The Torture Memo

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by numediaman, Jun 14, 2004.

  1. numediaman macrumors 6502a

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    #1
    Now that Reagan has (finally) been buried, I think this will be the news of the week.

    The Washington Post has published the full text of a memo which outlines the legal arguments in favor of the use of force in Iraq and elsewhere. This is the memo that Attorney General Ashcroft refused to release to Congress, prompting more than a few negative comments and a threat of "contempt of Congress".

    Here is an instant analysis of the memo (assuming you don't want to read the full 50 pages yourself):

    From Discourse.net

    The memo concludes that the restrictions are very limited — that only acts inflicting and “specifically intended to inflict severe pain or suffering”, whether mental or physical, are prohibited. Allowed are severe mental pain not intended to have lasting effects (pity if they do…), and physical pain less than that which acompanies “serious physical injury such as death or organ failure” (p. 46). Having opined that some cruel, inhuman, or degrading acts are not forbidden, only those that are “extreme acts” (committed on purpose), the memo moves on to “examine defenses” that could be asserted to “negate any claims that certain interrogation methods violate the statute.”

    • This is not a draft, but it’s not an action document either. It’s legal advice to the Counselor for the President. The action document was Gonzales’s memo to Bush.
    • This OLC document is a legalistic, logic-chopping brief for the torturer. Its entire thrust is justifying maximal pain.
    • Nowhere do the authors say “but this would be wrong”.
    • Lots of the (lousy) criminal law legal reasoning in this memo is picked up in the Draft Walker Working Group memo
    • This memo also has a full dose of the royalist vision of the Presidency that informs the Draft Walker memo. In the views of the author(s), there’s basically nothing Congress can do to constrain the President’s exercise of the war power. The Geneva Conventions are, by inevitable implications, not binding on the President, nor is any other international agreement if it impedes the war effort. I’m sure our allies will be just thrilled to hear that. And, although the memo nowhere treats this issue, presumably, also, the same applies in reverse, and our adversaries should feel unconstrained by any treaties against poison gas, torture, land mines, or anything else? Or is ignoring treaties a unique prerogative of the USA?​

    The memo argues (p. 35) that Congress “may no more regulate the President’s ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield.” Either this is just bunk, or the Geneva conventions, the prohibitions on the use of poison gas, all the rest of the web of international agreements to which the US is a party, are so much tissue paper. We’re no longer committed to the rule of law, but the rule of force . . .

    . . . I do feel a need to point out just how far down the slippery slope this memo goes by page 45. It argues that otherwise criminal individual acts can be defended by invoking the nations’s not the individual’s right to self-defense (and even in a footnote argues that there’s a relevant analogy to the right to national self-defense under international law. And this applies to suspected prospective attackers and their associates as well as soldiers in the field. How this differs from saying that if the US even suspects anyone of wanting to harm it, it can do anything it wants to them is not clear on first reading.

    Ultimately, the best legal commentary on this memo may belong to Professor Jay Leno:

    According to the “New York Times”, last year White House lawyers concluded that President Bush could legally order interrogators to torture and even kill people in the interest of national security - so if that’s legal, what the hell are we charging Saddam Hussein with?

    Remember: the lawyers who wrote this memo were guilty of a lack of moral sense, and extreme tunnel vision fueled by a national panic. The people who asked them to write it, who read it, and especially any who may have acted on it — they’re people who really have the most to answer for.

    http://www.discourse.net/archives/2004/06/olcs_aug_1_2002_torture_memo_the_bybee_memo.html
     
  2. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #2
    i guess i missed something -- how did the Post get the memo?
     
  3. Sayhey macrumors 68000

    Sayhey

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    #3
    This memo has been out for over a week. I believe the Wall Street Journal first reported on it. Over a month ago Seymour Hersh talked about its existence. It looks like the administration is trying to bottle up not only the contents of the memo, but also to hide who asked for it, and actions or policies issued on the basis of it. My guess is that this goes straight to the top - Cheney (oh yeah, Bush might have ok'd it as well.) Ashcroft has dug in his heels in order that any direct tie to the White House is delayed until after the election. He is also betting that the Republican Congress will not follow through on contempt of Congress threats.
     
  4. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #4
    the memo itself has or news of its existence has? i'm basically asking if it was leaked to the press or if the WH released it. i assumed the former, but thought maybe the latter happened over the weekend and i just didn't hear about it.
     
  5. Sayhey macrumors 68000

    Sayhey

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    #5
    It was leaked. If you want to read it yourself you can get it here.
     
  6. Voltron macrumors newbie

    Voltron

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    #6
    *gasp* then we need to find the source of the leak and plug it make sure the perpetrator goes to jail for releasing info he wasn't allowed to release. You know like that guy that leaked Democrat interoffice memos. Fair and Balanced. :p

    Any relation to the Tonight Show?
     
  7. numediaman thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #7
    Just to clarify: there are two memos that have surfaced.

    The first one reported on was the one that appeared in the Wall Street Journal about a week ago. This memo was "dated March 6, 2003, from a Defense Department working group convened by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to come up with new interrogation guidelines for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, incorporated much, but not all, of the legal thinking from the OLC memo" -- from today's WaPo.

    The original memo is the one the Washington Post got a hold of and printed today. This memo is dated August 1, 2002.

    From today's WaPo:

    The memo was written at the request of the CIA. The CIA wanted authority to conduct more aggressive interrogations than were permitted prior to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The interrogations were of suspected al Qaeda members whom the CIA had apprehended outside the United States. The CIA asked the White House for legal guidance. The White House asked the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel for its legal opinion on the standards of conduct under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

    The Office of Legal Counsel is the federal government's ultimate legal adviser. The most significant and sensitive topics that the federal government considers are often given to the OLC for review. In this case, the memorandum was signed by Jay S. Bybee, the head of the office at the time. Bybee's signature gives the document additional authority, making it akin to a binding legal opinion on government policy on interrogations. Bybee has since become a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.​

    As a result of the two memos, this much can be established beyond a reasonable doubt: the administration was contemplating the use of torture, that it had examined the legal implications of their actions, and they believed that they could act without regard to international treaties, and felt they were beyond the reach of oversight from either the Congress or the judiciary.

    It does not prove that the President or his advisors directly approved of, or ordered torture. But we are getting incredibly close.

    It does, however, present a chilling picture of an administration that feels it is above the law and has little or no regard for the limits to power imposed on it by the Constitution and by ratified international treaties. (and it's starting to feel like Watergate again)
     
  8. Sayhey macrumors 68000

    Sayhey

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    #8
    I stand corrected. Thanks, numedia.
     
  9. numediaman thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #9
    Daniel Ellsberg, in a column, asked government officials to leak documents to show that the administration knew in advance that their public reasons for going to war were phoney.

    I have no doubt that there are thousands of pages of documents in safes in London and Washington right now - the Pentagon Papers of Iraq - whose unauthorized revelation would drastically alter the public discourse on whether we should continue sending our children to die in Iraq. That's clear from what has already come out through unauthorized disclosures from many anonymous sources and from officials and former officials such as David Kelly and US ambassador Joseph Wilson, who revealed the falsity of reports that Iraq had pursued uranium from Niger, which President Bush none the less cited as endorsed by British intelligence in his state of the union address before the war. Both Downing Street and the White House organized covert pressure to punish these leakers and to deter others, in Dr Kelly's case with tragic results.

    Those who reveal documents on the scale necessary to return foreign policy to democratic control risk prosecution and prison sentences, as Katherine Gun is now facing. I faced 12 felony counts and a possible sentence of 115 years; the charges were dismissed when it was discovered that White House actions aimed at stopping further revelations of administration lying had included criminal actions against me.

    Exposing governmental lies carries a heavy personal risk, even in our democracies. But that risk can be worthwhile when a war's-worth of lives is at stake.

    http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0127-03.htm

    The leaks are coming fast now. It turns out that the use of torture may be the thing that hurts the administration more than the war itself.
     
  10. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #10
    i think it's a bad sign for an administration when it gets difficult to keep all the leaks and scandals straight.

    in retrospect, i guess "avoiding even the appearance of impropriety" was more a statement on secrecy than avoiding wrongdoing.
     
  11. wwworry macrumors regular

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    #11
    Daily Show clip: Stewart, Durbin, and Biden tear Ashcroft a new one.

    Click on:
    http://www.everythingisnt.com/archives/00001564.htm
    mirror: http://www.danielharan.com/resources/daily-show-ashcroft-memo(divx).avi
    mirror: http://www.angryfinger.org/archives/000344.html
    Daily Show clip: Stewart, Durbin, and Biden tear Ashcroft a new one.
    to see video clip.

    You may have to have the right software (divx) to see the video.
    http://www.divx.com/divx/mac/ for the mac
    http://www.divx.com/divx/player/index.php for the windows PC

    very funny

    you can also see an abridged version on the comedy central website

    very very funny
    may
     
  12. numediaman thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    wwworry, thanks for posting the full version.

    A blogger I read occasionally dug up this old story. Pretty ironic, huh?

    3-6-2003
    Central Command: Iraq ordered U.S., U.K. military uniforms
    U.S. fears paramilitary group will commit 'war atrocities' in disguise

    WASHINGTON (CNN) --In an effort to blame the United States and United Kingdom for war atrocities, the U.S. Central Command charged Thursday that Iraq will dress members of a paramilitary force in uniforms from the two countries while hurting his own people.

    In a written statement, Jim Wilkinson, Central Command's director of strategic communications, said, "Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has ordered the procurement of military uniforms identical down to the last detail to those of the U.S. and U.K. forces."

    "Saddam intends to issue these uniforms to Fedayeen Saddam troops, who would wear them when conducting reprisals against the Iraqi people so that they could pass the atrocities off as the work of the United States and the United Kingdom," Wilkinson said. "This campaign of fear and misinformation would represent the latest chapter in Saddam Hussein's long history of brutal crimes against the innocent people of Iraq."​

    I'm surprised Slyhunter didn't see this one coming. Those U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib, they're really Iraqis in disguise. Lynndie England is really an Iraqi guy in drag.
     

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