Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The New Yorker: How an internal effort to ban torture was thwarted

You can read it here.

Excellent article, but very frustrating.
Upon returning to work on January 6, 2003, Mora was alarmed to learn from Brant that the abuse at Guantánamo had not stopped. In fact, as Time reported last year, Qahtani had been stripped and shaved and told to bark like a dog. He’d been forced to listen to pop music at an ear-splitting volume, deprived of sleep, and kept in a painfully cold room. Between confessing to and then recanting various terrorist plots, he had begged to be allowed to commit suicide.

Mora suspected that such abuse was a deliberate policy, and widened his internal campaign in the hope of building a constituency against it. In the next few days, his arguments reached many of the Pentagon’s top figures: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz; Captain Jane Dalton, the legal adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Victoria Clarke, who was then the Pentagon spokeswoman; and Rumsfeld.

[...]

A top Administration official told me that Yoo, Addington, and a few other lawyers had essentially “hijacked policy” after September 11th. “They thought, Now we can put our views into practice. We have the ability to write them into binding law. It was just shocking. These memos were presented as faits accomplis.”

In Yoo’s opinion, he wrote that at Guantánamo cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of detainees could be authorized, with few restrictions.

[...]

Without Mora’s knowledge, the Pentagon had pursued a secret detention policy. There was one version, enunciated in Haynes’s letter to Leahy, aimed at critics. And there was another, giving the operations officers legal indemnity to engage in cruel interrogations, and, when the Commander-in-Chief deemed it necessary, in torture. Legal critics within the Administration had been allowed to think that they were engaged in a meaningful process; but their deliberations appeared to have been largely an academic exercise, or, worse, a charade. “It seems that there was a two-track program here,” said Martin Lederman, a former lawyer with the Office of Legal Counsel, who is now a visiting professor at Georgetown. “Otherwise, why would they share the final working-group report with Hill and Miller but not with the lawyers who were its ostensible authors?”

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