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.
"These are the techniques in the CIA interrogation program. Although they remain classified (as were some techniques in previous editions of the Army Field Manual), they have been fully briefed to the intelligence oversight committees and their lawfulness confirmed by the Department of Justice," he says.
Word of William F. Buckley Jr.'s death this week brought back memories for Inside the Beltway reader Peter Wingate of Winchester, Va., who recalls that in 1984 he was fortunate to witness a debate between the conservative leader and economist John Kenneth Galbraith at Texas A&M University.
"Since I majored in economics, it was a thrill for me to be in the audience," Mr. Wingate notes. "Although Galbraith had had such a significant impact on economics textbooks, I found myself intuitively gravitating towards Buckley's way of thinking.
"Imagine my surprise when, six years later, I was working at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington and I saw through the chamber's television studio window Mother Teresa being interviewed by Buckley," he continues. "As a Roman Catholic, it was heartwarming for me to watch Mother Teresa quietly pray the rosary with the small audience. ...
"After Buckley had finished his interviews and was leaving, I stood in his way and introduced myself, told him he was an important influence on me in school, and that I was at his debate with Galbraith," he says. "He spent quite some time visiting with me in that hallway, telling me about that night and how he remembered it because Ambassador Galbraith had to leave from there for the funeral of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
"I told my mother that I was embarrassed to admit that I was more excited that day to meet Buckley than I was to see Mother Teresa. It didn't occur to me to seek out Mother Teresa and introduce myself. ... Of course, I now regret missing that chance."