Bob Schieffer did not challenge Sen. Jeff Sessions' assertion that "there was no evidence that the higher-ups participated in any way" in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. In fact, a Senate committee report found culpability among "senior" U.S. officials.
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On the July 12 edition of CBS' Face The Nation, host Bob Schieffer did not challenge Sen. Jeff Sessions' (R-AL) assertion that "there was no evidence that the higher-ups participated in any way" in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. Sessions also stated, "It was an unusual event, and the military did the right thing and prosecuted the people who were responsible." In fact, a 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report found that "[t]he abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of 'a few bad apples' acting on their own," and that "senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees."
Indeed, as Media Matters for America has noted, while former President Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney have asserted that detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib was, in Cheney's words, "not policy," the committee's report, released jointly by chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and ranking member Sen. John McCain, found:
The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at GTMO. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody. What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely.
The same report found:
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there. Secretary Rumsfeld's December 2, 2002 approval of [former Department of Defense general counsel] Mr. [Jim] Haynes's recommendation that most of the techniques contained in GTMO's October 11, 2002 request be authorized, influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques, including military working dogs, forced nudity, and stress positions, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
From the July 12 edition of CBS' Face the Nation:
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): But that somewhat begs the question, because it's -- I have a great deal of admiration for the CIA agents who are out there working hard on the front line, and, like Jeff, I have talked to them, I have met with them in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and elsewhere, as well as our soldiers.
But remember what happened at Abu Ghraib, which -- we'll make a big inquiry, and who gets punished? Mostly the corporals and the lower echelon, not the people who condoned that. If, as The New York Times says, we have the vice president of the United States telling people to break the law, now that's a pretty serious matter.
Either he did or he didn't. If he did, that's something we ought to know, because I've been here with six administrations. Usually, if something is done wrong by one and it's exposed, the next one tends to behave themselves.
SCHIEFFER: So --
SESSIONS: But, Pat, I would just say on that Abu Ghraib, there was no evidence that the higher-ups participated in any way. In fact, one of those defendants that was tried and convicted and went to jail said that, no, they didn't know, and if they had, there would have been hell to pay. In other words, it wouldn't have happened. It was an unusual event, and the military did the right thing and prosecuted the people who were responsible.
SCHIEFFER: Well, what about this whole idea, though, Senator Sessions, that the vice president is now -- people are saying -- I mean, sources are saying that he told the CIA not to tell the Congress about it. Now, that's pretty serious stuff.