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Summit Voice extra: Read the DOJ report on ‘torture memos’

A 2009 report on the Bush administration's so-called torture memos is widely available online and addresses some of the fundamental legal issues associated with authorizing extreme forms of interrogation by a democratic society. Have you read it?

Legal advisers committed ‘professional misconduct’ but the findings were downgraded later by other Justice Department officials

By Bob Berwyn

Have you ever wondered how the Bush administration made its legal determination that it was OK to torture suspected terrorists with “enhanced interrogation techniques” (waterboarding)?

Memos from the Bush administration show that two captured Qaeda operatives were subjected to waterboarding torture a total of 266 times.

A report from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility has been available publicly for quite a while, but because it’s written in dense legalese, it’s not an easy document to read.

The report is posted in a Scribd.com window at the end of this story, or just click this link.

But in the end, the investigators concluded that two legal analysts who signed the so-called torture memos committed “professional misconduct … by failing to exercise independent legal judgment and render thorough, objective and candid legal advice.”

Those conclusions last month were downgraded to “poor judgment” by Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis in a 60-page memo to Attorney General Eric Holder.

The report “found evidence that the authors of the Bybee Memo and the Yoo Memo tailored their analysis to reach the result desired by the client.”

And further, that, “In many instances the authors (of the memos) exaggerated or misstated the significance of cited legal authority, failed to acknowledge or fairly present adverse authority, took inconsistent approaches to favor the desired result, and advanced convoluted or frivolous arguments.”

Andy Worthington, of The Public Record, analyzed the report, and the subsequent maneuvering by the Justice Department at this link.

In 2009, the New York Times reported that top intelligence officials with the Obama administration acknowledged that the interrogation methods yielded high-value information that helped the U.S. in the war on terror.

The story has been adequately rehashed in the national news, especially since the Obama administration made a point of philosophically distancing itself from the previous policies, saying that it’s more important to uphold this country’s democratic traditions and values.

Which circles back to the question of how the Bush administration came to approve torture in the first place, and that’s where the Justice Department report sheds some light.

Was their good legal precedent for the decision or not? Read the report below and decide for yourself.

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One Response

  1. As Americans, we are proud when we hold ourselves to a high moral standard, and we are weakenen when we break the law. This illegal activity will continue to come back to haunt us. We need to play by the Geneva convention rules because we are not above the law. Those who ordered or sanctioned torture must be held accountable.

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