Chapter 5: War as Righteous Rape and Purification

Oh boy, quite a read….

Chapter 5: War as Righteous Rape and Purification

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Justice Expands ‘Torture’ Definition (washingtonpost.com)

Justice Expands ‘Torture’ Definition (washingtonpost.com)

washingtonpost.com

Justice Expands ‘Torture’ Definition

Earlier Policy Drew Criticism

By R. Jeffrey Smith and Dan Eggen

Washington Post Staff Writers

Friday, December 31, 2004; Page A01

The Justice Department published a revised and expansive definition late yesterday of acts that constitute torture under domestic and international law, overtly repudiating one of the most criticized policy memorandums drafted during President Bush’s first term.

In a statement published on the department’s Web site, the head of its Office of Legal Counsel declares that “torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and international norms” and goes on to reject a previous statement that only “organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death” constitute torture punishable by law.

That earlier definition of torture figured prominently in complaints by Democrats and human rights groups about White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, who oversaw its creation and is Bush’s nominee to become attorney general for the second term. The new memo’s public release came one week before the start of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Gonzales’s nomination.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Daniel Levin said in the new memo that torture may consist of acts that fall short of provoking excruciating and agonizing pain and thus may include mere physical suffering or lasting mental anguish. His opinion is meant, according to its language, to undermine any notion that those who conduct harmful interrogations may be exempt from prosecution.

This second effort by the Bush administration to parse the legal meaning of the word “torture” was provoked by the damaging political fallout from the disclosure this summer of the first memo, drafted in August 2002 and criticized by human rights lawyers and experts around the globe.

Many of the critics charged that the first memo — which they said laid out a very narrow view of what behavior might constitute torture and was crafted to help interrogators at the CIA evade prosecution — created the context for a record of persistent ill treatment by that agency and the U.S. military of detainees at prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay and undisclosed locations.

“Clearly the release of this now is backfilling for Gonzales’s confirmation hearing,” said I. Michael Greenberger, a senior Justice Department official in the Clinton administration who now heads the Center for Health and Homeland Security at the University of Maryland. “These memos have been a tremendous source of embarrassment to both Gonzales and the administration.”

Greenberger said that recent accounts of widespread abuse at U.S. detention facilities — including disclosures that military interrogation practices were sharply criticized over the past two years by FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency personnel in the field — have given ammunition to those within the administration who favor adherence to international norms against torture.

“It could be that this is not just a cynical ploy but a real sign of change,” Greenberger said.

One of the most controversial provisions of the earlier memorandum, signed by Levin’s predecessor, Jay S. Bybee, was an assertion that the president’s executive powers were sufficient to permit tolerance of torturous acts in extraordinary circumstances. The International Committee of the Red Cross had declared in response that the prohibition on torture, embodied in a global convention signed by the United States, has no exceptions.

But advocates of strict adherence to the convention previously lost interagency battles to hard-liners in the Defense Department, the Justice Department and the White House, who maintained that the president has expansive powers during the war on terrorism. The new memo pointedly sidesteps this issue, stating that the “consideration of the bounds of any such authority would be inconsistent with the president’s unequivocal directive that United States personnel not engage in torture.”

The memo, which states that it “supersedes the August 2002 memorandum in its entirety,” also drops an attempt in the earlier version to rule that harmful acts not specifically intended to cause severe pain and suffering might be legal, and to define “specific intent.” Instead, it deliberately left the notion of “specific intent” undefined to avoid, Levin wrote, any notion that conduct amounting to torture might under some circumstances be considered legal.

The memo also explicitly states that “a defendant’s motive (to protect national security, for example) is not relevant to the question” of his or her intent under the law.

Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, which has been critical of the Bush administration’s legal opinions regarding the treatment of detainees, gave the memo a generally positive review and said its “definition of torture is not as tortured as it was.”

But John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley who helped draft the first memo while working in the legal counsel’s office, said the new version “makes it harder to figure out how the torture statute applies to specific interrogation methods. It muddies the water. Our effort . . . was to interpret the statute clearly.”

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial Observer: Legal Breach: The Government’s Attorneys and Abu Ghraib

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial Observer: Legal Breach: The Government’s Attorneys and Abu Ghraib

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December 30, 2004

EDITORIAL OBSERVER

Legal Breach: The Government’s Attorneys and Abu Ghraib

By ANDREW ROSENTHAL

he most obvious victims of the brutal treatment of prisoners at American military jails are the men, women and children who have been humiliated, sexually assaulted, beaten, tortured and even killed. But, as in all wars, the Bush administration’s assault on the Geneva Conventions has caused collateral damage – in this case, to the legal offices of the executive branch and the military.

To get around the inconvenience of the Geneva Conventions, the administration twisted the roles of the legal counsels of the White House, the Pentagon and the Justice Department beyond recognition. Once charged with giving unvarnished advice about whether political policies remained within the law, the Bush administration’s legal counsels have been turned into the sort of cynical corporate lawyers who figure out how to make something illegal seem kosher – or at least how to minimize the danger of being held to account.

This upheaval has been particularly vivid at the Pentagon, where the usual balance between civilian and military authority has been stood on its head. The American system of civilian control of the military recognizes that soldiers’ attention must be fixed on winning battles and staying alive, and that the fog of war can sometimes obscure the rule of law. The civilian bosses are supposed to provide coolheaded restraint.

Now America has to count on the military to step up when the civilians get out of control.

When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved the initial list of interrogation methods for Guantánamo Bay in late 2002 – methods that clearly violated the Geneva Conventions and anti-torture statutes – there were no protests from the legal counsels for the secretary of defense, the attorney general, the president, the Central Intelligence Agency or any of the civilian secretaries of the armed services. That’s not surprising, because some of those very officials were instrumental in devising the Strangelovian logic that lay behind Mr. Rumsfeld’s order. Their legal briefs dutifully argued that the president could suspend the Geneva Conventions when he chose, that he could even sanction torture and that torture could be redefined so narrowly that it could seem legal.

It took an internal protest by uniformed lawyers from the Navy to force the Pentagon to review the Guantánamo rules and restrict them a bit. But the military lawyers’ concerns were largely shoved aside by a team of civilian lawyers, led by Mary Walker, the Air Force general counsel. The group reaffirmed the notion that Mr. Bush could choose when to apply the Geneva Conventions.

That principle was originally aimed at the supposed members of Al Qaeda held at Guantánamo Bay, but it was quickly exported to Iraq and led, inexorably, to the horrors at Abu Ghraib and other recently disclosed crimes by American soldiers against Iraqi and Afghan prisoners.

If it had not been for a group of uniformed lawyers, the nation might never have learned of the torture and detention memos. In May 2003, soon after Ms. Walker’s group produced its rationalization for prisoner abuse, a half-dozen military lawyers went to Scott Horton, who was chairman of the human rights committee of the City Bar Association in New York.

That led to a bar report on the administration’s policies, a report that was published around the same time the Abu Ghraib atrocities came into public view. Those lawyers had to do their duty anonymously to avoid having their careers savaged. Meanwhile, the Justice Department official who signed the memo on torturing prisoners, Jay Bybee, was elevated by Mr. Bush to the federal bench.

This month, several former high-ranking military lawyers came out publicly against the nomination of the White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, to be attorney general. They noted that it was Mr. Gonzales who had supervised the legal assault on the Geneva Conventions.

Jeh Johnson, a New York lawyer who was general counsel for the secretary of the Air Force under President Clinton, calls this shift “a revolution.”

“One view of the law and government,” Mr. Johnson said, “is that good things can actually come out of the legal system and that there is broad benefit in the rule of law. The other is a more cynical approach that says that lawyers are simply an instrument of policy – get me a legal opinion that permits me to do X. Sometimes a lawyer has to say, ‘You just can’t do this.’ ”

Normally, the civilian policy makers would have asked the military lawyers to draft the rules for a military prison in wartime. The lawyers for the service secretaries are supposed to focus on issues like contracts, environmental impact statements and base closings. They’re not supposed to meddle in rules of engagement or military justice.

But the civilian policy makers knew that the military lawyers would never sanction tossing the Geneva Conventions aside in the war against terrorists. Military lawyers, Mr. Johnson said, “tend to see things through the prism of how it will affect their people if one gets captured or prosecuted.”

Some Senate Democrats have said they plan to question Mr. Gonzales about this mess during his Senate confirmation hearings. But given the feckless state of Congressional oversight on this issue, there’s not a lot of hope in that news.

Meanwhile, the relationship between the civilian and the military lawyers has gotten so bad that Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, pushed through legislation that elevated the military services’ top lawyers to a three-star general’s rank. That at least put them on a more equal footing with the civilian lawyers.

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