May 10, 2004
The nauseating acts of torture and other sadistic abuses that we are seeing and reading about every day are not aberrations.
They are the logical consequences of a policy and an attitude that Bush and Rumsfeld and Tenet adopted shortly after September 11.
That policy was to throw all the rules out the window. And that attitude was scorn for international norms.
As Seymour Hersh reports in The New Yorker, Donald Rumsfeld was encouraging the military to "take greater risks." And Rumsfeld, informed of complaints about the mistreatment of prisoners in early 2002, dismissed the allegations as "isolated pockets of international hyperventilation."
Those pockets aren't so isolated anymore. And moral concern and respect for international law are not the same as hyperventilation.
But Rumsfeld wasn't the only one responsible.
Bush himself unleashed the CIA. "The President has given the agency the green light to do whatever is necessary," one senior official told Bob Woodward in an article on October 21, 2001. "The gloves are off."
Bush knew that could get him into trouble. "If you are going to push the envelope, some things will go wrong, and [President Bush] sees that and understands risk-taking," one senior official told Woodward. There may be "some embarrassing public setbacks" but Bush is willing to risk those, Woodward reported.
For his part, Tenet sent out a memo to his senior officials on September 16, 2001, saying, "All the rules have changed." He wrote, "The agency must give people the authority to do things they might not ordinarily be allowed to do."
The CIA operatives took the hint and got down to dirty business. "If you don't violate someone's human rights some of the time, you probably aren't doing your job," one official who was involved in supervising the capture of suspects told The Washington Post on December 26, 2002.
Cofer Black, who was ahead of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, testified before Congress on September 26, 2002, and this is some of what he said, according to that Post article. "There was a before 9/11, and there was an after 9/ll. After 9/11, the gloves came off."
Well, now we know: This is what happens when the gloves come off.