A couple years ago, the CIA was instructed by the Justice Department to waterboard and torture all the al-Qaeda members they secretly detained in illegal prisons. But the CIA got a bit worried! Because, you see, administrations come and go, but the CIA is forever. They've become quite skilled as ass-covering. So they pressured the White House to give written policy approval of "enhanced interrogation techniques." Why? So they could leak the memo to the Washington Post in case someone like Condi Rice tried the "it was all the CIA's idea and we knew nothing" line. Which she did! Condi told Congress last month that the Bush administration was "initially uneasy about a controversial CIA plan for interrogating top al-Qaeda suspects." She says she asked someone to look into whether the torturing was legal or not. But the CIA remembers it differently.

The repeated requests for a paper trail reflected growing worries within the CIA that the administration might later distance itself from key decisions about the handling of captured al-Qaeda leaders, former intelligence officials said. The concerns grew more pronounced after the revelations of mistreatment of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and further still as tensions grew between the administration and its intelligence advisers over the conduct of the Iraq war. "It came up in the daily meetings. We heard it from our field officers," said a former senior intelligence official familiar with the events. "We were already worried that we" were going to be blamed. A. John Radsan, a lawyer in the CIA general counsel's office until 2004, remembered the discussions but did not personally view the memos the agency received in response to its concerns. "The question was whether we had enough 'top cover,' " Radsan said.

Hah. This is still the very important role of the Washington Post, by the way: the media battleground on which inter-agency government PR and blame battles are fought. Go read the story. Even as CIA CYA, it's more interesting than another bullshit horse race campaign story. CIA Tactics Endorsed In Secret Memos [WP]