Monday, December 15, 2008

The Torture Presidency: Exposing the Wrongdoing of Bush Administration Lawyers

Every American interested in the restoring rule-of-law in this country, and assuring that our Nation never again adopts torture as an instrument of state policy, should read the December 11, 2008 Statement of Senator Carl Levin on Senate Armed Services Committee Report of its Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody as well as the executive summary and conclusions of the report that is now publicly available.

The unanimous, bi-partisan Committee Report exposes as utter falsehood the Bush Administration's claim that the abuses of detainees at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan and elsewhere were the result of conduct by "a few bad apples":
The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.
Of all the bad actors behind these despicable acts I reserve greatest contempt for the Administration lawyers who made them possible. The roles of William “Jim” Haynes II, the DoD General Counsel; White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales; then-Counsel to the Vice President David Addington; then-Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) Jay Bybee; and John Yoo, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the OLC, are all discussed in the report's executive summary and conclusions.

Unfortunately, to date the full extent of the lawyers' wrongdoing remains unrevealed, because much of what went on is still hidden behind bogus Administration claims of "national security" and "executive privilege." However, I take heart from the belief that these fig leaves will be stripped away by the new Administration, so that the indefensible legal opinions, ethical lapses, and plainly illegal conduct of the Bush Administration lawyers will be fully exposed.

It is perhaps too much to hope that these individuals will be criminally prosecuted. However, their misdeeds must see the full light of day. No future government lawyer should ever feel that his or her malfeasance will remain hidden behind a false cloak of "national security," or that participation in a conspiracy to commit war climes will be fobbed off as "legitimate policy differences."

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