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Torture Scandal May Cripple Bush

By Chris Gelken

22 December, 2007

The President is playing dumb and denying everything, and White House lawyer Joseph Hunt assumed an aggrieved air and asserted that it was “inconceivable” that the missing Central Intelligence Agency interrogation video tapes could possibly have contained images of torture.

Well, to be more precise, he said they did not contain evidence of torture at Guantanamo Bay. Whether or not they carried sordid images of waterboarding and other coercive interrogations carried out at one of America’s secret foreign gulags was not made immediately clear.

But since the tapes in question apparently did come from elsewhere, and Judge Henry Kennedy’s 2005 order on preserving evidence related only to Gitmo-based interrogations, then it would appear there is no case to answer.

So has the Bush administration managed to dodge the bullet?

“I honestly don’t think so,” Jeff Steinberg, Senior Editor of Executive Intelligence Review, told PressTV in a televised interview. “I don’t think that technicality has a great deal of credibility. Number two, I think the overall situation is that once again we finding the Bush administration engaged in a patter of cover-up, deception.”

Steinberg said the mere fact that they are again claiming that waterboarding, which most people have come to accept was depicted on the tapes, is not torture. “That,” he said, “is simply not a matter for the opinion of Vice President Dick Cheney or his top lawyer, David Addington.”

Steinberg explained that it is a principle of international law that waterboarding in a form of torture, and warned of an impending storm of denial, obfuscation and downright lies.

“I expect that we’re going to see this as yet another pile up of cover-up and corruption by the White House,” he said, “a steady stream of scandals very reminiscent of Watergate.”

The White House lawyer’s assertion that the tapes contained nothing that the administration should be ashamed of is essentially contradicted by statements made earlier in the week by a retired CIA agent in an interview with ABC’s John Ross.

The former agent described how captured al-Qaeda chief Abu Zubaydah had broken after just 35-seconds worth of the treatment that simulates drowning. The agent, however, denied taking part in the interrogation or knowing that the process was being video taped. He also denied any knowledge of the tapes’ disposal.

Steinberg told PressTV the interrogation described by the former agent could possibly be the subject of the tapes, but couldn’t know for certain. One thing Steinberg was clear about, was his belief that at least some of the information that is causing so much embarrassment in the Oval Office was leaked by the CIA itself.

“I believe, and my sources in Washington tell me, that some of the information that has come out and has resulted in the latest scandal has come from within the CIA. People inside there, who detested the fact that people ‘went off the reservation’ and violated the law,” he said.

Steinberg said many agents were angered that intelligence was cooked in the run up to the Iraq War, “and my understanding is there is a certain kind of internal house cleaning aspect of what’s going on here.”

Steinberg said he expects to see a lot more information coming out and revelations of far more renditions, examples of torture and other illegal activity than has so far been reported or hinted at.

“And I think we are also going to discover that not very much useful intelligence came out of all of this,” he said, “because these techniques inherently do not work. People who are being put through a near death experience will say anything, make up anything to escape the torture.”

Physical torture, Steinberg said, is an inherently flawed method used by an inherently flawed administration, “and a lot of chickens are coming home to roost right now and I think its all for the good.”

Dogged by scandals at the notorious Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, under pressure over failures in Iraq, and embarrassed by new intelligence estimates that undermined the administration’s efforts to bully Iran into submission, the White House is under siege.

Steinberg says efforts to smother this latest disgrace will be extensive.

“I am virtually certain that we are going to find this whole cover-up went to the highest levels of the Bush administration,” he said, “All of the policy decisions related to the denial of information to Congress and other investigative agencies came directly out of the office of the Vice President.”

But keeping secrets is difficult, especially when one’s own neck is at stake.

“I would not be surprised to find out a few months from now that there is evidence of some kind that President Bush himself lied at his press conference yesterday [Thursday] and that to one degree or other was fully aware and informed about those tapes and how and when they were destroyed.”

Steinberg said he would not rule out the possibility of the administration facing legal sanction, the threat of impeachment or continuing criminal investigation after the incumbents leave office.

“There will clearly be an attempt to find a scapegoat,” Steinberg said, “but we’ve been around this block so many times over the past seven years that the credibility of the White House and top government officials is near zero.”

Steinberg is cautiously optimistic that this time the administration may have gone too far. “I honestly, at this point, do not think there is a high probability they are going to get away with it. I might be being optimistic, but that’s my take on the mood around the city and around the country.”

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