NY Times Investigative Report Details Secret Efforts to Allow Administration to Continue Torture Policies - No Matter What
VIDEO BONUS: Daily Show's Jon Stewart Interviews Jack Goldsmith, Who Tried to Fight Back From Within the DoJ...
By Brad Friedman on 10/8/2007, 4:05pm PT  

While folks may have heard about the New York Times report last week concerning the secret DoJ memos created to give legal cover to the Administration to continue their policies of torturing prisoners of war, we suspect that most have not read the full, detailed 5-page investigative report.

But it's an important one, and it details the lengths to which the Bush team went to keep their pro-torture policies in place, even in the face of a DoJ rebellion, Congressional legislation, and even Supreme Court decisions. It was alarming to learn --- though we should hardly be alarmed at such things by now --- that when Bush signed the Detainee Treatment Act in December 2005, meant to ban the "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of prisoners in American custody anywhere in the world, he already knew, even if Congress didn't, that his Dept. of Justice had previously created secret legal documents declaring their ongoing torturous interrogation techniques as not "cruel, inhuman or degrading."

In other words, he knew he'd be able to continue with torture as usual, since new AG Alberto Gonzales oversaw the crushing of an internal DoJ rebellion finding the practices to be both illegal and in violation of the Geneva Convention.

Also alarming (but also, shouldn't be by now), is the lackluster way in which Congress has reacted to this stunning news which --- like so many other things --- might have led to immediate Impeachment talk for almost any other administration.

For those with short-attention spans, however (like the aforementioned Congress members!), the NYTimes story included an excellent sidebar graphic summarizing the timeline and main beats in the "Interrogation Wars" from DoJ to the White House to Congress to the Supreme Court.

Since the graphic is too wide to easily run on most blogs, we've recreated the short, easy to read timeline in text format below. We'd strongly suggest, if nothing else, you familiarize yourself with it so you understand, in simple terms, the con game that has been played out here by this Administration.

As a bonus, below that, is a video from last Thursday Daily Show with John Stewart in which he interviews Jack Goldsmith, once the head of the DoJ's Office of Legal Counsel, and the man who fought back, along with Dep. AG James Comey, against the policies. Though successful in their efforts, for a time, and to an extent, both men were eventually pushed out of the DoJ, as Gonzales was dispatched to quell the rebellion as AG.

One very short and very amusing anecdote, if we may, before both of those, buried on page 5 of the Times report....

At a 2004 White House meeting described as "testy," Comey reportedly declared that "no lawyer" would endorse the flawed legal justifications, as created after 2001 by the Adminstration's DoJ legal stooge, John Yoo, for the NSA domestic spying program. When Cheney's right-hand apologist, David Addington, disagreed, announcing that as a lawyer he had found the argument convincing, Comey reportedly shot back: "No good lawyer," according to someone who was at the meeting.

Well, meow...but smartly done, Mr. Comey.

The New York Times 10/4/07 sidebar graphic...

Interrogation Wars

After a rebellion inside the Justice Department in 2004, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales moved to bring the elite Office of Legal Counsel back into the White House orbit on interrogation and other issues.


Sept. 2001 - After the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush gives the C.I.A. sweeping authority to capture, detain and kill Al Qaeda operatives around the world.

Feb. 2002 - Mr. Bush says Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention does not apply to Qaeda captives. Article 3 prohibits "mutilation, cruel treatment and torture" and "humiliating and degrading treatment" of detainees.

...Under Attorney General John Ashcroft

Aug. 2002 - Jay S. Bybee, head of the office, issues a memo that says the C.I.A. has the authority to use harsh interrogation techniques. The memo drafted by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, defines torture narrowly and argues physical torture "must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."

June 2004 - Jack Goldsmith, Mr. Bybee's replacement as the head of the office, rescinds the 2002 memo --- days after it becomes public --- with the support of then Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey. Mr. Goldsmith submits his resignation on the same day.

Dec. 2004 - Daniel Levin, the new acting head, issues a new memo denouncing torture and broadening its definition. The memo is posted on the department's Web site one week before the Senate holds confirmation hearings for Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and the nominee for attorney general.

...Under Mr. Gonzales

Spring to late 2005 - Over the objections of Mr. Comey, Steven G. Bradbury --- appointed acting head in February 2005 --- signs a secret opinion that justifies combining different interrogation techniques. Mr. Bradbury is formally nominated for the permanent job in June 2005, but Democrats block his confirmation. In a second secret opinion, Mr. Bradbury finds that even the C.I.A.'s harshest tactics are not "cruel, inhuman or degrading," the restriction soon to be imposed by Congress.


Dec. 2005 - Congress passes the Detainee Treatment Act, which bans "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of prisoners in American custody anywhere in the world. Members voting on the bill do not know the justice Department has already effectively exempted the C.I.A. techniques in the opinions signed by Mr. Bradbury.


June 2006 - The Supreme Court rules that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to all American detainees.


Nov. 2006 - Congress passes the Military Commissions Act, which makes illegal several broadly defined abuses of detainees, while leaving it to the president to establish specific permissible interrogation techniques.


July 2007 - Mr. Bush signs an order that allows the C.I.A. to use some interrogation methods banned for military interrogators but that the Justice Department has determined do not violate the Geneva strictures.

[Reproduced from original source: NYTimes sidebar graphic. As published with "Secret U.S. Endorsement of Severe Interrogations", by Scott Shane, David Johnston and James Risen, 10/04/07]

Jon Stewart's 10/4/07 interview with Jack Goldsmith, former head of the DoJ Office of Legal Counsel...

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