On August 1, 2002, in an infamous memo written largely by Yoo but signed by Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, the OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] defined the crime of torture to make it all but impossible to commit. . . .
If all else failed, Yoo and Bybee advised, the President could argue that torture was legal because he authorized it. The commander in chief, according to the OLC, had inherent powers to order any interrogation technique he chose. Under this interpretation, U.S. laws and treaties banning torture -- despite having been signed into law by earlier presidents -- were deemed unconstitutional and therefore null. By this logic, the President was literally above the law. It made the President so omnipotent, as former Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson wrote in striking down similar claims to inherent power asserted by Harry Truman, the President's "power either has no beginning or it has no end."
Copyright 2008 by Jane Mayer. All Rights Reserved