Gonzo and Torture
So Ari Shapiro’s NPR story yesterday placed then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales — a.k.a. God‘s gift to Talking Points Memo — at the center of the decision to torture Abu Zubaydah in the spring of 2002. Gonzales didn’t respond to Shapiro’s request for comment. But I notice in the Senate intelligence committee’s recently declassified narrative of the legal underpinnings of the CIA torture program, there’s this account of the first wave of legal deliberation:
In April 2002, attorneys from the CIA’s Office of General Counsel began discussions with the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council and OLC concerning the CIA’s proposed interrogation plan for Abu Zubaydah and legal restrictions on that interrogation. CIA records indicate that the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council briefed the National Security Adviser, Deputy National Security Adviser, and Counsel to the President, as well as the Attorney General and the head of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. [Emphasis added.]
This does not seem like the direct connection implied by Shapiro’s piece. Indeed, it treats Gonzales as a bit player. And that seems plausible: as White House counsel, he was President Bush’s lawyer, not the government’s. But it still places Gonzales in the thick of the decision making, where he would stay all through the deliberations leading to the Office of Legal Counsel’s July 24 approval (and August 1 memo) of the torture regime.