Here’s what Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy during the Bush Administration, told the New York Times in response to the prospect of torture-related charges being brought against him in Spain:
I didn’t even argue for the thing I understand they’re objecting to.
Feith was, in the newspaper’s words, “baffled by the allegations.”
The case at issue has been sent to prosecutors for review by Baltasar Garzon, the activist Spanish judge who ordered the arrest of Augusto Pinochet in the late 1990s. The gist of the lengthy complaint is this: that six former Bush officials — including Feith, Alberto Gonzales, and John Yoo — created a legal framework that allowed for the torture of detainees at Guantanamo.
So is Feith right to be “baffled” by his name popping up among those facing potential charges? Let’s go to the record:
In an infamous November 2002 “action memo” written by General Counsel William Haynes (who is also named in the complaint), Feith is one of three officials mentioned as having been party to discussions about acceptable techniques to use on Guantanamo detainees. Among the techniques approved by Donald Rumsfeld, who signed the memo: “stress positions” and “inducing stress by use of detainee’s fears (e.g. dogs).”
“I have discussed this with the Deputy, Doug Feith, and General Myers,” Haynes wrote: “I believe that all join in my recommendation” to authorize several categories of techniques.
At the bottom of the memo, Feith is cc’ed by the acronym of his job title, USD(P), or undersecretary of defense for policy.
There’s a wealth of information about Feith’s role in British lawyer Philippe Sands’ book, Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values. In fact, the memo in the title is the November 2002 document described above.
On the topic of a February 2002 memo, signed by President Bush, that concluded none of the provisions of the Geneva Conventions applied to “our conflict with al Qaeda,” Sands, whom Feith has clashed with over the book, quotes Feith as saying “with pride”:
This was something I played a major role in.
Sands also reports that Feith saw Bush’s decision as “actually a strike for the Geneva Conventions and for international law.”
It may take the Spanish prosecutors a while to chew through all this material.