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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

""We tortured Qahtani."

Susan J. Crawford, the top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial, has uttered the words no one else in the administration has ever said, "We tortured Qahtani."

Now, the detainee in question is a very bad dude with likely key information at the time, "a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks," but what strikes me as interesting is that her use of of the word torture in this case refers not to waterboarding, but to an apparent extreme use of what is considered the "second tier" of harsh interrogation tactics, "sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."
"The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture, she said.....

There can be no question this "torture statement" by Crawford was fully intentional and fully intended to end up on front pages. The more curious question is the why.

In part, it's ass covering/explanatory on her part so that when Qatani is not charged, she isn't blamed, but it's also coming right on the tail of reports that Obama will sign a first day executive order to shut down Guantanamo, and right before the transition.

It's a messy bit of personal politics played out on the front page. She comes out blameless, even something of an ethical hero, and still manages to push the past problems on the past administration and the new problems from her position onto the new administration. Any problems in prosecutions are now problems caused by others.

From a strict "politics of bureaucracy" perspective, you kind of have to admire that.

(PS. I didn't notice the first time through that it's a Bob Woodward byline, the classic reporter for rewriting bureaucratic histories. You grant him access, and he'll practice "discretion." Plus he gives every word you say credibility. She gets smarter by the minute.

I wonder if she has a patron who hooked her up with Woodward?)


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