WASHINGTON (AP) — In July 2004, despite growing internal concerns about the CIA's brutal interrogation methods, senior members of George W. Bush's national security team gave the agency permission to employ the harsh tactics against an al-Qaida facilitator the agency suspected was linked to a plot to disrupt the upcoming presidential election.
After weeks of torture that included being subjected to prolonged stress positions and sleep deprivation at a secret site in Romania, the prisoner, Janat Gul, begged to be killed. But he steadfastly denied knowledge of any plot, CIA records show __ leading interrogators to conclude he was not the hardened terrorist they thought he was, and that the informant who fingered him was a liar.
Yet there is no evidence the CIA relayed that information to the White House and the Justice Department, which continued to cite the case in legal justifications for the use of the brutal techniques.
In subsequent correspondence and testimony, the agency called the interrogation of Gul a success story on the grounds that it helped expose their original source as a fabricator.
The Gul case is an example of what a Senate investigation portrays as a dysfunctional relationship between the Bush White House and the CIA regarding the brutal interrogation program. The White House didn't press very hard for information, and the agency withheld details about the brutality of the techniques while exaggerating their effectiveness, the report shows.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general who was White House counsel when harsh CIA interrogations were approved, said it was not the White House's responsibility to manage the program. Gonzales was the only former senior Bush administration official who agreed to speak on the record about the matter.
Once executive branch lawyers declared it legal for the CIA to use harsh methods on al-Qaida prisoners in secret facilities, Gonzales said, it was up to the spy agency to oversee the mechanics, punish abuses, and keep policymakers informed. So Bush officials can't be blamed if CIA officers did things that were not authorized, or misinformed White House officials, as the report alleges, he said.
"Whether or not they followed the guidance, quite frankly, the oversight responsibility fell to the inspector general and general counsel of the CIA," said Gonzales, who is now a law professor at Belmont University in Tennessee. "We just wouldn't know about it, because that was not our responsibility."
Gonzales said he was present during conversations that made it clear Bush knew details of the program early on. But Bush was not formally briefed by the CIA until 2006, at which time he "expressed discomfort" with the "image of a detainee, chained to the ceiling, clothed in a diaper, and forced to go to the bathroom on himself," the report says.
Bush declined an AP request for comment, as did former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage. Condoleezza Rice, who was national security adviser at the program's inception, did not respond to interview requests. Nor did former Vice President Dick Cheney, former attorney general John Ashcroft, former White House counsel Harriet Myers, and former chief of staff Andrew Card.
Gonzales said he hasn't read the Senate report and considers it a one-sided, partisan document because it was written by Democratic staffers -- a view Cheney has also expressed publicly. Gonzales said he believes the coercive interrogations produced valuable intelligence and that the techniques should still be available to the CIA.
As for evidence of abuses, he said, "One of the lessons that one might get from all of this is the fact that war is a dirty business, and human beings sometimes they do things that they shouldn't do."
The torture of Janat Gul is a useful case study of how the CIA interrogations were overseen because it occurred two years into the program, after a report by the CIA inspector general had made clear that the harsh techniques were being employed far in excess of what had been envisioned in clinical Justice Department memos.
When the program began in 2002, many senior officials, including Powell and Rumsfeld, were not told about it. But by 2004, they had been, and Senate investigators determined that nearly every major national security official in the Bush administration was present at the meeting in which the decision was made to resume harsh techniques on Gul, the 110th of 199 detainees held and questioned by the CIA.
In the wake of the report, in June, CIA director George Tenet suspended use of harsh interrogation techniques. But in July, believing that Gul knew about a plot against the U.S., he got the Bush administration to grant permission to resume them. James Comey, then a top Justice Department lawyer and now the FBI director, was involved in the approval, records show. He has declined to comment on the Senate report.
"Janat Gul never provided the threat information the CIA originally told the National Security Council that Gul possessed," the Senate report says.
In April 2005, the CIA's chief of base in Romania wrote in an email that Gul "was never the person we thought he was."
"He is not the senior al-Qaida facilitator that he has been labeled," the email read. "... He was looking to make some easy money for little work, and he was easily persuaded to move people and run errands for folks on our target list."
DENVER (AP) — Colorado's top law enforcement official promises to vigorously defend the state's historic law legalizing marijuana after Nebraska and Oklahoma asked the U.S. Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional, saying the drug is freely flowing into neighboring states.
The two states filed a lawsuit seeking a court order to prevent Colorado from enforcing the measure known as Amendment 64, which was approved by voters in 2012 and allows recreational marijuana for adults over 21. The complaint says the measure runs afoul of federal law and therefore violates the Constitution's supremacy clause, which says federal laws trump state laws.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said the lawsuit was without merit.
"Because neighboring states have expressed concern about Colorado-grown marijuana coming into their states, we are not entirely surprised by this action," he said. "However, it appears the plaintiffs' primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado."
The lawsuit says Colorado marijuana flows into neighboring states undermining their efforts to enforce their anti-marijuana laws.
"This contraband has been heavily trafficked into our state," Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said at a news conference in Lincoln. "While Colorado reaps millions from the sale of pot, Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost."
Colorado has raised more than $60 million in taxes, licenses and fees from medical and recreational marijuana, which has been sold in stores since January.
The lawsuit says the sales have strained Nebraska and Oklahoma's finances and legal systems. Police are spending more time and money making arrests, housing inmates, impounding vehicles, seizing drugs and handling other problems related to Colorado pot.
Bruning, a Republican, blamed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for failing to enforce the federal law's ban on drugs in Colorado.
In a policy statement last year, the U.S. Justice Department noted it doesn't have the resources to police all violations of federal marijuana law. It laid out eight federal law enforcement priorities that states need to protect if they want to authorize "marijuana-related conduct." They include keeping marijuana in-state — something Oklahoma and Nebraska says Colorado has failed to do. The suit doesn't contain statistics to support the claim.
Law enforcement agencies have long said anecdotally that they are feeling the impacts of Colorado's legal weed, making more marijuana arrests and seizing more of the drug.
But there's no way to know exactly how much legal pot is leaving Colorado.
The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area wrote in a recent report that the amount of Colorado pot seized on highways increased from an annual average of 2,763 pounds between 2005 and 2008 to a yearly average of 3,690 pounds from 2009 to 2013. The weed was headed for at least 40 different states.
Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Mark Overman, in western Nebraska, said Colorado marijuana is extra potent, making it worth more in his region and giving sellers a greater financial incentive to do business there.
"I think this is overdue, and I think other states should jump on board," Overman said of the lawsuit. "I'm very frustrated. I take an oath of office, as does every other police officer in this country. I don't just get to pick and choose which laws I enforce."
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told The Denver Post he spoke with Nebraska and Oklahoma officials about their concerns.
"I'm not sure filing a lawsuit is the most constructive way to find a solution to whatever issues they are," he said.
Legal scholars say it's too early to know how the Supreme Court might handle the case or if it will even accept it.
"Right now, these regulations exist in legal no-man's-land," said Sam Kamin, a University of Denver law professor. "It's incredibly unusual for a state to be suing another state. (The lawsuit) certainly was a surprise to me given the movement at the federal level, which seems to be in favor of allowing states to experiment."
It was unclear if other neighboring states would take similar action. Attorneys general in Utah and New Mexico said they had no immediate plans to join the suit.
Brian Vicente, a Colorado attorney and legalization advocate who wrote Amendment 64, said the challenge is "political grandstanding" without merit. He said 23 states have enacted medical marijuana laws, and none have been overturned because of federal law.
"I think it shows they are on the wrong side of history," Vicente said. "Colorado voters passed this measure, and more and more states are passing these laws. If the attorney general has a problem with how federal laws are being enforced he should bring that up with the U.S. attorney."
DENVER (AP) — The parents of Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes are pleading for him to be spared the death penalty.
In a letter to The Denver Post published Friday, Robert and Arlene Holmes say they have always loved their son and do not want him to be executed.
"He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness," they wrote.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the 2012 attack at a movie theater in Aurora outside Denver. Jury selection is scheduled to start Jan. 20.
His parents, who live in Rancho Penasquitos, California, say they also would like to avoid a traumatic trial.
One option would be a plea deal allowing him to plead guilty to the charges in exchange for life in prison without parole.
"If that happened, our son would be in prison the rest of his life, but no one would have to relive those horrible events at a trial the media has permission to televise," they wrote.
They say the best option for their son would be if he is sent to an institution for the mentally ill, which could happen if he is found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Holmes' parents say they have spent every moment of the two years since the shooting thinking about the victims and their families and friends.
"We are always praying for everyone in Aurora. We wish that July 20, 2012 never happened," they wrote.
The letter is the first public comment by Holmes' parents about the shooting since some brief comments made through a lawyer immediately after the attack in which they also expressed support for him. They have not disclosed details of their son's condition or whether they had any warning that he might become violent.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan hanged two convicted militants Friday in the country's first executions in years, while warplanes and ground forces pounded insurgent hideouts in a northwest region bordering Afghanistan — part of a stepped-up response to the Taliban slaughter of scores of schoolchildren.
Unchastened by criticism from all corners of the globe, the Taliban threatened earlier Friday to kill more children if executions were carried out as promised.
"We can create a mourning situation at the homes of many army generals and politicians," spokesman Mohammad Khurassani said in a statement emailed to reporters.
A key question now is whether attacking children will undermine the sympathy many Pakistanis have for the militants. Analysts say the Islamabad government needs strong public support to continue the fight against insurgents in the northwest.
Many Pakistanis believe the militants are holy warriors taking up arms against Pakistan only because the government aligned itself with the unpopular U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. A network of seminaries and religious schools promote religious hate, and some of their leading clerics command widespread respect in the country.
Maulana Abdul Aziz, a radical cleric in Islamabad, warned in his Friday sermon at the famous Lal Masjid mosque about a backlash in the event of executions.
Aziz expressed his sorrow over the schoolchildren's deaths but also called for ending the operation against the Taliban in the tribal regions of North Waziristan and Khyber. He called the Taliban "our brothers" and warned that if the military continues its bombardment, "there will be a reaction."
But there were signs, albeit small, that this type of speech will find a tougher audience in Pakistan after Tuesday's attack, when militants strapped with explosives broke into a military-run school in Peshawar and killed 148 people — almost all of them children.
A few hundred people protested Friday night outside the Lal Masjid mosque, calling for an end to support for the militants.
"We wanted to also send this message that it's not enough for the government to take action against terrorists but it's equally important that we should also take action against these supporters of the Taliban," said human rights activist Farzana Bari.
In schools across Pakistan, special classes were held Friday, with schoolchildren chanting prayers in memory of the victims of the Taliban slaughter. In mosques throughout the country, worshippers also offered special prayers for the massacred innocents in Peshawar.
Another challenge for Pakistan will be creating a criminal justice system that can properly handle the militant networks. There are few convictions in militancy cases, partly because of a lack of protection for witnesses and judges.
A Pakistani prosecutor said the government will try to cancel the bail granted by a judge Thursday to the main suspect in the 2008 attack that killed 166 people in the Indian city of Mumbai. An outraged India noted in a statement that "given the scale of the tragedy that Pakistan itself has faced in recent days, it is incumbent on it to realize that no compromise can ever be made with terrorists."
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appears determined to show he understands that. On Wednesday, he announced that he would lift a moratorium on executions in terrorism-related cases. The military then promptly signed the death warrants of six "hard-core terrorists" who had been earlier sentenced by military courts.
The home minister for Punjab province confirmed the executions of the first two, Mohammed Aqeel and Arshad Mahmood, at a prison in the city of Faisalabad.
"We have started these executions by hanging two terrorists," Shuja Khanzada told The Associated Press. "Today's executions of terrorists will boost the morale of the nation, and we are planning to hang more terrorists next week."
Both Aqeel and Mahmood were tried in military courts so little is known publicly about the cases. Pakistani media reported that Aqeel was convicted in relation to a 2009 attack on army headquarters, and Mahmood for his role in a plot to kill former President Pervez Musharraf.
Capital punishment had been suspended since 2008, though there was one execution in 2012 by the military. The reinstated death penalty affects both civilian and military cases.
It's not just radical clerics who oppose the executions. Human rights organizations have raised concerns about using the death penalty in a country where police investigations are poor and confessions are said to be often induced by torture. There are an estimated 8,000 people on death row.
"It is extremely disappointing that the government has given into fear and anger by executing two people today. As horrific as the attack on the Peshawar school was, more killings - this time by the government - is never the answer to combating terrorism and crime," said David Griffiths, Amnesty International's Deputy Asia Pacific Director.
The other part of the government's tough response in the wake of the school massacre has been its widening the military offensive against the militants in the country's northwest.
The military said 119 insurgents were killed in three different offensives in the Khyber region Thursday and Friday — 62 in ground action and 57 in airstrikes. There was no immediate claim of civilian casualties.
Khyber borders Peshawar, where the school massacre happened, and militants have traditionally attacked the city before withdrawing to the tribal region where police cannot chase them.
Even if the government wins popular backing for an all-out military assault against the Pakistani wing of the Taliban, that doesn't mean it will also attack militant groups that use the country as a safe haven from which to carry out attacks abroad.
Pakistan has long been accused of playing a double game when it comes to dealing with militancy — fostering some militant groups that operate in Afghanistan and India as a way of maintaining influence there, while pursuing other militants who target the Pakistani state.
In June, when the military launched its operation in North Waziristan, it vowed it would go after all militants. Doubts remain, though, about how aggressively the army has pursued groups like the Afghan Taliban or the Haqqani network, which the U.S. says is responsible for numerous attacks in Afghanistan.
Associated Press writers Zarar Khan in Islamabad and Abdul Sattar in Quetta contributed to this report.
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine State Museum worker who police say prevented the abduction of a 2-year-old girl is a 65-year-old woman with a bum knee. But Sharon Wise says she was ready for a "big fight" if the assailant hadn't stopped trying to yank the girl through the exit.
Wise, of Winthrop, said Friday that James Cavallaro caught her eye because he was acting strangely.
She intervened Tuesday when he suddenly grabbed the girl while her grandmother's back was turned, saying she looked the man in the eye and told him: "Don't you touch her. You let her go!"
"I did what I had to do, because he wasn't leaving there with her," she told The Associated Press. "There would've been a fight, a big fight, if he kept yanking her."
Cavallaro, of Bath, left the museum and was quickly arrested, law enforcement officials said.
He was out on bail at the time of the museum encounter, authorities said. He remained jailed Friday, charged with assault and violating terms of release. The Kennebec Journal reported that he faces charges of aggravated assault, domestic assault and terrorizing in another case. It was unknown if he'd hired a lawyer.
Bernard Fishman, director of the Maine State Museum, said it holds training on how to deal with a child who is missing. He praised Wise for paying attention to her surroundings and realizing that something was wrong.
Wise, a retired teacher who has four grandchildren, said she knew the girl and her grandmother, who were regulars at the museum, and knew something was wrong when the man grabbed the youngster.
"You don't touch a kid — you just don't," she said.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Two days after reopening diplomatic relations with Cuba, President Barack Obama said Friday he doesn't expect the effort to bring overnight change on the island, a quick end to the U.S. economic embargo or the likelihood that he will soon visit the communist nation.
"This is still a regime that oppresses its people," Obama said at a year-end news conference two days after the historic announcement that he was moving to end the half century of Cold War acrimony with Havana. He said he hopes to visit Cuba at some point in his life but that he is not at the stage yet of going or hosting Cuban President Raul Castro in Washington.
Instead, Obama said the change in policy should give the U.S. a greater opportunity to have influence on Cuba and reflects his belief that 50 years of isolation haven't worked. He said the embargo should end but he didn't anticipate it soon.
"We will be in a position to respond to whatever action they take the same way we do with a whole range of countries around the world when they do things that we think are wrong," Obama said. "There may be carrots as well as sticks that we can then apply."
On another subject of what the U.S. sees as foreign wrongdoing, Obama was asked about the recent hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment and the company's decision not to send out a new movie that North Korea was angrily protesting.
Speaking shortly after the FBI said North Korea was behind the hack, Obama said he felt Sony "made a mistake" in shelving the satirical film about a plot to assassinate North Korea's leader. He said the U.S. would respond to North Korea's action "in a place and manner and time that we choose."
Cuba and North Korea were just two issues that Obama addressed concerning a year he saw as basically positive. In fact he declared 2014 "a breakthrough year for America," putting aside the fits and starts of the past 12 months to focus on achievements and the prospect of compromise with his political foes who are taking control of Congress.
"My presidency is entering the fourth quarter. Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter," Obama said before leaving on a two-week vacation to Hawaii.
The news conference came at the end of what Obama titled his "Year of Action," one in which Congress failed to take up most of his agenda and he turned to looking for ways to act on his own. Republicans cried foul at that tactic, accusing Obama of overstepping his authority, and voters didn't seem to think much of the strategy, either, giving the president low marks in public opinion polls.
On Friday, the president acknowledged many unanticipated crises in the past year but said he enters 2015 with renewed confidence that "America is making strides where it counts." He said he intends to make sure the economy, government and justice system work for everyone.
"I am energized," Obama declared, trying to shake off last month's midterm elections that brought crushing losses for his party.
He ticked off the year's improvements, citing lower unemployment and a rising number of Americans covered by health insurance and a historic diplomatic opening with Cuba. On climate change, the touted his own executive action and a Chinese agreement to combat global warming. He also noted that on Friday the Treasury Department announced it had sold the last investment related to the Wall Street and auto bailouts. And he said America's combat mission in Afghanistan would soon be over.
"Take any metric that you want, America's resurgence is real. We are better off," Obama said.
He will return to Washington with both congressional chambers under Republican control — a first since he's been in the White House — and attention turning to the 2016 race to replace him. While much of his agenda will face a dead end on Capitol Hill, Obama said he'll look for areas of compromise on issues like taxes and continue to act on his own where he can.
Obama said he has been speaking to House Speaker John Boehner and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about how they can make progress.
"They are serious about wanting to get things done. The tax area is one area where we can get things done," Obama said. He said he wanted to see more fairness and simplicity, but he cautioned, "The devil's in the details."
His comments weren't all sweetness and light.
Obama warned Republicans that he would block efforts to erode his health care law or further water down banking regulation enacted in the aftermath of the financial crisis. "I'm confident that I'll be able to uphold vetoes of those types of provisions," he said, though he recently signed a major bill that included softening of some bank regulations.
In another potential area of conflict, Obama downplayed the benefits of building the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, arguing it would not lower gasoline prices and that more jobs would be created by repairing America's infrastructure.
He said the pipeline would mainly benefit Canadian oil companies that need to get Canadian oil to the Gulf of Mexico. He said the pipeline is "not even a nominal benefit for U.S. consumers."
McConnell has said it would be the first bill taken up under the new GOP-majority Senate. But environmentalists have made opposition to its approval a priority.
On Cuba, Obama said longtime leader Fidel Castro's name came up only briefly in his phone call with Castro's brother and successor. Obama said he opened the call with about 15 minutes of an opening statement, then apologized for talking so long.
Obama said President Raul Castro responded, "You're still a young man and you still have a chance to break Fidel's record. He once spoke for seven hours straight."
Obama said the Cuban leader then delivered an opening statement at least twice as long as his. "I was able to say it runs in the family."