Thursday, February 04, 2010

Another Bush Torture Regime Roundup: Read It And Weep For Your Country

It was pretty obvious from the moment he took office that Barack Obama was not going to do a 180-degree turn from the excesses of the Bush Torture Regime.

Yes, waterboarding and other torture techniques were outlawed. Yes, military tribunals were more or less defanged. But Camp Delta at Guantánamo Bay remains open as apparently do secret overseas prisons. And now, in the biggest slap in the liberal kisser, the Justice Department has considerably softened the recommendations in a soon-to-be-released report that was sharply critical of Jay Bybee (left) and John Yoo (below, right), the key Torture Regime legal architects.

The report from the Office of Professional Responsibility, Justice's ethics-watchdog unit, states the the two men, now a federal judge and law professor respectively, used "poor judgment" in crafting memos justifying the use of torture, a far cry to the professional-misconduct allegation in the original report. Poor judgment, by Justice's calculus, does not constitute misconduct.

The shift would seem to be significant since the original finding would have triggered referrals to state bar associations for possible disciplinary action. In Bybee’s case, that could have led to an impeachment inquiry, but bar associations have been notably disinterested in wading into the stench that the men created when asked to do so in the past.

Meanwhile, Newsweek reports -- for what it's worth, and that regrettably is damned little since the perps are getting wrist slaps -- that
an especially controversial section of a 2002 memo contending that the president, as commander in chief, can override a federal law banning torture was not in the original draft of the memo.

But when Michael Chertoff (below, left), then-chief of Justice's criminal division, refused the CIA's request for a blanket pledge not to prosecute its officers for torture, Yoo scurried over to the White House to meet with David Addington, Vice President Cheney's dungeon master and chief counsel, and then–White House counsel Alberto Gonzales.

After the meeting, Yoo inserted a section in the memo about the commander in chief's wartime powers and another saying that CIA officers accused of torturing Al Qaeda suspects could claim they were acting in "self-defense" to prevent future terror attacks. Both legal claims have long since been rejected by Justice officials as overly broad and unsupported by legal precedent.

Amazingly, FBI interrogation experts apparently are getting results in their interrogations of the Undie Bomber although he is not being tortured nor faces the kangaroo court hijinks of a military commission. He also has been mirandized and has had an attorney present.

In fact, 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab began speaking to FBI agents last week in Detroit and has not stopped.

The cooperation was disclosed during a Congressional hearing on Tuesday when Abdulmutallab's interrogation became the subject of an intense political debate over whether he initially stopped providing information after he was read his Miranda rights and was given a lawyer.

The excesses of the Torture Regime may be having the unintended consequence of placing too many constraints on how prisoners are handled by the military.

That is according to Army Colonel Stewart Herrington, who is especially alarmed by the new limits on separating prisoners. He places blame for this outcome squarely on the shoulders of senior Bush administration officials:

"For a professional interrogator, these new operating conditions are onerous, and translate into a net loss for our national security. Responsibility for this can be traced back to zealous officials in the Bush Administration who decided that brutality was an effective shortcut to obtaining good information -- against the wisdom and experience of mainstream professional interrogators."

Glenn Greenwald
on the legacy of the Torture Regime:

"How much clearer evidence can there be of how warped and extremist we've become on these matters? The express policies of the right-wing Ronald Reagan -- 'applying the rule of law to terrorists'; delegitimizing terrorists by treating them as 'criminals'; and compelling the criminal prosecution of those who authorize torture -- are now considered on the Leftist fringe. Merely advocating what Reagan explicitly adopted as his policy -- to use democracy’s most potent tool, the rule of law against terrorists -- is now the exclusive province of civil liberties extremists. In those rare cases when Obama does what Reagan’s policy demanded in all instances and what even Bush did at times — namely, trials and due process for accused Terrorists -- he is attacked as being 'Soft on Terror' by Democrats and Republicans alike. And the mere notion that we should prosecute torturers (as Reagan bound the U.S. to do) -- or even hold them accountable in ways short of criminal proceedings -- is now the hallmark of a Far Leftist Purist. That’s how far we’ve fallen, how extremist our political consensus has become."

Top Image: Engraving from a painting by A. Steinheil

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