Did Secretary Rice Know About Gonzales’ Secret ’05 Legal Opinion On Torture?

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"Did Secretary Rice Know About Gonzales’ Secret ’05 Legal Opinion On Torture?"

ap06011004560.jpgIn 2004, the Washington Post revealed a secret 2002 Justice Department memo that claimed that the torture of detainees in the war on terror “may be justified.” The memo, written by John Yoo, was so secret, that even then-National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell were unaware of its existence until the Post’s report.

Upon learning of the memo, Rice was reportedly livid that she had been left out of the loop. According to a former White House official, she and Powell “confronted” then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, telling him “there would be no more secret opinions“:

Rice “very angrily said there would be no more secret opinions on international and national security law,” the official said, adding that she threatened to take the matter to the president if Gonzales kept them out of the loop again. Powell remarked admiringly, as they emerged, that Rice dressed down the president’s lawyer “in full Nurse Ratched mode,” a reference to the head nurse of the mental hospital in the 1975 film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

The New York Times reports today that in February 2005, the Justice Department, under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, issued another secret opinion that was “an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.” That wasn’t the only “secret opinion” on torture issued by the Justice Department that year:

Later that year, as Congress moved toward outlawing “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment, the Justice Department issued another secret opinion, one most lawmakers did not know existed, current and former officials said. The Justice Department document declared that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard.

Like the 2002 torture memo, the 2005 memos were authored by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and aggressively advocated by Vice President Cheney’s chief counsel, David Addington.

Did Rice know about the 2005 memos before the Times revealed them? If so, does she agree with the policy they lay out? If not, will she “take the matter to the president?”

UPDATE: Noting that the Times says “most lawmakers” didn’t know about this secret opinion, Kevin Drum points out that “that means that some of them did” and he’d “like to know which ones.”

UPDATE II: The House Judiciary Committee is now requesting the secret opinions as well as testimony from acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel Stephen Bradbury.

UPDATE III: White House Press Secretary Dana Perino uses “circular reasoning” to argue that the administration does “not torture.”

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