In Brief

CIA says Bush administration ordered and approved torture

Water-boarding and other techniques were carried out with full knowledge of senior figures, says agency

The CIA has hit back at claims it was acting without the knowledge of the Bush administration in torturing al-Qaeda suspects, insisting around a dozen top officials and cabinet members were “directly involved”.

It says George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice ordered and approved the torture. The agency’s response is a “furious” rebuttal of the “smear on its reputation”, says The Times.

A Senate committee report published on Tuesday this week had accused the intelligence agency of avoiding or blocking supervision from both Congress and the Bush administration. Bush said this week he was kept largely in the dark. Not so, says the agency.

Without using the disputed word ‘torture’ a CIA spokesman said: “The record shows that the CIA obtained and repeatedly insisted on the renewal of legal and policy guidance from the Justice Department and White House on the … enhanced interrogation techniques.”

While vice-president Cheney and national security adviser Rice were ‘in the loop’, neither Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, nor Colin Powell, the secretary of state, were on the “need-to-know list”, says the Times.

Others who were aware of the proceedings included: Alberto Gonzales, a counsel to the president, Rice’s deputy Stephen Hadley, attorney-general John Ashcroft and several other attorneys in the Justice Department.

The CIA said that to have kept the administration in the dark about what it was doing would have required a “years-long conspiracy” involving three agency heads “supported by a large number of analysts and other line officers”.

The Senate committee report, dubbed a “terrible piece of work” and “deeply flawed” by Cheney, has been attacked by Republicans and intelligence officials as politically motivated. It was published by the committee’s Democrat members.

The Times notes that how much the UK government knew about what was going on in the secret US prisons in Europe and Asia is “not clear” after a judge-led inquiry in 2010 was unable to find an answer. Another investigation is still ongoing.

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