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First 100 days: Torture story continues

The New York Times is chock-full of pieces that advance the interrogation story. From the front page: "In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned. This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved -- not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees -- investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate." 

Inside, the Times writes about the White House backtracking on possibly prosecuting the former Bush administration officials who authored the interrogation memos. "The comments knocked the ordinarily smooth White House press operation back on its heels. Mr. Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, spent much of his daily briefing on Tuesday being peppered with questions about precisely what Mr. Obama had meant, declaring at one point, 'To clear up any confusion on anything that might have been said, I would point you to what the president said.'"

"The White House's shifting comments in recent days provide a glimpse into its struggle to deal with one of the thorniest issues Mr. Obama has faced since taking office. That issue has turned all the more prickly for him since his decision to release previously secret memorandums detailing the harsh tactics used by the C.I.A. under President George W. Bush -- memos revealing that, for instance, two captured operatives of Al Qaeda were subjected a total of 266 times to a form of near drowning known as waterboarding." 

And per a third NYT story: "President Obama's national intelligence director told colleagues in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques banned by the White House did produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists. 'High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa'ida organization that was attacking this country,' Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote in a memo to his staff last Thursday."   

Last night, Blair released the following statement: "The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means. The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security."

The AP has more on the White House's reversal on possibly prosecuting the former Bush administration officials: "In a flash, the story was not Obama's decision, but whether he had changed his position. The White House said no, but struggled to explain why not. So what happened?  Outside forces, some muddled communication within a tight-ship White House, and a president determined to try to get the debate back on his terms."

More: "White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said over the weekend the administration did not support prosecutions for "those who devised policy." Aides later said he was referring to CIA superiors who ordered the interrogations, not the Justice Department officials who wrote the legal memos allowing them." 

Politico: "The Pentagon's senior military leaders are worried that the security situation in Afghanistan is stalemated or deteriorating, and now are preparing a far-reaching plan that would prepare the U.S. military for a war that could last three to five more years, officials said."