Cross-posted from The New Republic.
Last week’s report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General reveals that working in the Bush Administration really does mean never having to say you’re sorry—or, indeed, anything else you don’t want to for that matter. And this applies even when it’s your executive branch colleagues who are trying to get you to talk.
The Justice Department’s inspector general Glenn A. Fine has issued a thorough and unblinking report about the concerns FBI agents had about the harsh interrogation tactics, possibly rising to the level of torture, that were being used on detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo. These were concerns, Fine discovered, that were systematically ignored and discounted by cabinet members and other political appointees. Conspicuously absent from Fine’s 437-page opus, however, is any input from one of the most important of those political appointees: former Justice Department leader John Ashcroft. The phrase “Attorney General Ashcroft declined to be interviewed for this review” or its equivalent appears repeatedly throughout the report—often followed by an indication that the report is necessarily incomplete because of it. For instance, due to Ashcroft’s absence, we don’t know which agency or individual made the decisions regarding what interrogation tactics would be used on specific detainees; whether Ashcroft himself objected to the use of any particular tactics; when he first became aware of his subordinates’ concerns; or whether he conveyed those concerns to high-level officials outside the Justice Department and, if so, how those officials responded.