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Harsh Methods Approved as Early as Summer 2002
In the fall of 2002, four senior members of Congress, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), now speaker of the House, were secretly briefed on interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, according to U.S. officials. Pelosi has confirmed that she was then "briefed on interrogation techniques the administration was considering using in the future. The administration advised that legal counsel for both the CIA and the Justice Department had concluded that the techniques were legal."
In early 2004, a comprehensive report by the CIA inspector general raised new questions about the program, including queries about the waterboarding of three detainees. It said the interrogations were not clearly legal under an international treaty the United States had signed known as the Convention Against Torture, which bars cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that falls short of torture.
A fresh legal review by the Justice Department prompted Ashcroft to inform the CIA in writing on July 22, 2004, that its interrogation methods -- except waterboarding -- were legal. The following month, the head of the department's Office of Legal Counsel added that even waterboarding would be legal if it were carried out with a series of safeguards according to CIA plans. By May 2005, the department had completed two more reviews of the program that came to the same conclusion. Those were among the memos President Obama released last week.
After the leak in 2005 of a Justice Department memo that narrowly defined the type of activity that would constitute torture, Rice traveled to Europe in an effort to quell the international uproar. As her trip was getting underway, she said: "The United States government does not authorize or condone torture of detainees. Torture, and conspiracy to commit torture, are crimes under U.S. law, wherever they may occur in the world."
Rice also said at the time that the administration's policy "will be consistent" with the international convention prohibiting "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." A former aide said that gaining administration approval for Rice to make this statement was "a move forward."
Staff writer Glenn Kessler and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.