Political playwrights around the world sat up and paid attention this evening — or should have — as for the first time details about how the Bush administration "choreographed" the torture of Al Qaeda suspects became public.
According to ABC NEWS, via TPM, a group called The Principals gathered in the White House to discuss in great detail how suspects would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep, waterboarded, or subjected to other "harsh interrogation techniques."
The Principals are the usual suspects: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Tenet, and Ashcroft.
The story doesn’t put Bush in those meetings, but implies the final decision was his to make. The kicker is that Attorney General John Ashcroft, despite approving the practice in principle, knew these discussions were wrong and said so.
Then-Attorney General Ashcroft was troubled by the discussions. He
agreed with the general policy decision to allow aggressive tactics and
had repeatedly advised that they were legal. But he argued that senior
White House advisers should not be involved in the grim details of
interrogations, sources said.
According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting:
"Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not
judge this kindly."
If Howard Baker were with us still, we know what he would ask. He would be polite but insistent, and in the end we would find out. What tortures did the President approve? When did he approve them?