Amnesty claims its commercial is the "video the CIA doesn’t want you to see”.
“More than five years after its composition, we finally see a copy of John Yoo's March 14, 2003 memo to William Haynes, then the Defense Department's general counsel. It was, as The New York Times and Washington Post report, a green light for military interrogators to use just about any technique the Pentagon deemed useful. Criminal statutes prohibiting torture stopped at the water's edge, because, Yoo wrote, ‘such criminal statutes, if they were misconstrued to apply to the interrogation of enemy combatants, would conflict with the Constitution's grant of Commander in Chief power solely to the President.’
As Thomas J. Romig, who was then the Army's judge advocate general, tells the Post, ‘it appears to argue there are no rules in a time of war.’ As Marty Lederman, a former lawyer at OLC writes, ‘it is, in effect, the blueprint that led to Abu Ghraib and the other abuses within the armed forces in 2003 and early 2004.’
Despite the fact that Congress has been asking for the declassification of this memo, it appears to have only been released now as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The memo is 81 pages long (here's Part I and Part II). We've posted one of the more remarkable sections here.
In that section, Yoo explains how even if a particularly brutal interrogation might ‘arguably cross the line drawn’ by the law, ‘certain justification defenses might be available.’ Those are ‘necessity’ (the ‘choice of evils,’ the evils being torture and a terrorist attack) and ‘self-defense’ (‘If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network. In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch's constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions.’) Just about the only actions that were impermissible and indefensible in Yoo's eyes, it seems, were those motivated strictly by malice or sadism.”
“In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.
The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of ‘combined’ interrogation techniques -- using different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time -- on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.
Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.
The high-level discussions about these ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.
The advisers were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.
At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.
As the national security adviser, Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies.”
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