My new hero
December 31, 2004 9:09 AM   Subscribe

DOJ coup d'etat. Ashcroft is gone. Now, six days before the confirmation hearings of Alberto Gonzales, the acting Attorney General, Daniel Levin, issues a new official memo (pdf)on torture, reversing and specifically repudiating the definitions of torture from the August 2002 memo addressed to Gonzales. The new memo states, among other things,
'we disagree with statements in the August 2002 Memorandum limiting "severe" pain under the statute to "excruciating and agonizing" pain [...] or to pain "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death'
posted by boo (18 comments total)
'There is no exception under the statute permitting torture to be used for a "good reason." Thus, a defendant's motive (to protect national security, for example) is not relevant to the question whether he has acted with the requisite specific intent under the statute.'
It seems that some rebel faction of the justice department believes that it is their job to prosecute--not to justify, shield, and stall--criminal acts by the people in the government. They are handing the Democrats on the judiciary committee a perfect weapon to use in the confirmation hearings. But will they be smart enough to use it next week? Also, who is this Daniel Levin and how can I join his fan club?
posted by boo at 9:10 AM on December 31, 2004

Another administration flip-flop.
posted by Balisong at 9:17 AM on December 31, 2004

Wait, is... is this... good?

What's going on here?
posted by odinsdream at 9:21 AM on December 31, 2004

This is good. But I don't understand. Who's this Levin dude? Because I'm digging him. Is this the DoJ's revenge on the White House? Maybe the career DoJ bureaucrats (and I don't mean that in the pejorative sense), finally out from under Ashcroft's thumb, are stretching their wings?
posted by waldo at 9:38 AM on December 31, 2004

It's good, or at least better, for prisoners in our custody.

WaPo doesn't seem to believe it's a DoJ coup, though. Whatever the political motive, if it brings us closer to compliance with international law, our own treaties, and all standards of human decency--hurrah.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 9:40 AM on December 31, 2004

If you read the actual memo as linked by boo, on page 2 it states,

"We decided to withdraw the August 2002 Memorandum, a decision you announced in June 2004. At that time, you directed this Office to prepare a replacement memorandum. Because of the importance of--and public interest in--these issues, you asked this memorandum be prepared in a form that could be released to the public so that interested parties could understand our analysis of the statute."

To me, this seems like it's not a coup in the DOJ, but the fulfillment of a request from James B. Comey, Deputy Attorney General. Unfortunately, my google-fu isn't turning up direct evidence of this. Can anyone else?

All I keep finding are Comey statements trying to justify the prolonged, isolated detention of Jose Padilla.
posted by onhazier at 9:52 AM on December 31, 2004

Actually, I think they are trying to reverse the sting of the Gonzales memos. By saying that the ideas in them are no longer the policy of the government, they hope to make it a non-issue. Otherwise, Democratic Senators would have a field day asking questions like "Is it still the policy of the government that . . . " Do you still agree with the idea that . . . This way, the issue is merely one of one old memo.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:54 AM on December 31, 2004

I don't know. The Dems can now ask, "Do you agree with the DOJ's opinion that your memo was "not appropriate" in its discussion of specific intent?" I think Levin is using the request Comey made in June 2004 as a justification for the memo, but I don't know if Comey requested it to have that tone or to be released right now. It seems the news agencies were a little blindsided by this, and maybe Comey was too.
Also, I misspoke: The WaPo calls Levin, "Acting Assistant Attorney General" and the NYT calls him "acting chief of the Office of Legal Counsel" (I imagine he could be both). And he signs the memo "Acting Assistant Attorney General."
posted by boo at 10:03 AM on December 31, 2004

Yay for Levin. I agree with what he said, regardless of why he said it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:48 AM on December 31, 2004

I think it may have something to do with this memo, sent to Levin, Ashcroft and Gonzales 10 days ago from a group of former OLC lawyers about the role of the Office of Legal Council, which includes as its first point, "When providing legal advice to guide contemplated executive branch action, OLC should
provide an accurate and honest appraisal of applicable law, even if that advice will constrain the
administration’s pursuit of desired policies. The advocacy model of lawyering, in which lawyers
craft merely plausible legal arguments to support their clients’ desired actions, inadequately
promotes the President’s constitutional obligation to ensure the legality of executive action."
posted by boo at 10:54 AM on December 31, 2004

President Bush voted for torture, before he voted against it.
posted by expriest at 11:41 AM on December 31, 2004

Sounds like some people are going to be losing their jobs soon. News item in two weeks: Shake up at the DOJ, just like what happened when Porter Goss got his hands around the neck of the CIA.
posted by Arch Stanton at 11:53 AM on December 31, 2004

I don't see any evidence of a coup here, from the article it sounds much more like the administration taking advantage of the change in attorney generals to save face while reversing a bad decision.
posted by LarryC at 1:00 PM on December 31, 2004

Within four months Bush will be publicly denying the original memo ever existed. It was one of those ex-ag-ger-ay-shuns.
posted by The God Complex at 1:13 PM on December 31, 2004

Hope he has his resume polished up.

[This is good.]
posted by rushmc at 2:18 PM on December 31, 2004

Google news links to story for those not reg'd at WaPo
posted by roboto at 2:53 PM on December 31, 2004

Why can't they be doing it because it is the right thing to do ... morally and legally? Why does there have to be some political ulterior motive?
It galls me that so many people seem to have this giant imaginary scoreboard between the left and the right and anything of significance seems to get analyzed to see which side benefitted most from it.
Sometimes right is right, because its right.
ok truth be known, I think that there were political reasons ... just saying it shouldn't be like that
posted by forforf at 6:34 PM on December 31, 2004

hahahahahaha forforf, right, suuure, unhuh absolutely.
ah, good chap
posted by bonaldi at 1:14 PM on January 1, 2005

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