Old hands in the intelligence community remembered vividly how past covert operations, from the Vietnam War-era “Phoenix Program” of assassinations of Viet Cong to the Iran-Contra arms sales of the 1980s were painted as the work of a “rogue agency” out of control.
But even after the “Golden Shield” was in place, briefings and meetings in the White House to discuss individual interrogations continued, sources said. Tenet, seeking to protect his agents, regularly sought confirmation from the NSC principals that specific interrogation plans were legal.
According to a former CIA official involved in the process, CIA headquarters would receive cables from operatives in the field asking for authorization for specific techniques. Agents, worried about overstepping their boundaries, would await guidance in particularly complicated cases dealing with high-value detainees, two CIA sources said.
Highly placed sources said CIA directors Tenet and later Porter Goss along with agency lawyers briefed senior advisers, including Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and Powell, about detainees in CIA custody overseas.
“It kept coming up. CIA wanted us to sign off on each one every time,” said one high-ranking official who asked not to be identified. “They’d say, ‘We’ve got so and so. This is the plan.'”
Sources said that at each discussion, all the Principals present approved.
Of course they approved. Of course they knew. Did anyone sincerely believe otherwise? Did anyone sincerely believe they were kept in the dark? The CIA knows better. The CIA wasn’t going down for this alone. Jesus Christ, of course they approved.
For years, they’ve been governing on the principle that the lies they tell are so gigantic, the crimes they commit so outrageous, that we’re too utterly freaked to call them on it. For years, they’ve been governing like public opinion and the rule of law don’t matter because honestly, who’s there to convince them it does matter? Chris Dodd had to fucking threaten to filibuster his own party’s bill to convince people the Constitution was still worth giving a fuck about, for fucking fuck’s sake. Jesus tits, what on earth would make them scared? What have we ever done to make them think there’d be consequences to their actions?
And now? Now what?