from From the Left blog
People have longed to find the proverbial smoking gun linking former Vice President Dick Cheney and torture. It appears we have found it.
The main purpose of the torture program the Bush administration authorized in 2002, according to former State Department official Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff for then-Secretary for State Colin Powell, started in then-Vice President Cheney’s office.
“Its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at preempting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al Qaeda,” Wilkerson wrote in The Washington Note, an online political journal.
Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel, says his accusation is based on information from current and former officials. He said he has been “relentlessly digging” since 2004, when Powell asked him to look into the scandal surrounding the treatment of prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
“I couldn’t walk into a courtroom and prove this to anybody, but I’m pretty sure it’s fairly accurate,” he told CNN.
“The priority had turned to other purposes, and one of those purposes was to find substantial contacts between al Qaeda and Baghdad,” he said.
The argument that Iraq could have provided weapons of mass destruction to terrorists such as al Qaeda was a key reason of the Bush administration’s case for the March 2003 military invasion. But after the invasion, Iraq was found to have dismantled its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.
Wilkerson says in one case, the CIA told then-Vice President Cheney’s office that a prisoner under its interrogation program was now “compliant,” meaning agents recommended the use of “alternative” techniques should stop.
At that point, “The VP’s office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods,” Wilkerson says.