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Ear to the Ground

Justice Dept. Lawyers Opposed Torture but Saw It as Legal

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Posted on Jun 7, 2009
Flickr / joewcampbell

While George W. Bush’s torture policies stained the reputations of a number of administration lawyers, others have been lauded for their resistance to backing harsh interrogation. However, newly revealed communications show that there was broad consensus in the Justice Department—even among lawyers who opposed such practices—that torture was legal.

Of course there was no shortage of legal opinion to the contrary—outside of the administration.

New York Times:

When Justice Department lawyers engaged in a sharp internal debate in 2005 over brutal interrogation techniques, even some who believed that using tough tactics was a serious mistake agreed on a basic point: the methods themselves were legal.

Previously undisclosed Justice Department e-mail messages, interviews and newly declassified documents show that some of the lawyers, including James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general who argued repeatedly that the United States would regret using harsh methods, went along with a 2005 legal opinion asserting that the techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency were lawful.

That opinion, giving the green light for the C.I.A. to use all 13 methods in interrogating terrorism suspects, including waterboarding and up to 180 hours of sleep deprivation, “was ready to go out and I concurred,” Mr. Comey wrote to a colleague in an April 27, 2005, e-mail message obtained by The New York Times.

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blogdog's avatar

By blogdog, June 8, 2009 at 10:40 am Link to this comment

RE: ...Progressive truth prefer irrational absuridty to ideologial absurdity,

probably an overly labored analysis - more likely they’re protecting their careers, i.e., salaried academic position, publishing/lecturing deals - Cockburn doesn’t “beat the devil,” he makes a deal with the devil - his career is intact so long as he puts forth a limited hangout - Chomsky’s even more compromised - MIT as a principal center of Military Industrial Complex research will in no way risk that favored position in defense of “free speech” for a linguistics professor, tenure be damned… “accidents” happen, and they know that very well… yeah, the gov.-issued anthrax is still out there.

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By Folktruther, June 8, 2009 at 10:24 am Link to this comment

Tropicgirl, it is the mainstream Progressive truthers that are mostly responsible for preventing the American people from understanding Bushite complicity in 9/11-anthrax.  Famous left truthers like Chomsky and Alex Cockburn, as well as the mainstream progressive truthmedia, demean and denigrate 9/11 truthers because the idea of the US government murdering its own people would delegitimize the Amereican state, and they are reformers only within the parameters of maintaining American ruling class power.

so the simple truth about US false flag operations is a declasse truth.  It is outside the limits of the professional-managerial truth, a Conspiracy Theory that only paranoids hold.  the mainstream left maintain that power does not function in conspiracies.  This is absurd, so this conspiracy phobia, as Michael Parenti has called it, is never examined in the mainstream truth. 

The traditional leaders of the Progressive truth prefer irrational absuridty to ideologial absurdity, and the notion that high officials in the American government attacking the American people is ideologically absurd in the American truth. Cockburn goes so far as to maintain that the assassinations in the 1960’s are just as the US public relations industry has presented them.

The inescapable truth of the matter is that courageous, perceptive and effective truth leaders like Chomsky and Cockburn are intellectually dishonest.  They know too much not to know about US false flag operations, or US assassinations.  The American people must consequently develop honest truthers if they are going to resist the mainstream American truth.

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By tropicgirl, June 8, 2009 at 8:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It doesn’t matter what they said they thought. They are still guilty. I am sure Hitler thought what he did was legal.

These people will be held accountable. The filth that is the CIA are disgusting to everyone.

Obama will do nothing except continue the torture. If you think sadists, child-rapists, torturers will stop doing these things because some “speech-giver” says so, you are sadly mistaken. Obama is doing the same with drone bombing and white phosphorus burning. Some people prefer to torture at a distance.

The Al Queda is a myth and 911 was an inside job. Failure to admit these now, rather obvious facts prevents the entire country from stopping anything. The real conversation has not yet even begun.

It begins with admitting the numerous false flag incidents that have been deemed necessary, by the CIA, for every war we entered. This one is no different. Its mystifying why the so-called left-gatekeepers fail so badly at seeing 911 as simply the last one in a series. Without these admissions, attempts at ever stopping this crap will fail.

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By tropicgirl, June 8, 2009 at 8:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It doesn’t matter what they said they thought. They are still guilty. I am sure Hitler thought what he did was legal.

These people will be held accountable. The filth that is the CIA are disgusting to everyone.

Obama will do nothing except continue the torture. If you think sadists, child-rapists, torturers will stop doing these things because some “speech-giver” says so, you are sadly mistaken. Obama is doing the same with drone bombing and white phosphorus burning. Some people prefer to torture at a distance.

The Al Queda is a myth and 911 was an inside job. Failure to admit these now, rather obvious facts prevents the entire country from stopping anything. The real conversation has not yet even begun.

It begins with admitting the numerous false flag incidents that have been deemed necessary, by the CIA, for every war we entered. This one is no different. Its mystifying why the so-called left-gatekeepers fail so badly at seeing 911 as simply the last one in a series.

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By Folktruther, June 8, 2009 at 12:57 am Link to this comment

ribald is quite right.  The NYtimes, and truthdig, mischaracterize what the lawyers were pressured to state.  And Outraged has pointed out the piece by Greenwald who lays it out today on salon.

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By MarthaA, June 7, 2009 at 9:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Rubbish.  They knew it was not legal.

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blogdog's avatar

By blogdog, June 7, 2009 at 7:26 pm Link to this comment

The 1994 statue also states:
”(c) Conspiracy.—

Now you’re getting somewhere.

Q: why torture over a hundred times a known pasty?

e.g., Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed head of al-Qaeda’s military committee, died in the police raid on his apartment.

read more about it here - http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/DJ30Df01.html

A: Make your patsy confess to useful fools in the trenches - make it credible - reinforce the psy-op, commonly known as the Global War Of Terror, commonly laid at the feet of Al Queda and Osama bin Laden - both an elaborate legendary myth.

e.g., Former agent for French military intelligence Pierre-Henry Bunel has this to say about ‘al Qaeda’:

“The truth is, there is no Islamic army or terrorist group called Al Qaida. And any informed intelligence officer knows this. But there is a propaganda campaign to make the public believe in the presence of an identified entity representing the ‘devil’ only in order to drive the ‘TV watcher’ to accept a unified international leadership for a war against terrorism…”

read more about it here -
http://us.altermedia.info/yet-another-israeli-false-flag-terror-attack-yemen-bombing

The myth of “al Qaida” is built on an expansive foundation of many half-truths and hidden facts.  It is a CIA creation.  It was shaped by the agency to serve as a substitute “enemy” for America, replacing the Soviets whom the Islamist forces had driven from Afghanistan.  Unknown American officials, at an indeterminate point in time, made the decision to fabricate the tale of a mythical worldwide network of Islamic terrorists from the exploits of the Afghan Mujahedeen. The CIA already had their own network of Islamic militant “freedom fighters,” all that was needed were a few scattered terrorist attacks against US targets and a credible heroic figurehead, to serve as the “great leader.”

read more about it here -
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7787

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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, June 7, 2009 at 6:39 pm Link to this comment

Glenn Greenwald lays it out nicely in his column @ Salon.  He also likens these tactics as the very same ones Cheney and Bush used to invent the “intelligence” info to invade Iraq.  Good article.

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/

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By Ribald, June 7, 2009 at 5:29 pm Link to this comment

I think the New York Times article misrepresented the content of the e-mails with the headline “U.S. Lawyers Agreed on Legality of Brutal Tactic.” Although Comey did mention briefly that he concurred with the application of individual torture techniques, he stated his staunch disapproval of combined techniques, which others shared. The headline should have read something like: “Bush DOJ Divided Over Combined Interrogation Techniques Legality.”

More important than the agreements and disagreements, though, was the unambiguous assertion that top Bush administration officials were influencing the DOJ to get their policy legally protected, and that they would blame the DOJ for it later when the story got out….which is exactly what the New York Times article seems to do, with a little blame thrown at the narrowness of the Federal Antitorture statute to boot (why the Geneva Convention’s broad and legally binding definition of torture was not mentioned is anybody’s guess).

I’d question the motives of someone who finds that the Bush administration manipulated the DOJ to produce memos justifying torture techniques and decides that the agreement between the lawyers on the use of individual techniques is the meat of the story.

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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, June 7, 2009 at 5:02 pm Link to this comment

The issue is simply semantics, it appears they attempted to argue that if you call it “coercive interrogation methods” then somehow through contorted blather it isn’t torture anymore.  It is torture.

Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113C. states:

(1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;

(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—

(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and

(3) “United States” means the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States.”
http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/pIch113C.html

Article quote: “To argue otherwise, said Brian Z. Tamanaha, a St. John’s University law professor who has studied the interrogation memorandums, required “extraordinary contortions in language and legal analysis.

Mr. Tamanaha is absolutely correct.  It appears that the true nature of the legal argument was more of a demand by Cheney specifically, but also Bush to invent the legalese that would allow them to pursue their demented scheme and bypass the law.  Additionally, LAW is not meant to be interpreted in “extraordinary” ways, it is meant to be interpreted under the premise of what “a reasonable person” would determine or conclude.

“Mr. Gonzales told him that he was “under great pressure” from Vice President Dick Cheney to complete both memorandums and that President George W. Bush had asked about them, Mr. Comey recounted in one of the 2005 e-mail messages.”

We knew this “came from the top”, early on.  And like others, such as Tenet they were spineless as regarding Cheney and Bush’s demands.  They broke the law that was on the books at the time they created their fiction, that is all we need to know.

From Slate in ‘04:  ” A person found guilty of committing torture faces up to 20 years in prison or even execution, if the torture in question resulted in a victim’s death.
http://www.slate.com/id/2100460/

Several have died and others have simply disappeared.  Next they’ll be claiming that those deaths weren’t from the torture itself, but from complications afterward…..I can hear the BS already.  They know they’re guilty, that’s why Cheney is making his rounds on all the networks.  It’s his lame attempt to make himself appear respectable.  That could backfire for Mr. Cheney, since he won’t be able to claim insanity as a defense. 

The 1994 statue also states:
”(c) Conspiracy.— A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.”

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, June 7, 2009 at 3:39 pm Link to this comment

Obama needs to RIF these people out of government.

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