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Lawyers said Bush not bound by torture laws - WSJ (via Reuters):

NEW YORK, June 7 (Reuters) - A Pentagon report last year concluded President George W. Bush was not bound by laws prohibiting torture and U.S. agents who might torture prisoners at his direction could not be prosecuted by the Justice Department, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The findings were part of a classified report on interrogation methods prepared for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by top civilian and uniformed military lawyers who also consulted with other agencies, the newspaper said.

The report was compiled after commanders at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, complained in late 2002 that they were not getting enough information from prisoners through conventional methods, according to the Journal.

Here's more from AFP (no link):

...at its core is an exceptional argument that because nothing is more important than "obtaining intelligence vital to the protection of untold thousands of American citizens," normal strictures on torture might not apply, The Journal said.

Despite domestic and international laws constraining the use of torture, the report argued that the president has the authority as commander in chief to approve almost any physical or psychological actions during interrogation, up to and including torture, the paper pointed out.  

The report also insisted that civilian or military personnel accused of torture or other war crimes have several potential defenses, including the "necessity" of using such methods to extract information to head off an attack, according to The Journal.  

The document was compiled by a working group appointed by the Defense Department's general counsel, William Haynes, the paper said.

(I'm afraid I don't have access to the WSJ, all I have are these two wire stories.)

Leave aside the astonishing conclusions, a report like that should never have been prepared, much less for the Secretary of Defense by the DoD general counsel.

Update: The Independent Online (South Africa) has the AFP story.

Originally posted to gong on Mon Jun 07, 2004 at 02:23 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  There is an old saying (4.00)
    "you can't squeeze blood from a turnip"

    Just imagine if the British in 1776 had captured Paul Revere, put him in a cell with a hood on his face, stripped him naked, piled him in a naked pyramid with other prisoners, attached electrodes to his genitals and tortured him for information on the rebels.

    Do you think the US and Britain would have EVER established a close relationship?  Would Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher ever been our close ally?

    "Lawful" war is bad enough, with the injuries, the amputations, the brutal and awful killing.  800 plus soldiers, 10,000 Iraqis dead is enough.  This insane pursuit of information is too much...

    The endless wars of the United States are already too much.  Torturing people for information is absolutely horrendous and disgusting.

    Night and day, you can find me Flogging the Simian

    by Soj on Mon Jun 07, 2004 at 02:30:02 AM PDT

  •  This can't be true (4.00)
    why would the pentagon go through all that time and trouble of reviewing torture laws, when they say that they don't engage in torture?

    And why would they examine the President's exposure, when he, as a compassionate christian, would never authorize such acts that his favorite philosopher Jesus, would reject?

    After all, Bush told Diane Sawyer this past December, the US does not engage in torture.

    The Wall Street Journal are obviously a bunch of Secularists, Socialist, Jews, Bleeding heart Catholics, and France lovers, who hate America, and this Christian Fundamentalists administration?

  •  well, lawyers in the Third Reich okayed (4.00)
    abuse of human rights of Jews too. Just because something is constitutional and legal, doesn't mean it's just and ethical.

    I wonder how mcuh longer it takes for people to realize that the argument that something is constitutional or legal is not a fool-proof argument for something to be right, just, moral and fair.

    •  The Day That the Gestapo (none)
      come to take them away, or drag their wives and children off for a little rape and torture to force them out of hiding.

      Not before.

      "Till the last dog dies"

      by Deep Dark on Mon Jun 07, 2004 at 04:02:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I wouldn't say... (4.00)
      ...they're making that mistake. As far as I can tell they are totally happy to manipulate constitutionality and legality to serve their ends; I find it hard to believe that their inference is from what's legal to what's good. Getting this report was presumably a way of getting legalistic cover for things that, as they see things, were perfectly okay regardless of what the law says.

      The problem is not that they confuse law with morality. The problem is that, morally speaking, they are such fvckers.

      •  I didn't mean to say that the lawyers confuse (none)
        laws with morality, but they know, if they tell the public that something is legal and constitutional, the public will translate that to mean that what the laws allows them to do is ok and morally justified and fair. It's just a matter of how often and threatening you spread out that propaganda and the public will buy into it.

        In order to kill your opponent's argument in a debate you only have to prove that what he says is unconstitutional and against the law. Usually that's enough, as nobody challenges the laws and the constitution or looks if several laws contradict each other in their intentions.

  •  you've convinced me (none)
    ok, i am finally convinced to pay for an online subscription to the WSJ.  their editorial page is insane, and i hate to give them money... but, they really are a much better paper than the NYT.
  •  I voted "Yes." (4.00)
    Surprised? Yeah. I'm surprised they put it in writing.

    These people--outside the putting in writing part--learn nothing from history. What ever is the justification for torture? It's the very same one they trot out this time. Stalin, Hitler, Pinochet, France during the Algerian War. Yep, we're no better.

  •  a few excerpts from wsj (none)

    The working-group report elaborated the Bush administration's view that the president has virtually unlimited power to wage war as he sees fit, and neither Congress, the courts nor international law can interfere. It concluded that neither the president nor anyone following his instructions was bound by the federal Torture Statute, which makes it a crime for Americans working for the government overseas to commit or attempt torture, defined as any act intended to "inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering." Punishment is up to 20 years imprisonment, or a death sentence or life imprisonment if the victim dies.

    "In order to respect the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign ... (the prohibition against torture) must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his commander-in chief authority," the report asserted. (The parenthetical comment is in the original document.) The Justice Department "concluded that it could not bring a criminal prosecution against a defendant who had acted pursuant to an exercise of the president's constitutional power," the report said. Citing confidential Justice Department opinions drafted after Sept. 11, 2001, the report advised that the executive branch of the government had "sweeping" powers to act as it sees fit because "national security decisions require the unity in purpose and energy in action that characterize the presidency rather than Congress."

    We know this justice department wouldn't prosecute, lets hope the next one isn't similarly intent on destroying our country's international standing.

    Likewise, the lawyers found that "constitutional principles" make it impossible to "punish officials for aiding the president in exercising his exclusive constitutional authorities" and neither Congress nor the courts could "require or implement the prosecution of such an individual."

    To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."

    Did Mr. Bush issue a detainee torture directive?


    In addition, the report advised that torture or homicide could be justified as "self-defense," should an official "honestly believe" it was necessary to head off an imminent attack on the U.S. The self-defense doctrine generally has been asserted by individuals fending off assaults, and in 1890, the Supreme Court upheld a U.S. deputy marshal's right to shoot an assailant of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field as involving both self-defense and defense of the nation. Citing Justice Department opinions, the report concluded that "if a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate criminal prohibition," he could be justified "in doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network."

    Wow ... an "honestly believe" defense for murder.

  •  Would this happen to be the same Gong . . . (none)
    who works for the State Department these days?

    If so, you ought to join Luke & Dave and come over to my place for a cookout in a couple weeks.

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

    by Bragan on Mon Jun 07, 2004 at 12:49:49 PM PDT

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