The blogosphere reacts. Glenn Greenwald:
Obama did the right thing by releasing these memos, providing all the information and impetus the citizenry should need to demand investigations and prosecutions. But it is up to citizens to demand that the rule of law be applied.
I would have hoped the president would use some of his political capital to prove that the United States is a country of laws not men.However, I have to wonder if by releasing the memos they aren't at least obliquely asking for the public to "make" them do it. They could have kept them secret, after all. If there were significant public pressure as well as pressure from congress, they would have enough cover to launch an investigation with the assurance they aren't going to go the Bad Apple route.
As the commentators show their feathers to each other, see if any of them cite a single vote by the Senate or the House to define waterboarding as torture throughout the years when the Congress was fully aware of the practice. The DOJ legal analysis was the best effort of front-line lawyers in the aftermath of a massive attack on the United States. Their Congressional critics of today who did not demand a defining vote on what constituted torture are the worst sort of hypocrites. They are the lawmakers, and chose --even when House and Senate were controlled by Democrats from January 2007 to the present-- to avoid passing a law bringing clarity to the very gray areas of the law of interrogation.
Most of this story -- the torture techniques (except for the insects); the OLC blessings and reblessings -- has been thoroughly reported already. What the memos leave unclear is how much the CIA jumped into the torture game and how much the Bush administration pushed it. The memos are written to be responsive to the CIA lawyer -- the malefactor going to the priest to give his work absolution. They're written to guide the interrogators. But they leave unclear -- as does most of the narrative so far -- who's compelling Rizzo in the CIA counsel's office to keep pushing for more.
Kori Schake, a former national security adviser on defense issues to President George W. Bush:
What struck me most about the memos was that as late as August 2002, C.I.A. officials believed they were hearing “chatter” of the level and kind that proceeded the September 11th attacks. At that time, the country was still reeling from those attacks. The agency believed it had in custody enemies planning catastrophic terrorist attacks against our country and were urgently seeking information. The C.I.A. sought legal counsel and complied with the advice. Subjecting people to prosecution under those circumstances would be a dangerous politicization of difficult choices made by those serving our country.
Reading the OLC torture memos is enough to make you ill. The techniques in question are plainly and instinctively abhorrent by any common sense definition, and the authors of the memos obviously know it. But somehow they have to conclude otherwise, so they write page after mind-numbing page of sterile legal language designed to justify authorizing it anyway. It's not torture if the victim survives it intact. It's not against the law if it takes place outside the United States. Waterboarding is OK as long as it isn't performed more than twice in a 24-hour period. Sleep deprivation of shackled prisoners for seven days at a time is permissible as long as the victim's diaper is changed frequently. And on and on and on.
Do they know this is torture? Of course they do.
Reading these memos, it's very clear that there are quite a few CIA employees who are allegedly medical professionals. Those people need to find new professions. I would strongly suggest that you take a few minutes - particularly if you're a doctor or a psychologist - to suggest to your colleagues at the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association that it might be good to take some formal steps along those lines.
As it stands now, the words "good faith" might be the most important factors not just for CIA officers involved in torture but for the coming decisions about memo authors such as Jay Bybee and John Yoo. Justice Department officials declined to comment to Salon, but it's likely the administration will make those decisions after an ongoing review by the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility into the attorney's actions is complete. According to a letter Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., sent to the OPR head in February of this year, the review hinges on whether the legal advice people like Bybee and Yoo provided "was consistent with the professional standards that apply to Department of Justice Attorneys."
Unfortunately, Barack “Mr. Constitutional Scholar” Obama left the door for future abuses? Why? No one who worked for the CIA will be punished for carrying out these actions.
Ironically the U.S. Department of Justice this week was allowing a former Nazi death camp guard to be deported back to Poland to face possible charges for abuses he committed while carrying out the orders of superiors. Hell, while we are giving everyone a pass for illegal, immoral activity carried out for what the leaders considered to be a good purpose, let’s let Demanjuk go. At least we would be consistent.
Rule of law my ass.
A terrible decision, pushed for aggressively by AG Eric Holder.
Jeff Emmanuel at Redstate:
Co-opting the word “torture” to include methods far less offensive than the majority of interrogation techniques I underwent in military SERE training isn’t a victory for moralists and humanitarians in any form; rather, it’s an Orwellian perversion of a word that once had meaning by those who have spent the last eight years on constant lookout for some greviance to hold against a president whose mere existence they resented.
The sad fact is, by co-opting the word “torture” and using it to describe activities going on at Gitmo, Bagram, and elsewhere, these faux-humanitarians have left us with no word to use to describe those activities which used to be classified as torture, like beheading captives on video, hanging people from meat hooks, drilling out eyeballs, using electric current to cause severe pain and physical damage, and cutting off limbs.
E.D. Kain responds to Jeff:
Damn co-opters! First you co-opt the word “marriage” and now the word “torture!” By the way, is “beheading captives on video” really considered torture? I thought that was murder…
It’s interesting that Jeff thinks the only forms of torture that ought to be called that are the sort that essentially just almost instantly kill the victims. Been watching too many Saw movies there Jeff?
...the OLC acknowledges that it cannot be confident that the enhanced interrogation techniques are legal, but expresses its opinion that the judiciary is unlikely to address the issue. Is that the kind of advice that justifies not prosecuting CIA interrogators for engaging in conduct that even one of the highest-ranking members of the OLD admits is “patently illegal”?
I think the question answers itself.
...the entire Bybee memo (which was likely written by John Yoo) is shockingly conclusory in its reasoning. One obvious torture technique after the next is quickly dismissed as not generating a sufficient level of suffering to constitute torture. But there's no attempt to back these conclusions up or explain away possible objections to them. No attempt to address the wide array of contrary precedent. And there's virtually no evidence that the author of the memo even spent much time imagining what it might actually be like to be subjected to some of these techniques.
As I've said many times here before, the most culpable parties in this whole disgusting affair are the lawyers. Their job was to stand up for the rule of law, to tell the Dick Cheneys of the world that what they wanted to do was clearly illegal. They didn't do that. Indeed, they went to elaborate lengths to give their legal blessing to conduct they had to have known was illegal.
Let the record show that I was secretly rooting, at least some of the time, that Obama would keep the memos secret or at least heavily redact them, so that then I’d be able to call him a bastard. And let it also show that I’m really much happier to have the truth out there than to be able to score some cheap points, and that on the whole I’m pretty damn impressed. This I can believe in, Mr. President.