From the May issue of Vanity Fair.
by James Oliphant
The May issue of Vanity Fair contains an article that contends the Bush administration supported using extreme and perhaps torturous interrogation techniques at its highest levels.
The article, written by British law professor Phillipe Sands, maintains that an aggressive approach to questioning detainees at Guantanamo was encouraged by senior advisers to Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, among others. Some of their inspiration came from the actions of the fictional star of the series "24," Jack Bauer.
It comes just as the Justice Department has released a declassified memo from 2003 that outlined the legal justification for military interrogators to employ harsh interrogation techniques. That memo laid out the administration's view that members of al Qaeda and the Taliban were not protected by the Geneva Conventions.
And indeed, the VF article says something similar. Sands interviewed Douglas Feith, then a top Pentagon official. According to the magazine:
Feith confirms that the logic of the law was not followed with respect to Geneva, rather it deliberately created a legal black hole into which the detainees were meant to fall—and that was the point. “Didn’t the administration’s approach mean that Geneva’s constraints on interrogation couldn’t be invoked by anyone at Guantánamo?” Sands asked Feith. “Oh yes, sure,” Feith replied. “Was that the intended result?” “Absolutely.” Sands writes that he asked again: Under the Geneva Conventions, no one at Guantánamo was entitled to any protection? “That’s the point,” Feith reiterated. As he saw it, either you were a detainee to whom Geneva didn’t apply (al-Qaeda fighters, because they weren’t part of a state); or you were a detainee to whom Geneva applied but whose rights you couldn’t invoke (members of the Taliban, because they hadn’t worn uniforms or insignia). What was the difference for the purpose on interrogation? Sands asked. Feith answered with a certain satisfaction: “It turns out, none. But that’s the point.”
When Sands asks Feith whether he was at all concerned that the Geneva decision might have diminished America’s moral authority, Feith tells Sands, “The problem with moral authority” was “people who should know better, like yourself, siding with the assholes, to put it crudely.”
According to Sands, Feith’s arguments were so clever that General Richard Myers, joint chiefs chairman, continued to believe that Geneva’s protection remained in force, and was “well and truly hoodwinked,” a seasoned observer of military affairs tells Sands.
The article points to David Addington, then counsel to Cheney, and Alberto Gonzales, then the White House counsel, as particularly involved in developing interrogation policy. It also suggests that the senior officials involved could face war crimes charges if they leave the United States.
The new issue of the magazine hits newsstands in New York and Los Angleles today, with distribution nationwide next week.