The Secret Torture Memo Cheney Didn’t Want You To See

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/4363491130/">Truthout.org</a>/Flickr

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

In 2006, Philip Zelikow, an adviser to then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, wrote a secret memo warning his colleagues that many of the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques were likely illegal. Zelikow didn’t speak publicly about the memo—the smoking gun that the Bush administration was warned by its own staff about legal problems with its interrogation program—until 2009, when he revealed its existence in a blog post for Foreign Policy. But when Zelikow testified to Congress about his warning, his classified memo was withheld, and two unclassified documents were released in its stead. Zelikow told Mother Jones in 2009 that Vice President Dick Cheney’s office had attempted to destroy any evidence of the classified memo, but that some copies might survive in the State Department’s archives.

It appears that Zelikow was right about the archives: the secret memo, which he called a “direct assault on [the Bush Justice Department’s] interpretation of American law,” was finally released by the State Department on Tuesday, three years after the National Security Archive and WIRED reporter Spencer Ackerman (then at the Washington Independent) first requested it under the Freedom of Information Act. You can read it here:

 

In 2009, when Zelikow told Mother Jones that the “White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo” and that he suspected Cheney’s involvement, he noted that the vice-president’s office was not officially allowed to do such a thing. “They didn’t run the interagency process. Such a request would more likely have come from the White House Counsel’s office or from NSC staff… It was conveyed to me, and I ignored it,” Zelikow said.

Neil Kinkopf, who worked for the Justice Department under the Clinton administration (and is now an Obama administration official), told Mother Jones in 2009 why Cheney might have wanted to get rid of the document: “People in the White House—Dick Cheney for example; David Addington, his legal adviser—didn’t want the existence of dissent to be known. It’s not hard to imagine David Addington playing very hardball internal politics and not only wanting to prevail over the view of Zelikow but to annihilate it. It would be perfectly consistent with how he operated.”

Zelikow told WIRED on Wednesday that he believes the Bush administration’s harsh interrogation techniques constituted a “felony war crime.”

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.