Newly Released OLC Torture Memos: First Thoughts

I don’t have the time to read them completely, nor to respond in any kind of detail, but here is my first thought. Doesn’t this (h/t Glenn Greenwald):


Remind you of this?

‘The worst thing in the world,’ said O’Brien, ‘varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths. There are cases where it is some quite trivial thing, not even fatal.’

He had moved a little to one side, so that Winston had a better view of the thing on the table. It was an oblong wire cage with a handle on top for carrying it by. Fixed to the front of it was something that looked like a fencing mask, with the concave side outwards. Although it was three or four metres away from him, he could see that the cage was divided lengthways into two compartments, and that there was some kind of creature in each. They were rats.

‘In your case,’ said O’Brien, ‘the worst thing in the world happens to be rats.’

A sort of premonitory tremor, a fear of he was not certain what, had passed through Winston as soon as he caught his first glimpse of the cage. But at this moment the meaning of the mask-like attachment in front of it suddenly sank into him. His bowels seemed to turn to water.


Here are the links to the memos themselves care of the ACLU (h/t emptywheel):

August 1, 2002 John Yoo memo

First May 10, 2005 Steven Bradbury memo

Second May 10, 2005 Steven Bradbury memo

May 30, 2005 Steven Bradbury memo

Finally, I agree entirely with emptywheel that the ACLU deserves more support. Like so many other organizations that rely on donations, they’ve been hard hit by the economic downturn, but they’re still fighting the good fight.

Update: Firedoglake has a petition asking Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor who will determine whether criminal prosecutions are warranted. Sign it here.

Published in: on April 16, 2009 at 3:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Where is Feinstein on Dawn Johnsen?

As Christy points out, Senator Feinstein has been deliberately ambiguous in her statements on Dawn Johnsen’s confirmation, specifically targeting Johnsen’s ‘activism’ on the actions of the Bush OLC. I personally suspect that the senator is in no particular rush to see her confirmed. Johnsen’s statments regarding torture lend weight to efforts for investigations, something which Feinstein actively opposes. I’ve emailed the senator’s offices expressing my support for Johnsen’s confirmation, but haven’t received a response. You should too.

Published in: on April 15, 2009 at 4:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Not the Change We Need: Part VII in a Continuing Series

In a depressing turn of events, Attorney General Holder has overridden career lawyers at the Justice Department to determine that the bill currently pending in Congress that would give the District of Columbia a vote in the House is constitutional. From the Washington Post:

Justice Department lawyers concluded in an unpublished opinion earlier this year that the historic D.C. voting rights bill pending in Congress is unconstitutional, according to sources briefed on the issue. But Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who supports the measure, ordered up a second opinion from other lawyers in his department and determined that the legislation would pass muster.

The District of Columbia, as a principle of justice and democracy, is clearly entitled to voting representation in the Congress. It is unacceptable that this hasn’t been addressed earlier. However, an end-run around the Constitution is equally unacceptable. A constitutional amendment is the appropriate method to grant the vote.

That said, my concern is not that Eric Holder has reached a conclusion that it is constitutional. My concern is that he did so in conflict with the conclusions of the OLC. Political or policy ends must not be used to override sound legal reasoning. This is true whether that occurs within the OLC (as with the many Bush-era memos pertaining to detainee rights and Presidential power) or around it. There is a legitimate legal debate over the validity of this bill, and given the actions of the current Congress it appears it that the question will be heard by the courts.If so, the Justice Department should defend it as with other federal laws. However, it is very disappointing to see the Obama Administration override career lawyers for a political end. The OLC’s determination that the bill was unconstitutional could have scuttled its passage. Reversing the opinion to help get the bill through Congress is inappropriate.

A politicized Department of Justice is not the change we need.

Note: For those of you counting, part VI of this series (a special two steps forward, one step back edition) got lost in the shuffle and is thus outsourced entirely to Glenn Greenwald and Jonathan Turley (on Rachel Maddow).