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The Washington Independent

What Was in Zelikow’s 2005 Anti-Torture Memo?

The Judiciary subcommittee didn’t, ultimately, get a copy of Philip Zelikow’s 2005 memorandum opposing torture, written when he was counselor to the State

Elisa Mueller
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | May 13, 2009

The Judiciary subcommittee didn’t, ultimately, get a copy of Philip Zelikow’s 2005 memorandum opposing torture, written when he was counselor to the State Department. But in his opening statement — which the committee’s distributed but he he’s just started delivering — he provides a pretty big hint as to what he argued:

The issue is not whether the CIA program of extreme physical coercion produced useful intelligence; it is about its net value compared to the alternatives. And, even though the program might have some value against some prisoners, it has serious drawbacks just in the intelligence calculus, such as … constraints in getting the optimal team of interrogators … whether the program actually produces much of the time sensitive current intelligence that is one of its unique justifications; loss of intelligence from allies who fear becoming complicit in a program they abhor … poorer reliability of information obtained through torment; possible loss of opportunities to turn some captives into more effective and even cooperative informants; and problems in devising an end-game for the eventual trial or long-term disposition of the captives.

Additionally, he says that the State Department under Secretary Condoleezza Rice in 2005 — who, as national security adviser in July 2002, gave the CIA the policy go-ahead to torture al-Qaeda detainee Abu Zubaydah before the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel ruled on the legality of the proposed interrogation regime — urged reliance on a “cruel, inhuman and degrading” standard when considering what to allow in interrogation.

Last thing: Zelikow says the State Department is currently reviewing his 2005 memo for “possible declassification.” At last: confirmation that not all copies of the memo were destroyed by the Bush administration — and that the State Department actually has a copy.

Elisa Mueller | Elisa Mueller was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to a mother who taught reading and a father who taught film. As a result, she spent an excessive amount of her childhood reading books and watching movies. She went to the University of Kansas for college, where she earned bachelor's degrees in English and journalism. She moved to New York City and worked for Entertainment Weekly magazine for ten years, visiting film sets all over the world.


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