Former Bush Official Calls Torture Program ‘Radical,’ ‘Untenable And Extreme’

Philip Zelikow

Last week, the State Department released a February 2006 memo from then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s top aide, Philip D. Zelikow, opposing the Justice Department’s authorization of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (i.e. torture) by CIA officers questioning terrorist suspects. Zelikow concluded in the memo that the techniques DOJ authorized should be considered “‘cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment’ within the meaning of Artical 16” of the Convention Against Torture.

Zelikow — who has previously spoken out publicly against President Bush’s torture program — will publish a “damning article” in the upcoming issue of the Houston Law Journal, Salon reports (emphasis added):

Based on published histories and his firsthand observations, and adapted from a lecture delivered in November, the article calls the administration’s rationale for its use of torture — which he nonetheless insists only on calling “extreme interrogation” and “coercive methods” — “radical,” “an amazing contention,” “untenable and extreme,” “unsustainable,” “an unprecedented program of coolly calculated dehumanizing abuse and physical torment,” and, finally, simply a “mistake.” He concludes: “This was a collective failure of American public leadership, in which a number of officials and members of Congress (and staffers) of both parties played a part, endorsing a CIA program of physical coercion without any precedent in U.S. history.” In fact, “The only defense against criminal prosecution would be that officials acted in good faith reliance on the advice of their government lawyers.”

While Zelikow calls on the White House to be more forthcoming and transparent about its own counter-terrorism methods, he praises President Obama for abandoning Bush’s torture polices Noting the Obama administration’s success in combatting terrorism and al-Qaeda in general, Zelikow concludes that “[t]here is no evident correlations between intelligence success and the available of extreme interrogation methods.”