Secret White House Memos OK'd Waterboarding

Fearing backlash, CIA sought and received support
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 15, 2008 7:17 AM CDT
Protesters demonstrate the use of waterboarding on a volunteer in front of the Justice Department in Washington last year.    (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta )
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(Newser) – The Bush administration gave its blessing in writing for the CIA to use waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques in two secret memos that have only now come to light, the Washington Post reveals. Intelligence officials sought to get something on paper in 2003—more than a year after the secret interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects began—to cover their backs in the event of public criticism, according to security sources.

Then-CIA director George Tenet asked for and received approval for harsh interrogation techniques again in 2004 as the controversy over abuse of Abu Ghraib prisoners erupted. Officials uneasy with the techniques gave their approval after being "boxed-in" by CIA warnings of imminent attacks, according to one source familiar with the meetings. "History will not judge us kindly," then-Attorney General John Ashcroft said after hearing details of the interrogation program.