Ashcroft refuses to hand over torture memo

  1. i am posting these stories on the abu garhib mess for two reasons - one is that it does touch australia - our goverment has come under scutiny because of this and two it shows what is being said outside america about this business.

    last update: wednesday, june 9, 2004. 9:47am (aest)
    ashcroft refuses to hand over torture memo

    us attorney-general john ashcroft has refused to give politicians copies of a justice department memo that allegedly advised the white house that torture during war on terrorism interrogations could be justified.

    the washington post reports that an august 2002 memo sent by the justice department in response to a central intelligence agency request for legal guidance said international laws against torture "may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations" conducted in the war on terrorism.

    but mr ashcroft refused to provide the memo to politicians on the senate judiciary committee.

    "we believe that to provide this kind of information would impair the ability of advice-giving in the executive branch to be candid, forthright, thorough and accurate at all times," mr ashcroft said.

    "this administration rejects torture," he said, insisting the white house did nothing to contravene the geneva conventions or us law.

    "congress has the right to ask whatever questions it wants," he said.

    but he added: "there are certain things that, in the interest of the executive branch operating effectively, that i think it's inappropriate for the attorney-general to say."

    he added that "some of these memos may be classified in some ways for some purposes".

    democrats have expressed outrage at ashcroft's refusal to provide the documents.

    "you may be in contempt of congress," warned democratic senator joseph biden.

    "you are not allowed not to answer our questions," he said, adding that the justice department had "better come up with a good rationale" for refusing to furnish the memo.

    the senate's top democrat, tom daschle, said at a press conference that "it's very important ... for the congress to have the documents".

    any document that suggests torture might be permissible "undermines the rule of law in this country and around the world", he said.

    senator ted kennedy drew a direct link between the memo and the abuse committed by us troops against inmates at the abu ghraib prison in iraq.

    "we know when we have these kinds of orders what happens," senator kennedy said at the hearing, holding now-familiar photos of detainees being mistreated at the facility.

    "we get the stress test, we get the use of dogs, we get the forced nakedness that we've all seen ... this is what directly results when you have that kind of memoranda out there."

    the justice department memo, addressed to white house counsel alberto gonzalez, reportedly said torturing a suspect in captivity "may be justified" if it would "prevent further attacks on the united states by the al qaeda terrorist network".

    arguments about "necessity and self-defence could provide justifications that would eliminate any criminal liability", the 50-page document signed by assistant attorney-general jay baybee and obtained by the washington post said.

    the memo served as basis for a march 2003 classified report prepared for defence secretary donald rumsfeld, after commanders at the us military prison in guantanamo bay, cuba, complained that they were not getting enough information from prisoners.

    the wall street journal on monday revealed the 2003 report.

    the august 2002 memo, the washington post wrote, argued that inflicting moderate or fleeting pain did not necessarily constitute torture, which "must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death".

    the newspaper said us army manuals on interrogations were more restrictive, banning such practices as pain induced by chemicals or bondage; forcing an individual to stand, sit or kneel in abnormal positions for prolonged periods of time; and food deprivation.

    -- afp

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s1127735.htm
    •  
  2. 14 Comments

  3. by   Ted
    Thank you, Gwenith, for taking the time and energy for providing the articles and discussion on this sad and shameful situation. Also is appreciated the "outside" point of view on this matter. Your concerns are respectfully noted. Hopefully the truth will continue to come to light and the people responsible held accountable.

    The following is from the 6/9/2004 New York Times editorial. Hopefully, Congress, as this article suggest, will find the "intestinal fortitude" to "form an investigative panel with subpoena powers to find the answers".

    _________________________________________

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/09/opinion/09WED1.html

    The Roots of Abu Ghraib

    Published: June 9, 2004

    n response to the outrages at Abu Ghraib, the Bush administration has repeatedly assured Americans that the president and his top officials did not say or do anything that could possibly be seen as approving the abuse or outright torture of prisoners. But disturbing disclosures keep coming. This week it's a legal argument by government lawyers who said the president was not bound by laws or treaties prohibiting torture.

    Each new revelation makes it more clear that the inhumanity at Abu Ghraib grew out of a morally dubious culture of legal expediency and a disregard for normal behavior fostered at the top of this administration. It is part of the price the nation must pay for President Bush's decision to take the extraordinary mandate to fight terrorism that he was granted by a grieving nation after 9/11 and apply it without justification to Iraq.

    Since the Abu Ghraib scandal broke into public view, the administration has contended that a few sadistic guards acted on their own to commit the crimes we've all seen in pictures and videos. At times, the White House has denied that any senior official was aware of the situation, as it did with Red Cross reports documenting a pattern of prisoner abuse in Iraq. In response to a rising pile of documents proving otherwise, the administration has mounted a "Wizard of Oz" defense, urging Americans not to pay attention to inconvenient evidence.

    This week, The Wall Street Journal broke the story of a classified legal brief prepared for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in March 2003 after Guantánamo Bay interrogators complained that they were not getting enough information from terror suspects. The brief cynically suggested that because the president is protecting national security, any ban on torture, even an American law, could not be applied to "interrogation undertaken pursuant to his commander-in-chief authority." Neil A. Lewis and Eric Schmitt reported yesterday in The Times that the document had grown out of a January 2002 Justice Department memo explaining why the Geneva Conventions and American laws against torture did not apply to suspected terrorists.

    In the wake of that memo, the White House general counsel advised Mr. Bush that Al Qaeda and the Taliban should be considered outside the Geneva Conventions. But yesterday, Attorney General John Ashcroft assured the Senate Judiciary Committee that Mr. Bush had not ordered torture. These explanations might be more comforting if the administration's definition of what's legal was not so slippery, and if the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the White House were willing to release documents to back up their explanation. Mr. Rumsfeld is still withholding from the Senate his orders on interrogation techniques, among other things.

    The Pentagon has said that Mr. Rumsfeld's famous declaration that the Geneva Conventions did not apply in Afghanistan was not a sanction of illegal interrogations, and that everyone knew different rules applied in Iraq. But Mr. Rumsfeld, his top deputies and the highest-ranking generals could not explain to the Senate what the rules were, or even who was in charge of the prisons in Iraq. We do not know how high up in the chain of command the specific sanction for abusing prisoners was given, and we may never know, because the Army is investigating itself and the Pentagon is stonewalling the Senate Armed Services Committee. It may yet be necessary for Congress to form an investigative panel with subpoena powers to find the answers.

    What we have seen, topped by that legalistic treatise on torture, shows clearly that Mr. Bush set the tone for this dreadful situation by pasting a false "war on terrorism" label on the invasion of Iraq.
  4. by   pickledpepperRN
    http://www.dod.gov/news/May2004/n050...200405082.html

    General 'Guarantees' Protection Under Geneva Conventions
    By Jim Garamone
    American Forces Press Service
    WASHINGTON, May 8, 2004 - Actions, not words, are important now, said Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, deputy commanding general for detainee operations for Multinational Forces, Iraq.

    Miller spoke at a Baghdad press conference today. He said that in the face of the allegations of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. actions must demonstrate "our adherence to the Geneva Conventions and the principles of dignity to each of those ... protected individuals under the Geneva Conventions. I give you my personal guarantee that we will continue to do that seven days a week, 24 hours a day."

    Miller, who commanded Joint Task Force Guantanamo at the Guantanamo Naval Station, Cuba, recently took over the newly created job in Iraq.

    He said he has personally spoken to all personnel in the system to explain the situation, and has demanded that they follow all laws, regulations and procedures.
  5. by   pickledpepperRN
    http://www.abcny.org/
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5032094/site/newsweek/
    Double Standards?
    A Justice Department memo proposes that the United States hold others accountable for international laws on detainees--but that Washington did not have to follow them itself
    http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/horton.html

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4989422/site/newsweek/
  6. by   pickledpepperRN
    http://www.democracynow.org/article..../06/11/1431228

    Bush Refuses to Rule Out Torture Was Allowed
    At the G8 conference in George, President Bush held a rare press conference. He said NATO is not likely too contribute troops to Iraq and he refused to rule out that torture was used during interrogations.

    Asked repeatedly about what message was sent to interrogators about the using torture, Bush said "The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you."

    Earlier this week internal Bush administration memos were leaked to the press that indicated the administration had concluded the president had the power to ignore U.S. and international law regarding torture on the grounds of national security.

    When asked on Thursday, Bush said he couldn't recall if he had seen the memo.


    Intelligence Officers Ordered Use of Dogs in Abu Ghraib
    The Washington Post is reporting today that U.S. intelligence personnel ordered military dog handlers at Abu Ghraib to use unmuzzled dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees during interrogations
  7. by   donmurray
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/...237239,00.html

    A torturer's charter
    Secret documents show that US interrogators are above the law

    Richard Norton-Taylor
    Saturday June 12, 2004

    The Guardian

    On the stage of a London theatre on Thursday night, a lawyer held up an official US document, classified by Donald Rumsfeld as "secret" and "not for foreign eyes". Considering its contents, the document has attracted remarkably little attention here since it was leaked this week to the US media. Its significance was raised by Clive Stafford-Smith, director of the US-based group Justice in Exile, at the end of a performance of Guantánamo, the Tricycle Theatre's moving indictment of how the US rounded up detainees - or "unlawful combatants", as it calls them - and sent them to the US base in Cuba.
    Stafford-Smith is acting for some of the Guantánamo prisoners, challenging the conditions in which they are being held. The US supreme court is expected to give its ruling before the end of this month. Rumsfeld's classified document, drawn up by US government lawyers, bears directly on the case. It argues that American interrogators can ignore US domestic law banning torture, because it would restrict the president's powers in his "war on terror".

    The document, drawn up last year, says that "criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the president's ultimate authority" over "the conduct of war". It adds: "In order to respect the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign, [the prohibition of torture] must be construed as inapplicable to interrogators undertaken pursuant to his commander-in-chief authority".

    Constitutionally, America's founding fathers entrusted the president with the primary responsibility, and therefore the power, to ensure the security of the US in situations of "grave and unforeseen emergencies". It goes on: "Numerous presidents have ordered the capture, detention, and questioning of enemy combatants during virtually every major conflict in the nation's history, including recent conflicts in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf". And it continues: "Congress can no more interfere with the president's conduct of the interrogation of enemy combatants than it can dictate strategy or tactical decisions on the battlefield."

    The lengths to which Rumsfeld's lawyers are prepared to go to protect the freedom of the president's agents and place them above the law are reflected in other passages.

    The document states that US interrogators can use harsh measures as long as they were not "specifically intended" to inflict "severe mental pain or suffering". In another passage, it says that even if an interrogator "knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent."

    Interrogators can appeal to the defence of "necessity" - in other words, they can argue that torturing individuals is needed to prevent greater harm or evil such as threats to the safety of the nation. And the concept of "self-defence" is given the widest possible interpretation, referring to the nation rather than any individual.

    The document, on the face of it, is a charter allowing the US president to abuse human rights and ignore domestic as well as international law.

    Stafford-Smith yesterday pointed to what he called its most outrageous argument - namely, that domestic law does not apply to actions inside the US. Torture can be committed inside the US.

    The Pentagon's lawyers describe Guantánamo Bay as "included within the definition of the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the US and accordingly is within the US". They add: "Thus, the torture statute does not apply to the conduct of US personnel" at Guantánamo Bay.

    The apparent non sequitur is based on the argument that the statute is confined to actions outside the US - in other words, that torture is not banned within the US. Yet this directly contradicts claims made by other US government lawyers who insist Guantánamo Bay detainees have no rights under US law. The naval base, they insist, is not US sovereign territory so the detainees do not have such basic rights as access to a fair trial.

    The issue is now before the US supreme court. If the detainees win this argument, it could lead the way to at least some kind of judicial process, including the testing of evidence. But whatever Guantánamo Bay's territorial status, according to the Rumsfeld document, detainees there and anywhere else can be tortured at will in Bush's global "war" on terrorism.

    "The authorisation I issued was that anything we did would conform to US laws and would be consistent with international treaty obligations," Bush said this week. Little comfort there.

    - Richard Norton-Taylor is the Guardian's security affairs editor

    richard.norton-taylor@guardian.co.uk

    Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
    Last edit by donmurray on Jun 12, '04
  8. by   jyoung1950
    Quote from gwenith
    i am posting these stories on the abu garhib mess for two reasons - one is that it does touch australia - our goverment has come under scutiny because of this and two it shows what is being said outside america about this business.

    last update: wednesday, june 9, 2004. 9:47am (aest)
    ashcroft refuses to hand over torture memo

    us attorney-general john ashcroft has refused to give politicians copies of a justice department memo that allegedly advised the white house that torture during war on terrorism interrogations could be justified.

    the washington post reports that an august 2002 memo sent by the justice department in response to a central intelligence agency request for legal guidance said international laws against torture "may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations" conducted in the war on terrorism.

    but mr ashcroft refused to provide the memo to politicians on the senate judiciary committee.

    "we believe that to provide this kind of information would impair the ability of advice-giving in the executive branch to be candid, forthright, thorough and accurate at all times," mr ashcroft said.

    "this administration rejects torture," he said, insisting the white house did nothing to contravene the geneva conventions or us law.

    "congress has the right to ask whatever questions it wants," he said.

    but he added: "there are certain things that, in the interest of the executive branch operating effectively, that i think it's inappropriate for the attorney-general to say."

    he added that "some of these memos may be classified in some ways for some purposes".

    democrats have expressed outrage at ashcroft's refusal to provide the documents.

    "you may be in contempt of congress," warned democratic senator joseph biden.

    "you are not allowed not to answer our questions," he said, adding that the justice department had "better come up with a good rationale" for refusing to furnish the memo.

    the senate's top democrat, tom daschle, said at a press conference that "it's very important ... for the congress to have the documents".

    any document that suggests torture might be permissible "undermines the rule of law in this country and around the world", he said.

    senator ted kennedy drew a direct link between the memo and the abuse committed by us troops against inmates at the abu ghraib prison in iraq.

    "we know when we have these kinds of orders what happens," senator kennedy said at the hearing, holding now-familiar photos of detainees being mistreated at the facility.

    "we get the stress test, we get the use of dogs, we get the forced nakedness that we've all seen ... this is what directly results when you have that kind of memoranda out there."

    the justice department memo, addressed to white house counsel alberto gonzalez, reportedly said torturing a suspect in captivity "may be justified" if it would "prevent further attacks on the united states by the al qaeda terrorist network".

    arguments about "necessity and self-defence could provide justifications that would eliminate any criminal liability", the 50-page document signed by assistant attorney-general jay baybee and obtained by the washington post said.

    the memo served as basis for a march 2003 classified report prepared for defence secretary donald rumsfeld, after commanders at the us military prison in guantanamo bay, cuba, complained that they were not getting enough information from prisoners.

    the wall street journal on monday revealed the 2003 report.

    the august 2002 memo, the washington post wrote, argued that inflicting moderate or fleeting pain did not necessarily constitute torture, which "must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death".

    the newspaper said us army manuals on interrogations were more restrictive, banning such practices as pain induced by chemicals or bondage; forcing an individual to stand, sit or kneel in abnormal positions for prolonged periods of time; and food deprivation.

    -- afp

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s1127735.htm
    i watched the questioning of john ashcroft on cspan the other day. thought i was in communist russia.
  9. by   elkpark
    I watched the questioning of John Ashcroft on Cspan the other day. Thought I was in Communist Russia.
    Y'know, I've had similar thoughts lately, because the Soviet government also used to torture prisoners, and the Soviet government was also a major international embarrassment to its citizens, like the Shrub administration is to us ...
  10. by   pickledpepperRN
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv...text011601.htm

    John Ashcroft's Senate Confirmation Hearing
    Tuesday, January 16, 2001

    ...Do you swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give before the committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

    JOHN ASHCROFT: I do...

    ...President-elect George W. Bush has designated me to lead the Justice Department, the principal executive voice on American justice and what must be, should be and continue to be the role model for justice the world over.

    It's not only with honor, therefore, that I sit before you today, it's with an awesome sense of responsibility. For I know that if confirmed on my shoulders will rest the responsibility of upholding American justice, a tradition that strives to bring protection to the weak, freedom to the restrained, liberty to the oppressed, and security to every citizen.

    I understand the responsibility of the attorney general's office. I revere it. I am humbled by it. And if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as the attorney general, I will spend every waking moment, and probably some sleeping moments as well, dedicated to ensuring that the Justice Department lives up to its heritage, not only enforcing the rule of law, but guaranteeing rights for the advancement of all Americans.
    The attorney general must recognize this: The language of justice is not the reality of justice for all Americans.

    My wife has helped me with anecdotes of hers from her experience to understand that there are millions of Americans who wonder if justice means hostility aimed at "just us." From racial profiling to news of unwarranted strip searches, the list of injustice in America today is still long. Injustice in America against any individual must not stand; this is the special charge of the U.S. Department of Justice.

    No American should be turned away from a polling place because of the color of her skin or the sound of his name. No American should be denied access to public accommodations or a job as a result of a disability. No American family should be prevented from realizing the dream of home ownership in the neighborhood of their choice just because of skin color. No American should have the door to employment or educational opportunity slammed shut because of gender or race. No American should fear being stopped by police just because of skin color. And no woman should fear being threatened or coerced in seeking constitutionally protected health services.
    I pledge to you that if I'm confirmed as attorney general, the Justice Department will meet its special charge.
    Injustice against individuals will not stand, no ifs, ands or buts, period.

    The attorney general is charged with the solemn responsibility of serving as the attorney for the United States of America. The attorney general is the people's counsel. The attorney general must lead a professional, nonpartisan Justice Department that is uncompromisingly fair, defined by integrity and dedicated to upholding the rule of law.

    I pledge to you that if I am confirmed as attorney general I will serve as the attorney general of all the people.

    I well understand that the role of attorney general is to enforce the law as it is, not as I would have it. I accept Roe and Casey as the settled law of the land. If confirmed as attorney general, I will follow the law in this area and in all other areas. The Supreme Court's decisions on this have been multiple, they have been recent and they have been emphatic.

    It is indeed adherence to the rule of law that is the basis of our democracy. Never in the history of the world has any country so thoroughly dedicated itself to respecting laws, for it is in respecting laws that we respect the individual dignity and freedom of people.

    Nowhere in government is thorough obedience to the rule of law more powerfully evident and more urgently necessary than at the Department of Justice
    If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed by the United States Senate and to become the next United States attorney general, I pledge to you that strict enforcement of the rule of law will be the cornerstone of justice.

    As a man of faith, I take my word and my integrity seriously. So when I swear to uphold the law, I will keep my oath, so help me God.
  11. by   pickledpepperRN
    http://www.cnn.com/2001/US/12/06/inv.ashcroft.hearing/
    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/fedag...rture_6-8.html

    SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, D-Vt.: Did your department issue a memorandum that would suggest that torture is allowed under certain circumstances, as the press has reported?

    ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN ASHCROFT: I want to confirm that the president has not directed or ordered any conduct that would violate the Constitution of the United States, that would violate any one of these enactment's of the United States Congress, or that would violate the provisions of any of the treaties as they have been entered into by the United States, the president, the administration and this government.

    SEN. LEAHY: Has or has not been any order directed from the president with respect to interrogation of detainees, prisoners or combatants, yes or no?

    ATTN. GEN. ASHCROFT: I'm not in a position to answer that question.

    SEN. LEAHY: Does that mean because you don't know, or you don't want to answer? I don't understand?

    ATTN. GEN. ASHCROFT: The answer to that question is yes.

    SEN. LEAHY: You don't know? Is there such an order?

    ATTN. GEN. ASHCROFT: For me to comment on what the president -- what I advise the president --
    SEN. LEAHY: I'm not asking that.

    ATTN. GEN. ASHCROFT: -- what the president's activity is, is appropriate. I will just say this, that he has made no order that would require or direct the violation of any law of the United States enacted by the Congress, or any treaty to which the United States is party, as ratified by the Congress or the Constitution of the United States.

    SEN. TED KENNEDY, D-Mass.: There are three memoranda -- January 9, 2002, signed by John Yoo; the August 2002 Justice Department, the memo -- and the March 2000 -- the inter-agency working group. Those are three memoranda. Will you provide those to the committee?

    ATTN. GEN. ASHCROFT: No, I will not.

    SEN. KENNEDY: Under what basis?

    JOHN ASHCROFT: We --

    SEN. KENNEDY: What's the justification not providing it?

    ATTN. GEN. ASHCROFT: We believe that to provide this kind of information would impair the ability of advice-giving in the Executive Branch to be candid, forthright, thorough, and accurate at all times.

    SEN. KENNEDY: We've been looking to about where the president -- because we know, when we have these kinds of orders, what happens. We get the stress test, we get the use of dogs, we get the forced nakedness that we've all seen on these, and we get the hooding. This is what directly results when you have that kind of memoranda out there.

    ATTN. GEN. ASHCROFT: First of all, let me completely reject the notion that anything that this president has done or the Justice Department has done has directly resulted in the kinds of atrocities which were cited. That is false. It is an inappropriate conclusion.

    SEN. KENNEDY: General, has the president authorized you to invoke the executive privilege today on these documents?

    ATTN. GEN. ASHCROFT: I am not going to reveal discussions -- whether I've had them or not had them with the president. He asked me to deal with him as a matter of confidence. I have not invoked the executive privilege today. I have explained to you why I'm not turning over the documents.

    SEN. KENNEDY: Well, what are you invoking then?

    ATTN. GEN. ASHCROFT: I have not invoked anything. I have just explained to you why I am not turning over the documents.

    SEN. JOE BIDEN, D-Del.: Thank you very much. Well, General, that means you may be in contempt of Congress then. You got to have a reason not to answer our questions, as you know from you sitting up here. There may be a rationale for executive privilege that misses the point, but -- but, you know, you have to have a reason. You are not allowed, under our Constitution, not to answer our questions. And that ain't -- that ain't constitutional.

    SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-Calif.: So these memos actually either reverse or substantially alter 30 years of interpretation by our body as well as the executive of the Geneva Conventions.

    ATTN. GEN. ASHCROFT: But the only people who are accorded the protections of the Geneva Convention are, number one, according to the convention itself, those nations that are high contracting parties to the convention. Al-Qaida is not a high-contracting party to the Geneva Convention. It repudiates the rules of war.
    Now, the law against the torture applies. When the Congress enacted the torture statute, it enacted a law that said it applied everywhere outside the United States. But when the Congress defined the United States, it's not simple: It will sometimes include military bases, it will sometimes include consular offices, it will sometimes include the residences or embassy offices. And when the Congress of the United States makes these definitions, that's what I have to live by.
    -----------------------------------
    MARGARET WARNER: For more on all this, we're joined by Jess Bravin of the Wall Street Journal. He broke the story about the March 2003 memo yesterday. Welcome. Tell us briefly the genesis of this memorandum.
    JESS BRAVIN: Well, in late 2002, interrogators at Guantanamo Bay reported they were having trouble getting information from recalcitrant prisoners, a couple in particular who they described as being high intelligence

    value prisoners. And they began, according to interrogators and military officials we talked to, trying all sorts of unorthodox methods including, for example, the women's underwear on the head method that later resurfaced in Iraq. In one instance at least threatening to have relatives of a prisoner killed if he didn't talk.
    And these techniques got a number of military officials upset. They were concerned that they went way too far and might not be lawful. That event led Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to ask his general counsel, William J, Haynes to appoint a working group to examine what exactly the legal and policy parameters were for interrogation of detainees and what's called the global war on terrorism.
    That led to the document that we reported on, on Monday, which is one of a series of legal opinions that have come out of the administration since 9/11.

    MARGARET WARNER: So there was in other words a continuum between the two Justice Department documents of last or of 2002 and 2003, this one in 2003?

    JESS BRAVIN: Oh, sure. I mean, ever since 9/11, the Justice Department and other legal arms of the administration have been exploring a theory of executive power, that the president as commander in chief has sweeping powers to do what he thinks is necessary to protect the country. That's been a hallmark of the administration's legal view since 9/11.

    MARGARET WARNER: So explain the key argument made in the March 2003 memorandum in terms of why the United States does not have to abide by anti-torture conventions of the Geneva conventions.

    JESS BRAVIN: Well, I mean that memorandum had several interesting legal points. The one that you're focusing on here is a second sun that says the title of it is something like "conditions under which criminal conduct might not be unlawful" or something like that. And it lists a series of rationales as to why violating the torture statute and the international convention against torture and other laws might be not unlawful in the way that legal documents sometimes put it.
    The first one was called commander in chief authority. You cited that earlier in the program: This view that the torture statute could not be applied to the president if he felt it was necessary because of his inherent power as commander in chief. It also said that the president could conceivably authorize subordinates to exercise that power in his behalf. Now it's important to note that the Pentagon and the White House have made an issue of the fact that this is legal advice. It doesn't mean that this is what they're actually doing. They've said this is not what they are actually doing. It was a result of -- you know -- lawyers exploring why this possible series of hypothetical possibilities. So let's make that clear.
    But the commander in chief argument was pretty interesting. It said that if he does want to exercise his power, he wants subordinates to disregard the torture statute, he should issue a written finding or directive that would serve as evidence of that. That's what some of the senators were asking about today on the... at the Judiciary Committee.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, one month after this legal memorandum or at least this draft was prepared, Secretary Rumsfeld issued new interrogation techniques as I understand it -- on April 16 of 2003 at least as they applied to Guantanamo. Were you able to determine through your reporting to what degree that was based on either the legal reasoning or the... well, the legal reasoning of this earlier memo?

    JESS BRAVIN: Well, it's a long memo. These are all long memos. They invoke all kinds of legal reasoning. According to people who have seen the interrogation matrix, according to the official statements of the Pentagon spokesman, the 24 or so techniques that Secretary Rumsfeld approved fall far short of anything that they would consider to be torture. Now of course we have to take their word for it because they haven't revealed what those techniques are. But according to the Pentagon spokesman, 17 of those techniques are ones that already are used in the army. They're part of the army's field manual on interrogation that's been in place for years. Seven of them are not... four of them require Rumsfeld's personal authorization before they can be used. We were told by the Pentagon that those four or one of those four techniques has been used on two prisoners. They wouldn't tell us exactly what it was but they said it was something that involved isolation.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, in other words, the Pentagon's assertion and position is that despite the legal argument made in that memo, that nothing Secretary Rumsfeld approved does, in fact, violate the standards of the Geneva Convention or the US anti-torture law?

    JESS BRAVIN: That's what they say, yes.

    MARGARET WARNER: And finally, you heard Senator Kennedy say, well, this is also... this is what led to the abuses at Abu Ghraib. From the people you've talked to, is there a connection there?

    JESS BRAVIN: I don't know that there is a direct connection between these legal memoranda that are being written at the Pentagon and the Justice Department and what's going on in the field. I don't think they have those classified memoranda. But it is true, according to many military officials who we spoke to, that a school of thought after 9/11 developed saying that there really are no rules here. You're dealing with an enemy that does not respect the Geneva Conventions or the laws of war. We have to reciprocate in order to defeat them.
    So I don't know that there's a direct link between this document and what we've seen in Iraq and what has been alleged to have been done to prisoners in Afghanistan and elsewhere by US personnel, but certainly there is a fair segment of military and national security people who believe that the rules restraining harsh interrogation techniques are no longer appropriate.

    MARGARET WARNER: Jess Bravin of the Wall Street Journal, thank you.
  12. by   gwenith
    This whole scandal must hurt. AS an outsider it appears that so much of the national idenity of America is about being "the good guys". I must hurt when that national identity is attacked in this way. We know it is not everyone and we know that it is only a small minority that were involved and we applaud America'a attempt to try and fix the problem but in the fixing of it it must be opened for all to see and that has to hurt.
  13. by   elkpark
    We know it is not everyone and we know that it is only a small minority that were involved and we applaud America'a attempt to try and fix the problem
    True -- unfortunately, thought, the "small minority" is our government ... :uhoh21:
  14. by   nurseygrrl
    It is unfortunate that most peoples are viewed as an extension of their government. We, here in America, do not agree with everything Bush says and does. Same with Iraq. The Iraqui people are lovely and they have their own opinions and traditions. They are not extensions of Sadaam. so yes, Bush is an embarrassment to me.

close