Friday, January 14, 2005

Re: Facilitating Torture While Denying Its Existence: Of George The Second And Henchman Al

January 14, 2005

Re: Facilitating Torture While Denying Its Existence: Of George The Second And Henchman Al
From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel

Dear Colleagues:

On Tuesday, January 13th, The New York Times carried an article by Douglas Jehl and David Johnston discussing the fact that, on a couple of occasions in the last few months, the Administration of George the Second, and the White House in particular, had fought off Congressional efforts to impose new restrictions on torture. The latest aborted Congressional efforts had been directed at stopping torture by the CIA, which has been using "extreme" methods on "high value" prisoners who were big shots in Al Qaeda. In The Times article, various people were quoted or anonymously cited as saying that the Administration wanted to maintain latitude for the CIA to use extreme measures. As well, a letter to Congress from Condoleezza Rice was said to oppose the restrictive provision on the ground that it "‘provides legal protections to foreign prisoners to which they are not now entitled under applicable law and policy.’"

Additionally, it appears from The Times that "four senior members of the House and Senate" were instrumental in jettisoning the restrictions at the Administration’s demand. The name of two, whom one is led to believe were among the four, were revealed. They are Susan Collins of Maine and Jane Harman of California, who respectively have reputations as being moderate or liberal. They also, of course, are of the sex that one forlornly hopes might be more decent -- I guess one can forget that crap, although it was said that the pound of flesh the four legislators euchred for dropping the restrictions was that intelligence committees will take up the issue this year. Of course, maybe they’ll take it up but not do anything about it. That would be typical of our semi-worthless Congress.

In any event, all of this is just the cat’s meow, isn’t it? George the Second and Henchman Al Gonzalez have been telling us that America does not use torture. Henchman Al even refused to answer questions at his hearing because, he said, we don’t use torture. But now we learn that the Administration has been fighting off restrictions on torture so that we can use it, or at least so that the CIA can use it on high value Al Qaeda types. Forgive me for questioning to myself those few people -- maybe even just one person -- who recently commented in print that there was no proof that we had stopped torturing people.

But there is more; there is stuff which in some ways may even be more important in the short run. Tucked away in the middle of The Times’ article is more stuff on legal memos from the Department of Justice, a subject much in the news lately. It seems that the vaunted memo of December 30th, which has been trumpeted by the Administration as a legal barrier against torture, is actually an open sluice gate allowing torture. For the December 31st memo, contains "a cryptic footnote," "about the ‘treatment of detainees,’" which "referred to what the [Congressional] officials said were other still-classified opinions." The "footnote meant, the [Congressional] officials said, that coercive techniques approved by the Justice Department under the [prior] looser interpretation of the torture statutes were still lawful even under the new, more restrictive interpretation" of December 30th.

The article went on to say that "Current and former government officials said that specific interrogation methods were addressed in a series of still-secret documents, including an August 2002 document by the Justice Department that authorized the C.I.A. use of some 20 interrogation practices. The legal opinion was sent to the C.I.A. via the National Security Council at the White House. Among the procedures approved by the document was waterboarding, in which a subject is made to believe he might be drowned." (Emphasis added.) Belief that one may drown is, I guess, something our government abhors when caused by a tsunami, but applauds when caused by waterboarding.

The "cryptic footnote" referred to in The Times article is footnote 8 of the December 30th opinion. Footnote 8 says "While we have identified various disagreements with the August 2002 Memorandum, we have reviewed this Office’s prior opinions addressing issues involving treatment of detainees and do not believe that any of their conclusions would be different under the standards set forth in this memorandum." To say the footnote is "cryptic" is one way to describe it. Another thing one could say about it is that one would never know from reading it that there are still-classified opinions, that they authorize something like waterboarding, or that footnote 8 renders the opinion of December 30th a fraud engaged in merely for public relations purposes, and to fool people, because it pretends to set its face against torture while actually permitting it by condoning the conclusions of the prior, classified opinions.

Now, if all this stuff in The Times of January 13th is true -- and there are lots of reasons to believe it is true and no good reason to believe it isn’t -- then the bottom line is this: far from having renounced torture, the policy of the American government remains to use torture if and when it wants to. The mouthings to the contrary of Bush and Henchman Al are "lies, all lies," as it is said. Henchman Al, moreover, lied to Congress at his hearing, which, if memory serves, is a crime. Of course there are those who would say, "What else would you expect but lies from an Administration that regularly lies, that lies like a rug to use the old saying, that lies as much as some of our champion lying Administrations of prior years like Johnson’s, Nixon’s and Clinton’s.
Yet, despite the fraud and the lying, the Democrats have said they are going to vote for Henchman Al. How awful that they have so little courage or integrity.

And, on another front, the fact that there are still-classified memos under which acts like waterboarding are authorized is relevant to the case of Harvard’s Jack Goldsmith. This writer believes it is now a virtual certainty that Harvard Jack knew that torture was occurring when he wrote his memorandum authorizing prisoners to be transferred to countries where they would be tortured. The existence of still-classified Department of Justice memos, to which Jack surely must have had access, only further increases a possibility that already is a virtual certainty, i.e., that Goldsmith knew torture was going on when he wrote a memo facilitating it.

One last point. By saying that the conclusions of prior memos would be the same under the standards of the December 30th memo, footnote 8 intentionally gives the unknowing public the impression that prior memos would not authorize torture when the truth is the very opposite. The two reporters who uncovered this fraud, Jehl and Johnston, should be commended for tracking down the truth, and for doing so in the face of administration lies.*

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