On the first of this month, under pressure from the ACLU, the Pentagon declassified a 2003 Justice Department memo authored by John Yoo, then Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel, which interprets the law for the executive branch. In what is now being called “The Torture Memo,” Yoo wrote that, in U.S. military interrogations of prisoners of war, anything short of causing “death, organ failure or permanent damage” was not considered torture. The memo also gave the Bush Administration the power to bypass the Fifth Amendment (due process) and the Eighth Amendment (cruel and unusual punishment) when it came to “alien, enemy combatants held abroad.” Though the memo was revoked nine months later, many believe that it laid the groundwork for prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib. It also gave President Bush absolute authority above our Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, and international treaties the U.S. has signed regarding torture of war prisoners.
Then ABC News broke a story this week that top Bush advisors–Cheney, Condi, Rummy, Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft–held several secret meetings at the White House to approve the use of “enhanced interrogation” (i.e. torture) in the interrogation of al Qaeda suspects.
According to one source, Ashcroft expressed his doubts about what they were doing and said during a meeting, “”Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.”
For once, we hafta agree with Ashcroft.
[The June issue of Esquire publishes an interview with John Yoo, currently a Berkeley law professor, where he defends his actions. Read excerpts here.]
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