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Thread: U.S. Lawyers Agreed on the Legality of Brutal Tactic

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    U.S. Lawyers Agreed on the Legality of Brutal Tactic

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/07/us...s.html?_r=1&hp

    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.

    In years of bitter public debate, the department has sometimes seemed like a black-and-white moral battleground over torture. The main authors of memorandums authorizing the methods — John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury — have been widely pilloried as facilitators of torture.

    Others, including Mr. Comey, Jack Goldsmith and Daniel Levin, have largely escaped criticism because they raised questions about interrogation and the law.

    But a closer examination shows a more subtle picture. None of the Justice Department lawyers who reviewed the interrogation question argued that the methods were clearly illegal.

    For example:

    ¶Mr. Goldsmith, now a Harvard law professor, unnerved the C.I.A. in June 2004 by withdrawing a 2002 memorandum written by Mr. Yoo that said only pain equal to that produced by organ failure or death qualified as torture.

    In addition, in a previously undisclosed letter to the agency, Mr. Goldsmith put a temporary halt to waterboarding. But he left intact a secret companion memorandum from 2002 that actually authorized the harsh methods, leaving the C.I.A. free to use all its methods except waterboarding, including wall-slamming, face-slapping, stress positions and more.

    ¶Mr. Levin, now in private practice, won public praise with a 2004 memorandum that opened by declaring “torture is abhorrent.” But he also wrote a letter to the C.I.A that specifically approved waterboarding in August 2004, and he drafted much of Mr. Bradbury’s lengthy May 2005 opinion authorizing the 13 methods.
    The lawyers had to interpret a 1994 antitorture law written largely with despotic foreign regimes in mind, but used starting in 2002, in effect, as a set of guidelines for American interrogators. The law defined torture as treatment “specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” By that standard, a succession of Justice Department lawyers concluded that the C.I.A.’s methods did not constitute torture.

    The only issues that provoked debate were waterboarding, which Mr. Goldsmith questioned, and some combinations of multiple techniques, which Mr. Comey resisted.

    Some outside experts agree that the language of the 1994 law is strikingly narrow. “There’s no doubt whatsoever that a great deal of coercive treatment that most people would call torture is not prohibited by the federal antitorture statute,” said Benjamin Wittes, a Brookings Institution scholar who has studied interrogation policy.
    Very interesting article that calls into question the picture that has been painted about the torture discussion. Up until now, it was always an attack on Bush and the OLC for authorizing these memos in secret that were so horribly flawed that nobody would ever agree with them. Now that it turns out that significant numbers of Justice Dept. lawyers came to the exact same conclusion, I wonder how that will change things.
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    Re: U.S. Lawyers Agreed on the Legality of Brutal Tactic

    It will change things only for people who are interested in the law and not in slogans.
    “Offing those rich pigs with their own forks and knives, and then eating a meal in the same room, far out! The Weathermen dig Charles Manson.”-- Bernadine Dohrn

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    Re: U.S. Lawyers Agreed on the Legality of Brutal Tactic

    Quote Originally Posted by Harshaw View Post
    It will change things only for people who are interested in the law and not in slogans.
    Given that the ever-courageous and sycophantic Attorney General has already delegated adjudication of the whole mess to the various state bar associations, the existence of the internal discussion and the conclusions of multiple lawyers within the Department of Justice that the methods were legal is strong augmentation to the case any of the lawyers putatively at risk of disbarment might have to make in their own defense.

    Will the Anti-Republicans ever be swayed from their insistence that any person working within the Bush Administration was inherently criminal by this? I doubt it. That would require intellectual honesty.

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    Re: U.S. Lawyers Agreed on the Legality of Brutal Tactic

    Quote Originally Posted by Harshaw View Post
    It will change things only for people who are interested in the law and not in slogans.
    Interestingly, I am a law and order type, and this changes my opinion not at all. I still think this should all be investigated, so that all the facts that can be are out there, and this trickle of information, most of which contradicts other information, and is later contradicted, stops. I also still think no one should be prosecuted for any of this. And I still think that the "EIT's" should be made clearly illegal going forward. What exactly is this supposed to change for me?

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    Re: U.S. Lawyers Agreed on the Legality of Brutal Tactic

    Quote Originally Posted by Redress View Post
    Interestingly, I am a law and order type, and this changes my opinion not at all. I still think this should all be investigated, so that all the facts that can be are out there, and this trickle of information, most of which contradicts other information, and is later contradicted, stops. I also still think no one should be prosecuted for any of this. And I still think that the "EIT's" should be made clearly illegal going forward. What exactly is this supposed to change for me?
    You have a logically supportable and intellectually consistent position. For you, this shouldn't change anything.

    The people who this might affect are those who believe in adhering to the law, but are under the mistaken belief that these practices were clearly illegal before and that Bybee/Yoo were going off the reservation.
    Last edited by RightinNYC; 06-06-09 at 08:31 PM.
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    Re: U.S. Lawyers Agreed on the Legality of Brutal Tactic

    Yes. Those who have a different (read: GET BUSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!) agenda will pay this no attention whatsoever.
    “Offing those rich pigs with their own forks and knives, and then eating a meal in the same room, far out! The Weathermen dig Charles Manson.”-- Bernadine Dohrn

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