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Profile: Scott Muller
Scott Muller was a participant or observer in the following events:
Scott Muller. [Source: New York Times]Sometime in 2003, CIA General Counsel Scott Muller raises the idea of destroying videotapes of the interrogations of al-Qaeda leaders Abu Zubaida and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri during discussions in 2003 with Justice Department lawyers. But the Justice Department lawyers advise against destroying them. It is unknown what the basis for their advice is. Muller similarly approaches White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harriet Miers with the idea and she also advises him against it (see Between 2003-Late 2005). [New York Times, 12/8/2007]
Harriet Miers. [Source: Public domain via Wikipedia]White House official Harriet Miers is informed by CIA General Counsel Scott Muller that the CIA has made video recordings of detainee interrogations and is told that the CIA is considering destroying the tapes. She advises not to destroy them. [ABC News, 12/7/2007; New York Times, 12/8/2007] The CIA is canvassing opinion on whether the tapes can be destroyed, and it repeatedly asks Miers about what it should do with the videotapes (see November 2005), which are said to show questionable interrogation methods. These discussions are reportedly documented in a series of e-mails between the CIA and the White House. One person involved is CIA Acting General Counsel John Rizzo. Miers’ opinion is asked because the CIA apparently thinks its interrogation and detention program was “imposed” on it by the White House, so the decision about what to do with the tapes should be made “at a political level.” Miers continues to advise the CIA that the tapes should not be destroyed, but the CIA destroys them anyway in late 2005 (see November 2005). [Newsweek, 12/11/2007] It is unclear when this happens. One account says Miers is first consulted in 2003, another in 2005. Miers is deputy chief of staff to the President until early 2005, when she becomes White House Council. [New York Times, 12/19/2007] The CIA also asks other White House officials for their opinions, but there are contradictory reports of their advice (see (2003-2004)).
Jane Harman. [Source: US House of Representatives]CIA General Counsel Scott Muller briefs a small group of legislators on the CIA’s detainee interrogation program, and indicates that it has made videotapes of the interrogations. Muller says that the CIA is now thinking about destroying the tapes, because they put the officers shown on them at risk. Although four to eight legislators have already been briefed about the program (see September 2002), this is apparently the first mention that videotapes of interrogations have been made. [New York Times, 12/8/2007] According to House Intelligence Committee member Jane Harman (D-CA), the briefing raises “a number of serious concerns.” [The Gavel, 12/9/2007] Both Harman and another of those present, Porter Goss (R-FL), advise the CIA that they think destroying the tapes is a bad idea (see November 2005). Harman is apparently supported by fellow Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who is said to “concur” with Harman’s objections to the tapes’ destruction. [International Herald Tribune, 12/8/2007] Harman writes a follow-up letter to Muller asking about legal opinions on interrogation techniques and urging the CIA to reconsider its decision to destroy the tapes (see February 28, 2003).
President Bush issues a proclamation to mark the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Bush states that the US is “committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example.” He vows to prosecute torture and to prevent any “other cruel and unusual punishment.” The CIA’s chief lawyer, Scott Muller, complains to the White House that Bush’s statement could cause CIA interrogators, authorized by Bush to torture suspected al-Qaeda members (see February 7, 2002), to fear that they could be used as scapegoats by the administration. White House officials reassure Muller that despite Bush’s words, the administration still supports the CIA’s torture of prisoners. [New York Times, 5/3/2009]
After becoming unhappy with the quality of information it is receiving from the CIA about detainee interrogations (see Summer 2003), the 9/11 Commission not only gives the CIA more questions for detainees, but also asks it how the interrogations are carried out. The Commission thinks the second set of questions is the most important, but the CIA only responds to them in a vague manner. They concern the translation process in the interrogations, the interrogators’ background, the way the interrogators handle inconsistencies in the detainees’ stories, the particular questions that were asked to elicit reported information, the way interrogators followed up on certain lines of questioning, the context of the interrogations so the Commission can assess the credibility and demeanor of the detainees when they made the reported statements, and the interrogators’ views or assessments. According to a later account by Commission chairman Tom Kean and vice-chairman Lee Hamilton, CIA general counsel Scott Muller writes back with “non-specific replies.” Muller also fails to inform the Commission that the CIA has videotapes of some of the interrogations (see Summer 2003-January 2004). Because the Commission is “not satisfied” with Muller’s response, it pushes for direct access to detainees, but this attempt fails (see November 5, 2003-January 2004 and After January 2004). [New York Times, 1/2/2008]
Jack Goldsmith, the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), sends a classified memo to a number of general counsels: the State Department’s William Howard Taft IV, the Defense Department’s William Haynes, the White House’s chief counsel for national security John Bellinger, the CIA’s Scott Muller, and the White House’s Alberto Gonzales. The memo is a draft opinion that concludes the US government can withdraw “protected persons” (a classification of the Geneva Conventions) who are illegal aliens from Iraq to other countries to facilitate interrogation—in other words, the US can subject them to rendition. Goldsmith says the US can also rendition so-called “protective persons” who have not been accused of a crime and who are not illegal aliens in Iraq, as long as the custody is for a brief period. [US Department of Justice, 3/19/2004 ; Cross, 2005; American Civil Liberties Union [PDF], 1/28/2009 ] The memo correlates with another Justice Department memo rejecting “protected person” status for some who are detained by US forces in Iraq (see March 18, 2004).
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