Of Guantanamo interrogators: “You could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas.”
"Torture at Guantánamo was sanctioned by the most senior advisers to the president, the vice president, and the secretary of defense, according to the international lawyer and professor of law at University College London Philippe Sands, who has conducted a forensic examination of the chain of command leading from the top of the administration to the camp at Guantánamo," Vanity Fair will report on newstands today.
The article directly contradicts the administration’s account to Congress, which placed responsibility on military commanders and interrogators on the ground for the practices banned by the Geneva Conventions.
Excerpts from the magazine's release follow. The full story is available here.
Sands reports that these senior advisers face a real risk of criminal investigation if they set foot outside the United States, despite the Military Commissions Act, signed into law by President Bush in 2006. The hitch is that their immunity is good only within U.S. borders, and rather than protecting them, the act may lead to an eventual investigation by foreign governments. For some, the future may hold “a tap on the shoulder.” Sands consulted a judge and prosecutor in a major European city, both of whom are familiar with these sorts of cases. The prosecutor called the act “very stupid,” explaining that it would make it much easier for investigators outside the U.S. to argue that possible war crimes would never be addressed in their home country. “It’s a matter of time,” the judge told Sands. “And then something unexpected happens, when one of these lawyers travels to the wrong place.”
Sands talks with everyone from high level members of the administration to soldiers on the ground at Guantánamo, among them: Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense, General Richard Myers, former joint chiefs chairman, and Lieutenant Colonel Diane Beaver, who was charged with writing a document providing legal authority for harsh interrogation.
Also in Sands’s article:
DOUGLAS FEITH ON HOW THE ADMINISTRATION EVADED THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS:
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.
MEETING OF HIGH-LEVEL ADMINISTRATION LAWYERS ON SEPTEMBER 25 AT GUANTÁNAMO TO DISCUSS TACTICS:
A delegation of the administration’s senior lawyers, including Dick Cheney’s chief counsel (later his chief of staff) David S. Addington, White House counsel (later attorney general) Alberto Gonzales, Pentagon general counsel Jim Haynes, and the C.I.A.’s John Rizzo arrived at Gitmo on September 25. “They wanted to know what we were doing to get this guy [Mohammed al-Qahtani, allegedly a member of the 9/11 conspiracy and the so-called 20th hijacker],” Major General Michael Dunlavey, who ran Joint Task Force 170, which oversaw military interrogations, tells Sands, “and Addington was interested in how we were managing it.… They brought ideas with them which had been given from sources in D.C. They came down to observe and talk.” Throughout this period, says Dunlavey, Rumsfeld was “directly and regularly involved.”
LT. COLONEL DIANE BEAVER ON WASHINGTON’S ROLE IN DEVISING TACTICS, AND JACK BAUER’S INFLUENCE:
Sands reports that Beaver, who was charged with writing a document providing legal authority for harsh interrogation, confirms new details of the crucial meeting that took place at Guantánamo, and she tells Sands she “kept minutes” at other brainstorming sessions in which new techniques were discussed. The younger men would get particularly excited, she says: “You could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas.” Beaver also notes that ideas arose from other sources, such as the television show 24. Jack Bauer, the main character, had many friends at Guantánamo, says Beaver: “He gave people lots of ideas.” It was clear to Sands that Beaver believed that Washington was directly involved in the interrogations, and her account confirms what others tell Sands—that Washington’s views were being fed into the process by people physically present at Guantánamo.
BEAVER ON HER ROLE AT GUANTÁNAMO:
Sands reports that Beaver was set up as a fall guy of sorts. Someone more fully schooled in the relevant law might have questioned what she was being asked to do. “It was not my job to second-guess the president,” Beaver tells Sands. Despite other memos prepared by administration lawyers, none other was cited as bearing on aggressive interrogations. Beaver tells Sands she was insistent that the decision to implement new techniques be properly written up, and that the paper trail to the top be clear. “I wanted to get something in writing,” she tells Sands. “That was my game plan. I had four days. Dunlavey gave me just four days.” Beaver tells Sands that she never imagined her work would not be vetted by someone higher up the chain. What she didn’t know at the time, according to Sands, was that those same people had already made their decisions, had the security of legal cover from the Justice Department, and, although confident with that protection, had no intention of soiling their hands by weighing in on the unpleasant details of interrogation.
GENERAL RICHARD MYERS AND A FORMER PENTAGON OFFICIAL ON HOW THE HAYNES MEMO DID NOT GO THROUGH THE USUAL CHANNELS OF APPROVAL:
Myers confessed to Sands that he was troubled that normal procedures had been circumvented with regard to the Haynes Memo [An “action memo” written in November 2002 listing proposed techniques of aggressive interrogation]. “You don’t see my initials on this,” he tells Sands, as he holds the paper. “You see I’ve just ‘discussed’ it,” he says, noting a sentence in the memo to that effect. “This was not the way this should have come about.” He tells Sands of the “intrigue” that was going on around the time of the memo, “that I wasn’t aware of,” he says, “that was probably occurring between Jim Haynes, White House general counsel, and Justice.” A former Pentagon official provides further confirmation that the memo got special handling, telling Sands that Lieutenant General Bantz Craddock, Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant, noticed the memo was missing a buck slip, an essential component that shows a document’s circulation path, and which everyone was supposed to initial. There was no signature from the general counsel’s office, so it went back to Haynes who signed off with a note that said simply, “Good to go.”
Philippe Sands is an international lawyer at Matrix Chambers and a professor at University College London. This is his first article for Vanity Fair, and is based on several years of reporting. Sands is the author of numerous books—a full account of this article will appear in Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values (Palgrave Macmillan), out in May 2008.
The May issue of Vanity Fair hits newsstands in New York and Los Angeles on April 2 and nationally on April 8.