If you believed the meme that George W. Bush was in the dark on torture and knew nothing about it, Darth Cheney himself made it clear during an interview with Fox News that the former president knew all about it.
“Not true. Didn’t happen,” Cheney responded. “Read his book, he talks about it extensively in his memoirs. He was in fact an integral part of the program, he had to approve it before we went forward with it.”
Asked if there was ever a point where he knew more about the CIA’s activity than the President, Cheney said “I think he knew everything he needed to know and wanted to know about the program.“
More specifically, he knew about the “techniques.”
“I think he knew certainly the techniques, we did discuss the techniques,” Cheney said. “There was no effort on our part to keep him from that.”
“The notion that the committee’s trying to peddle, that somehow the agency was operating on a rogue basis, and we weren’t being told or the President wasn’t being told, is just a flat out lie,” he later added.
When Cheney said the Senate report was “full of crap,” he was not implying that we didn’t torture anyone. What he meant was the White House knew all about it.
It’s not clear why Cheney would correct the Senate committee report and make it explicitly clear that Bush was not kept in the dark and that he knew about the torture tactics they employed, but this is the first time I can recall that Cheney demonstrated that he did not want to be held singularly responsible for torture.
Previously, Cheney didn’t seem to have a problem with being seen as public enemy number one, even going so far as to say “So?” when asked about the disapproval of American voters, but now he appears to be slightly worried that the legacy of torture could belong to him alone.
Separately, the New York Times published a piece today which lays out the timeline and process that led to the creation of CIA’s so-called “black site” prisons and also made it clear that President Bush was in the loop the entire time.
On Feb. 7, 2002, Mr. Bush declared that the laws of war did not apply to Qaeda suspects. That decision opened the door for the C.I.A. to interrogate prisoners in previously unthinkable ways.
Still, the agency had not yet captured any high-level terrorists, and its detention program existed only on paper. That changed in March 2002, when Abu Zubaydah, a Qaeda logistics planner, was captured in Pakistan. […]
At his daily intelligence briefing on March 29, Mr. Bush reviewed a plan to open a secret C.I.A. prison in Thailand and send Mr. Zubaydah there. At the same meeting, according to the Senate report, Mr. Rumsfeld revived the idea of military detention by suggesting holding Mr. Zubaydah aboard a ship — a tactic that the Obama administration would endorse many years later. But Mr. Bush favored the C.I.A. plan.
George W. Bush made the call.
I doubt we’ll ever know the exact extent to which President Bush knew the gruesome details, but Dick Cheney has clearly signaled that if he’s going down, Bush is going down with him. It’s also possible the Senate report may have been too sympathetic or generous to the executive branch.
Behind all of this was the Bush Injustice Department which tailored legal opinions to justify the use of torture after the call to use torture had already been made.
It appears to me that if anyone could be prosecuted for this, it would be CIA middlemen who allegedly lied to their superiors or to the White House. But it’s not clear if they actually did lie or withhold information. It’s possible the White House, or at least Dick Cheney, knew every single horrible detail. Cheney implied as much during his interview with Fox News.
This country was run by monstrous liars, looters, racketeers, torturers and murderers for eight years. It’s amazing we survived.