I wrote about this issue a couple weeks back. After CIA Director nominee Leon Panetta's confirmation hearings, the Wall Street Journal quotes him and comments:
"If we had a ticking-bomb situation and, obviously, whatever was being used I felt was not sufficient," Mr. Panetta told the Senate Intelligence Committee at his hearing to become CIA Director, "I would not hesitate to go to the President of the United States and request whatever additional authority I would need." While Mr. Panetta was careful to say that the Administration would "operate within the law," it was clear that those laws are somewhat more elastic than Democratic denunciations of "torture" would have it.Two weeks ago, we called this the Jack Bauer exception. Mr. Obama ordered all CIA field officers to adhere to the limits of the Army Field Manual, which would put all questioning on par with that of most police precincts. But he also qualified his inflexibility, creating the out clause of a review team to determine the techniques the CIA might be able to use in extreme cases when it is "absolutely necessary to find out what information that individual has," as Mr. Panetta put it.
In other words, the CIA team in Qetta, Pakistan captures a high-ranking Al Qaeda individual that they believe has sure and certain knowledge of a pending attack. They must contact up the chain of command to reach DCI Panetta, who may have to contact the DNI, and then get a hold of the president, will authorize the use of enhanced interrogation techniques by executive order, thereby making it not illegal.
In the wake of the Church Committee hearings in the 70s, I recall hearing the accusation that there were individuals within the intelligence community who have taken it upon themselves to carry out assassinations without the knowledge of the president. My response was very simply, I hope so. I hope there are people who are prepared to do what is necessary to defend this country against evil in the world, and frankly I don't want the president to know.
This one apparently wants all the details. That means there will be no handwashing after.