Monday, October 08, 2007

Torture Trading Cards

Al “Torqueberto” Gonzales may be gone, and I already wished him good riddance, but his legacy lives on. It seems that when we repudiated the infamous torture memo, there was another even more super double secret torture memo in the wings to take its place. The New York Times last week in a Pulitzer bait article detailed the long torturous history of our attempts to give the most morally repugnant practices a veneer of legality so that the entire Dubya Administration doesn’t get hauled in front of the Hague at the first opportunity. The story is so convoluted, I put together some baseball card style bios so we can keep the characters straight. I'll let you decide who are the good guys and the the bad guys.

John Yoo
Position: Berkeley law professor serving in the Office of Legal Counsel (2001-2003)
Nickname: Dr. Yes (given to him by John Ashcroft)
Published Works: The Powers Of War And Peace: The Constitution And Foreign Affairs After 9/11 and War by Other Means: An Insider's Account of the War on Terror

Role: Wrote the original August 2002 Torture Memo that
said no interrogation practices were illegal unless they produced pain equivalent to organ failure or “even death.” A second memo produced at the same time spelled out the approved practices and how often or how long they could be used.
His principal novel legal theory is Unitary Executive Power meaning that during wartime, the president’s authority exceeds that of any law or treaty.

David Addington
Position: Vice President Legal Counsel (2001-2005), Vice President Chief of Staff (October 2005 – present)
Nickname: “The Most Powerful Man You’ve Never Heard Of” (US New & World Report)
Role: According to a Newsweek article titled “Palace Revolt” Addington spearheaded the drive to expand executive power.
Addington and a small band of like-minded lawyers set about providing that cover—a legal argument that the power of the president in time of war was virtually untrammeled.

Minimizing dissent by going behind the backs of bureaucratic rivals was how he played the game. A potentially formidable obstacle, however, was the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. The OLC is the most important government office you've never heard of. Its carefully worded opinions are regarded as binding precedent—final say on what the president and all his agencies can and cannot legally do.

The brainy, pleasant and supremely self-confident Yoo became Addington's main man at Justice, a prolific author of legal opinions granting the president maximum power during wartime.
Addington became Cheney’s chief of staff after Scooter Libby’s resignation for his role in exposing Valerie Plame’s CIA employment.

If you truly believe in greater executive power, like his boss does, the right to torture prisoners in defiance of the Geneva Convention and simple human decency just seems like an odd battle to fight.
James B. Comey
Position: Deputy Attorney General (December 2003 through August 2005)
Nickname: "Cuomey" (by Nicknamer-In-Chief Dubya)
Role: Comey was a central figure in the faction of DoJ lawyers that opposed the NSA wiretapping program. In regards to the interrogation memo, the Times reports his reaction:
Disagreeing with what he viewed as the opinion’s overreaching legal reasoning, Mr. Comey told colleagues at the department that they would all be “ashamed” when the world eventually learned of it.
According to the New York Times:
At a 2004 White House meeting, former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey asserted that “no lawyer” would endorse the legal justification authored by former Justice Department attorney John Yoo for the NSA warrantless surveillance program. Addington reportedly replied that he was a lawyer and found it convincing, to which Comey shot back: “No good lawyer,” according to someone present at the meeting.
Jack Goldsmith
Position: Assistant United States Attorney General and Head of the Office of Legal Counsel (October 2003 to July 2004)
Published Works: The Terror Presidency

Role: Repudiated the John Yoo memos as being overreaching and poorly reasoned. Under his watch, the Justice Department issued a statement that
“Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms.”
He was in the room when Gonzales and Andrew Card tried to get John Ashcroft to sign orders authorizing warrantless wiretaps on Americans.

According to the Newsweek article, Addington and Goldsmith clashed repeatedly over presidential power and the balance between protecting America and upholding the laws governing treatment of prisoners.

Stephen J. Bradbury
Position: Head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department (June 23, 2005 to present)
Role: He had been Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the OLC on a probationary basis. Bradbury became head of the OLC when Jack Goldsmith resigned. He signed the official interpretation that all currently practiced CIA interrogation techniques were legal.
[His office issued] a statement that the standard imposed by Mr. McCain’s Detainee Treatment Act would not force any change in the C.I.A.’s practices, according to officials familiar with the memo.
These practices include:
a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.
Nope. None of these sound like torture. {end sarcasm} They do sound a lot like waterboarding and other war crimes that Gestapo interrogators were sentenced to death for after World War II.

Michael Hayden
Position: Director, National Security Agency (March 1999 - April 2005)
Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence (April 2005 - May 2006)
Director of the CIA (May 2006 – present)
Role: When faced with the accusations of the New York Times article, he responded with an internal agency memo that was obtained by the Washington Post. In it he
disputed the suggestion that the Justice Department opinion opened the door to harsher interrogation practices. He described the CIA's interrogation program as "small, carefully run and highly productive."

"Fewer than 100 hardened terrorists have gone through the program since it began in 2002, and, of those, less than a third have required any special methods of questioning,"
So by his own admission, the CIA has tortured over thirty prisoners. And that doesn't include actions by independent contractors or other governmental agencies.

There’s an old joke about a fellow that laments being taunted by his neighbors. He defends himself by whining “Shag one little sheep and the rest of your life you’re known as the village sheep shagger." Well, the same goes for countries that torture prisoners. It only takes one to get a reputation.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Are torture advocates war criminals or patriots?


Anonymous said...

War criminals are, alas, defined by the winners. These bozos will probably get away with it. But frankly, some of them sound like something even worse: traitors. Heaven knows, I have at times supported a strong executive, but there is a line between strong and imperial. To argue that the President can ignore Congress altogether in a self-defined time of war flouts the Constitution and makes the Nixonian executive look downright humble. These yahoos took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States (though apparently at least one of them believes he took an oath to the President). Obviously they are of the mindset that the Constitution must be destroyed in order to save it.

On my dark days, I worry that there may soon come a day when you may regret ever having written posts like this. I try to hope, but I won't be at ease until January 21, 2009 and probably not entirely so even after that.

Heinlein called Jeremiah Scudder for 2012. This bunch certainly won't agree to a Coventry. But then, Heinlein was an optimist.

yellojkt said...

That is why I blog anonymously. As if Hayden doesn't already have my entire file on his desk.