John McCaslin

Inside the Beltway has obtained a memo written by CIA Director Michael V. Hayden to agency employees to "make very clear my position and that of the Central Intelligence Agency" when it comes to interrogative techniques used on terrorism suspects.

Bottom line: Always follow the law, even if it's "political" and to the country's detriment.

Dated this month, the memo comes on the heels of the congressional approval of a broad intelligence authorization bill, a major provision of which prohibits interrogation methods not authorized or condoned by the U.S. Army Field Manual.

While Mr. Hayden makes it clear to his staff that the CIA will adhere to U.S. law, he does not hesitate to say that the new ban, which the White House insists President Bush will veto, spells danger for the security of the United States.

"If the Intelligence Authorization Bill becomes law, these procedures will be taken off the board for American interrogators ... and they will be off the board," Mr. Hayden stresses. "CIA works within the legal and policy boundaries created by the American political process so there will be no conditions of threat or danger that would cause us to make an exception."

But he also says a prohibition on what the administration refers to as "enhanced interrogation" methods "is an important national decision and it will have a direct impact on our ability to gather intelligence and to detect and prevent future attacks."

In the memo, Mr. Hayden reiterates "with regard to waterboarding (as I testified before Congress), this technique is not part of CIA's current program, has been used in the past on only three detainees, has not been used for nearly five years, and the threat and operational circumstances under which it was previously used have changed dramatically."

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said earlier that he doesn't buy such assurances and warned that if Mr. Bush "vetoes intelligence authorization, he will be voting in favor of waterboarding."

But Mr. Hayden counters in his memo that if the bill becomes law it "would confine CIA interrogators to only those techniques authorized by the Army Field Manual. This manual, crafted in response to the abuses at Abu Ghraib [prison in Iraq], was designed for a different population of detainees, a different group of interrogators, and for different intelligence needs than in the CIA program.

"The manual meets the needs of the American military and is sufficient for their purposes but no one can claim that it exhausts the universe of lawful techniques available to the Republic to defend itself — techniques not useful or not suited to the Army's circumstances but fully consistent with the Geneva Convention and with current U.S. law.


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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