After Abu Ghraib, journalists exposed how many of the techniques for which the abusers were being prosecuted were in fact authorised for use on detainees in Guantanamo and Iraq (just not by them). Since then, they've been trying to find out exactly how high it goes. Now the ACLU has found the proverbial smoking gun: an email which suggests that Bush himself directly authorised the use of torture:
The two-page e-mail that references an Executive Order states that the President directly authorized interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation, stress positions, the use of military dogs, and "sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc." The ACLU is urging the White House to confirm or deny the existence of such an order and immediately to release the order if it exists. The FBI e-mail, which was sent in May 2004 from "On Scene Commander--Baghdad" to a handful of senior FBI officials, notes that the FBI has prohibited its agents from employing the techniques that the President is said to have authorized.
The full text is here. There are repeated references to the Executive Order and to FBI agents witnessing the techniques being used. The list of techniques is repeated in two places. There's no question whatsoever of the ACLU misinterpreting what is being said; it is perfectly clear and explicit: authorisation for abusive techniques tantamount to torture came from the President himself.
Unfortunately, the order itself is required to prove this - and the White House will do its utmost to hide behind "national security" to avoid releasing it. I guess we'll just have to hope for a leak. It also raises the question of what else the President has authorised - there are reliable reports that US interrogators have used "waterboarding" (drowning and suffocation) when interrogating high-level detainees. Is this also authorised by the President? Unless someone comes forward, we'll never know.
But what really worries me is that the American public will look at this - at evidence of total moral bankruptcy at the highest levels of their government - shrug their shoulders, and go "so?" And then there really will be no hope for America.