Iraq Torture

A presidential directive on detainees

Since the release of the FBI e-mail mentioning an Executive Order in which the president authorized use of torture on detainees in Iraq, just about every federal department has issued denials of such and order. Of course they're denying it. This is the Bush era in which black is white.

"No such executive order exists or has ever existed," an NSC spokesman told Knight-Ridder. No "order", but perhaps a "directive"?

The White House website contains the full text of a June 22, 2004 press briefing with counsel Al Gonzales and several counsels from the Department of Defense at the height of the Abu Ghraib scandal. In that briefing, Gonzales released a document to the press: not an Executive Order, but rather a Presidential Directive signed by the president on February 7, 2002. Gonzales claimed in that briefing that this is the only document regarding detainees signed by the president.

The order (found after much digging around Google - download pdf) details the president's views on the Geneva Convention and how they apply to al Qaeda and the Taliban. Those "views" waffle between page one and two, but the up-shot is that even though he directs that detainees have no right to be protected by Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, they should be treated humanely. Maybe. MORE...

I also accept the legal conclusion of the Department of Justice and determine that common Article 3 of Geneva does not apply to either al Qaeda or Taliban detainees, because, among other reasons, the relevant conflicts are international in scope and common Article 3 applies only to "armed conflict not of an international character."

Of course there's nothing in the directive that defines "al Qaeda" and given the rhetoric of the Iraq War, Bush's definition of al Qaeda could mean just about anyone.Meanwhile, the document gets really fuzzy when, even though he's repeated several times how Geneva doesn't apply, the president states:

The United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.

The language is vague, no? Principles? What is "military necessity"? It sounds like, "Use Geneva as a rule of thumb until it becomes inconvenient." Could torture be seen as a "necessity" when attempting to ascertain important information from men and women suspected of wanting to kill the military's forces?If, however unlikely, the FBI e-mail was mistakenly referring to this as the "Executive Order", it's possible that the vague language of the directive allowed for some of what happened at Abu Ghraib, since 1) those detainees weren't necessarily al Qaeda, 2) there were civilian interrogators (contractors and federal agents) in the facility, and 3) with Rumsfeld's, Justice's, and other memos, the combination could lead to an affirmation that some of the torture techniques were permissible according to the president.Then again, it's very likely that there is another presidential memorandum, directive, or order which updated the language to include the war in Iraq and the detainees in prisons there.One other thing. The FBI e-mail directly connects specific torture techniques with the president. The directive does not mention the use of any techniques. But watch. If the administration is pressed, they might try to pass off the directive as the order so as to further diffuse the issue. It won't work if media attention, Congressional inquiries, and further investigation by the ACLU serve to further clarify what we all suspect.Meanwhile, the torture buck still appears to stop at the desks of Donald Rumsfeld, Al Gonzales, and Mr. Bush. I found this document in about 15 minutes on the internet (it was, after all, released to the public), where-as the man who wrote that e-mail is an official employed by the FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATIONS, with access to far greater information and resources than Google and too much coffee.