A newly released document indicates that the CIA proposed using waterboarding, a controversial interrogation technique that simulates drowning, on terror suspect Abu Zubaydah three months before the Justice Department approved the harsh interrogation technique.
The document, released today by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence provides a detailed narrative of the history of the Bush administration's attempts to authorize so-called harsh interrogation techniques.
The declassified narrative of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel's (OLC) 2002 opinions on the CIA detention and interrogation program provides the most detailed timeline yet for how the CIA program was conceived and approved.
According to the account, once the DOJ had reviewed the proposals, it advised the CIA that "the Attorney General had concluded that certain proposed interrogation techniques were lawful and ... that the use of waterboarding was lawful."
Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, at least 83 times in August 2002, shortly after the Justice Department formally approved it in a classified legal document.
DOJ officials concluded that the harsh interrogation technique would not violate any prohibition because there was no evidence it produced any prolonged mental or physical harm. It also says that the CIA first proposed the harsh interrogation technique months before the DOJ approved it.
Specifically, the narrative says that it wasn't until Sept. 16, 2003, that then-CIA Director George Tenet briefed Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the CIA's interrogation techniques, at the request of then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, had asked for the timeline released today to be declassified more than a year ago, but the Bush administration's National Security Council didn't give final approval for its release.
"We have at last begun the task of fully setting the record straight, holding our government accountable, and learning from past errors in order to protect our country into the future," Rockefeller said in a statement today.
"We now know that essential information was withheld from the Congress on many matters and decisions were made in secret by senior Bush administration officials to obscure the complete picture," he said.
He pointed out that the OLC opinions were not "made in a vacuum" and an OLC memo was written to "undermine" the Detainee Treatment Act.
This is the second report detailing harsh interrogation practices in the Bush administration. Late Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee released a 232-page report detailing how high-level officials authorized such interrogation methods on detainees in military prisons around the world.
Since President Obama released memos last week that detailed the authorization of such methods, a debate has erupted on Capitol Hill over whether officials who approved such tactics should be prosecuted.
It has also turned a spotlight on potential differences between the White House and Democratic lawmakers. Calls to impeach Jay Bybee, currently a federal judge and one of the authors of the controversial memos released last week, are rising among Democrats on Capitol Hill, but the White House has been silent on the issue.