Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

LQD Obama releases 4 torture memos UPDATED

by edwin Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 07:15:56 PM EST

UPDATE at end April 17, 9:30 my time

They can be found at the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Obama administration should release the still-secret memos. As the ACLU wrote in a January 28, 2009 letter to the OLC, the release of the memos would allow the public to better understand the legal basis for the Bush administration's national security policies; to better understand the role that the OLC played in developing, justifying, and advocating those policies; and to participate more meaningfully in the ongoing debate about national security, civil liberties, and human rights.

More Information

Los Angeles Times

Not only will the Obama Justice Department not prosecute any CIA personnel who "operated within the legal system," Panetta told his employees in his letter. Justice also will provide legal counsel for anyone "subject to investigations relating to these operations."

"The United States is a nation of laws," Obama's statement said. "My administration will always act in accordance with those laws, and with an unshakable commitment to our ideals."


Lawyers, Guns and Money

As Steve says, it's a mixed news day; it's good that Obama is releasing the torture memos, bad that CIA operatives who carried out torture won't be prosecuted. Admittedly, the existence of the memos does make prosecuting lower-level people a difficult proposition, and I could live with it...as soon as Yoo, Bradbury et al. are put on trial and Bybee is impeached and then put on trial.

Glenn Greenwald

The more one reads of this, the harder it is to credit Obama's statement today that "this is a time for reflection, not retribution."  At least when it comes to the orders of our highest government leaders and the DOJ lawyers who authorized them, these are pure war crimes, justified in the most disgustingly clinical language and with clear intent of wrongdoing.  FDL has a petition urging Eric Holder to immediately appoint a Special Prosecutor to determine if criminal proceedings should commence.  

Obama did the right thing by releasing these memos, providing all the information and impetus the citizenry should need to demand investigations and prosecutions.  But it is up to citizens to demand that the rule of law be applied.


Having said that, and only having read through the Bybee memo (pdf) authorizing the torture of Abu Zubayda, I feel like vomiting right now. This is the very definition of the banality of evil --- a dry, legalistic series of justifications for acts of barbaric cruelty.

The left is all over the release of the 4 memos. The right seems to have been slower to respond. The big issues at the right wing blogs seem to be the tea protests over taxes. Fox News did have something though:

Fox News

WASHINGTON -- Former CIA Director Michael Hayden says the Obama administration is endangering the country by releasing Justice Department memos that detail the CIA's interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration. 

Hayden tells The Associated Press the release will give terrorists a precise guide for what to expect in a CIA interrogation if those methods are ever approved for use again. 

The Obama administration outlawed the techniques but has a task force reviewing the military's interrogation methods to determine if they are sufficient for CIA use. 

Hayden says he worries the revelations will also deter other governments from cooperating with the United States because it shows the U.S. "can't keep anything secret."

UPDATE: I am interested in the right wing's response to the memos. This is my survey and my results:

I used Michelle Malkin's blog role to look for right wing responses to the memos. I got through to the I's then decided I had enough.

The following blogs had a post for the 17th, but have not yet covered the release of the memos. If they covered the memos on the 16th I also included them.

Ace of Spades HQ
American Digest
American Thinker
The Anchoress
Babalu Blog
Basil's Blog
Betsy's Page
Brainster's Blog
Hot Air (Captain's Quarters)
Democracy Project
One Hand Clapping (Donald Sensing)
Gateway Pundit
Independent Women's Forum (Inkwell)

American Thinker did have a story about Obama not wearing his American flag pin.

Daily Pundit has a link to CNN on the Story. They do not at this time have any articles dated the 17th.

The Following have Comments

Hugh Hewitt
The OLC interrogation memos have been released, and an avalanche of predictable commentary is rolling downhill. (See, for example, Jeffrey Toobin's "I haven't read them but Jay Bybee is a federal judge!") As the commentators show their feathers to each other, see if any of them cite a single vote by the Senate or the House to define waterboarding as torture throughout the years when the Congress was fully aware of the practice. The DOJ legal analysis was the best effort of front-line lawyers in the aftermath of a massive attack on the United States. Their Congressional critics of today who did not demand a defining vote on what constituted torture are the worst sort of hypocrites. They are the lawmakers, and chose --even when House and Senate were controlled by Democrats from January 2007 to the present-- to avoid passing a law bringing clarity to the very gray areas of the law of interrogation.
IMAO Unfair. Unbalanced. Unmedicated.
# Quote from torture memo: “Don’t forget to torture.” # # Quote from torture memo: “Remember to charge the car battery.” #

18 blogs, 3 with coverage.

I used Hullabaloo for a comparison on the left. I did not Use Glenn Greenwald because I feel that his list of blogs covers a wider range of political views.

Hullabaloo yes
Today's Ideas & Actions (the big con) no
American Street no
Eschaton yes
Ezra Klein (The American Prospect) yes
Yglesias no
Political Animal (Washington Monthly) yes
Glenn Greenwald yes
Firedoglake yes
TaylorMarsh yes
Big Brass Blog yes
rsspect.org yes
Talkleft yes
Suburban Guerrilla yes
Echidne of the Snakes no
Talking Points Memo yes
Pandagon no
Daily Kos yes

18 blogs, 13 with coverage

Obviously there is a very different set of concerns here between the left and right wing.

For the right wing, this seems to be a non-issue.

I'm finding it strange that proof of wrongdoing is being used as an excuse not to prosecute that wrongdoing.

Standards of accountability seem to have slipped since Nuremberg. Or even since My Lai, for that matter.

Since when does 'we were following orders' excuse war crimes?

And then for Obama to say that the US is a nation of laws seems truly Blair-ish in its inappropriateness and cynicism.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 09:09:55 PM EST
Since when does 'we were following orders' excuse war crimes?

When they're committed by Americans, of course!  "A subject German and a sovereign American are clean different things" after all...

And I agree, the claim that the US is a nation of laws at the end of a statement saying that you will ignore gross violations of those laws is unspeakably hypocritical.

Unfortunately, by this action to protect his torturers, Obama has effectively made himself a co-conspirator.  As pointed out by Scott Horton a few years ago, "those involved in purporting to grant immunity [for war crimes] may thereby be roped into a charged joint criminal enterprise."  That was the US's position on the Yugoslav government's efforts to immunise its own war criminals against international justice, and it now applies to Obama.  

by IdiotSavant on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 11:37:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is the impact of these memos on the Spanish prosecution over Guantánamo?

Spain's Attorney General Opposes Prosecutions of 6 Bush Officials on Allowing Torture - NYTimes.com

Besides Alberto Gonzalez, the former attorney general, the complaint named John C. Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who wrote secret opinions saying the president had the authority to circumvent the Geneva Conventions, and Douglas J. Feith, the former under secretary of defense for policy.

Secret memorandums by Mr. Yoo and other top administration lawyers helped clear the way for aggressive policies like waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques, which the C.I.A. director, the attorney general and other American officials have said amount to torture.

Are these "secret memos" the ones that have now been declassified by the Obama administration?
The other Americans named in the complaint were William J. Haynes II, former general counsel for the Department of Defense; Jay S. Bybee, Mr. Yoo's former boss at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel; and David S. Addington, the chief of staff and legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Things don't look good at the political level, though. From earlier paragraphs in the same story,
Cándido Conde-Pumpido, the attorney general, said at a breakfast meeting with journalists in Madrid that he would oppose any legal action in Spain because the proper forum would be an American court and that any investigation should focus on those who actually mistreated detainees.

But in Spain, the attorney general does not have the last word; an investigating judge decides whether a case will proceed. Lawyers familiar with the case said that the stage had now apparently been set for a struggle between judges and politicians.


But with Spain's government eager to improve its formerly tense relations with Washington, lawyers familiar with the case said there was evidently political pressure to dismiss it.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 17th, 2009 at 06:10:30 AM EST
Think Progress: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in one month

Just wow.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu

by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Sun Apr 19th, 2009 at 07:26:36 AM EST
Some anecdotal accounts have appeared by personal witnesses. In September 1988, an Israeli newspaper recorded a testimony from Dr. Marcus Levin, a member of Kibbutz Matsuba who was called up for reserve duty at Ansar II.43 When he arrived at the prison clinic, he inquired about his duties and was told "Mainly you examine prisoners before and after an interrogation." He was told that the work was "nothing special;" sometimes fractures had to be dealt with.44 Extracts from another such testimony are printed in APPENDIX II.  

Footnote 44

44. Dr. Levin reports that he then told the Camp Commander: "My name is Marcus Levin and not Josef Mengele, and for reasons of conscience, I refuse to serve in this place." One of the doctors tried to calm him down. "Marcus, at first you feel like Mengele, but after a few days you get used to it."


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sun Apr 19th, 2009 at 08:56:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for this, edwin.  It's gut wrenching to read, and I imagine to research.  I have signed the FDL petition too.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sun Apr 26th, 2009 at 02:52:35 PM EST

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]