Lays Abu Ghraib at Bush’s feet:
MR. HERSH: A very senior guy in the CIA, who I can’t name under the rules–and that’s appropriate, I want him to be there; he’s a good man–who new Arabic fluently, went down, came back, spent a few days there, talked to some of the people who were being detained there, came back and wrote a blistering report. I don’t have the report. I can tell you that he told colleagues on the National Security Council, people who worked for Condoleezza Rice, that we’re committing war crimes there, that the whole approach is wrong, that brutalizing people and terrorizing doesn’t produce good intelligence.
MR. RUSSERT: When was this?
MR. HERSH: I’d say he went in August, September; the report was circulated September, October.
MR. RUSSERT: Of what year?
MR. HERSH: 2002. And there was a wonderful general, just retired from the Air Force, named John Gordon, who’d been a deputy director of the CIA. And he pushed it. He did the unthinkable in the Nixon White House, you know–in the Bush White House, because he pushed stuff that they didn’t want to hear. He forced a series of meetings. To her credit, Miss Rice had a series of meetings about the issue. It was discussed. They brought in Rumsfeld: “I’ll look at it. I’ll take care of it.” He detailed it to a 31-year-old aide and it disappeared. One of the things that everybody remembered is when the man from the CIA, the analyst, went down to Guantanamo; one of the first things he saw were 80-year- old men, men at least that old, he said, living in their own excrement in cells, chained. And this kind of behavior, this kind of treatment, was just unacceptable to a military man.
If the men at top set the policy, boom!–right to the bottom it would go. And when you run a–any guy who’s been an officer knows the way you behave, the standards you set, are the standards that are kept. And these guys made it clear that, “Go ahead, do what you want.” And it was an open-door policy to abuse from the beginning to the end. We were abusing the people.
MR. RUSSERT: Who’s these guys?
MR. HERSH: The people in the chain of command from the very top of the government on. There was no attempt…
MR. RUSSERT: The president?
MR. HERSH: I can tell you that at this meeting we had people from the vice president’s office. We had the secretary of defense. Everybody was aware there was serious problems. It was brought forth by people inside–I’m talking about the meeting in 2002 in Condoleezza Rice’s office. There were problems brought forth in the fall of 2002. Nobody took any official steps to do anything to change it, and that’s the issue you have. You have a policy that was countenance at the top and all you had to do very early– and any military man knows–is set a policy and make it clear you mean it.