ABC News reported a few days ago that a group of so-called Principals -- including Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice -- met dozens of times in the White House to "discuss and approve" specific interrogation techniques to be used against suspected terrorists.
Initial reports indicated that Bush was "insulated" from the "series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved." Bush eventually dispelled the notion that he was out of the loop, though, and said -- arguably, bragged -- that he endorsed the Principals' work from the outset. The president told ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz, "I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."
I realize that Barack Obama's making some clumsy comments about economic blight and the culture war may be mildly interesting, but this is a fairly big deal. Torture is, you know, illegal, immoral, un-American, etc. As Dan Froomkin noted today, "If you consider what the government did to be torture, which is a crime according to U.S. and international law, Bush's statement shifts his role from being an accessory after the fact to being part of a conspiracy to commit."
And yet, major news outlets have decided not to bother mentioning these revelations to the public at all. Froomkin observed, "There was no mention of Bush's admission in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or the Los Angeles Times. There was nothing on the major wire services. And nothing on CNN, CBS or NBC."
Post Script: On a related note, a journalist at the Associated Press' national conference today asked John McCain about torturing detainees, saying, "Don't we stand for something better?" McCain responded:
"I've made it very clear, I've made it very clear in my statements and in my support of the Detainee Treatment Act, the Geneva Conventions, etc., that there may be some additional techniques to be used, but none of those would violate the Geneva Conventions, the Detainee Treatment Act.... And we cannot ever, in my view, torture any American, that includes waterboarding."
Well, there's a bold declaration from Mr. Straight Talk. He does not believe that the U.S. government should torture U.S. citizens. What a relief.