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CIA Tactics Endorsed In Secret Memos

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By the spring of 2004, the concerns among agency officials had multiplied, in part because of shifting views among administration lawyers about what acts might constitute torture, leading Tenet to ask a second time for written confirmation from the White House. This time the reaction was far more reserved, recalled two former intelligence officials.

"The Justice Department in particular was resistant," said one former intelligence official who participated in the discussions. "They said it doesn't need to be in writing."

Tenet and his deputies made their case in yet another briefing before the White House national security team in June 2004. It was to be one of the last such meetings for Tenet, who had already announced plans to step down as CIA director. Author Jane Mayer, who described the briefing in her recent book, "The Dark Side," said the graphic accounts of interrogation appeared to make some participants uncomfortable. "History will not judge us kindly," Mayer quoted Ashcroft as saying.

Participants in the meeting did not recall whether a vote was taken. Several weeks passed, and Tenet left the agency without receiving a formal response.

Finally, in mid-July, a memo was forwarded to the CIA reaffirming the administration's backing for the interrogation program. Tenet had acquired the statement of support he sought.

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.


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