law. The law applies to everybody else. It doesn't apply to us.
MITCHELL: Two years ago John McCain, who was tortured in Vietnam, led Congress to outlaw the practices. Today the White House insisted it is not breaking that ban.
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They were safe, necessary and lawful, these techniques, and have helped save American lives.
MITCHELL: But tonight McCain wants the White House to explain.
SENATOR JOHN McCAIN: We're going to make inquiries of the administration and find out whether any of the techniques such as waterboarding are still being employed. And if they are, we're going to have to act again.
MITCHELL: There's also a big impact on foreign policy. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has promised U.S. allies that the administration does not use torture, even though officials say she knew about the memos.
PHILIP ZELIKOW, FORMER STATE DEPT COUNSELOR: It has a corrosive effect because it seems that the ideals we stand for in the world are undermined by our practices and our policies.
MITCHELL: Tonight officials still say they don't torture prisoners, but others say it depends on what your definition of torture is. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.