Scott Horton Keeps Us Up-to-Date on Some of the Bush Administration’s Crimes

Yoo for the Defense:>Yoo for the Defense—By Scott Horton (Harper’s Magazine): Obama, Yoo says, has put the safety of Americans on the line: his torture ban will “seriously handicap our intelligence agencies from preventing future terrorist attacks.” Never mind, of course, that no evidence has been advanced of a single instance in which the use of torture produced intelligence that prevented a future terrorist attack, while detailed and specific evidence has now been put forward that torture produced bad intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq. Those are irritating details that detract from a nice narrative. So what’s all this about? Is Yoo suffering from withdrawal pangs coming off an addiction to torture?… I’ve followed John Yoo and his writings with some care for a while now, and I think I finally understand what this is about. Namely, a pending probe by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is looking at serious ethical issues surrounding the issuance of Yoo’s legal opinions.>But the OPR probe is far from Yoo’s only or even most pressing worry. The likelihood that he will face a criminal probe and then possibly prosecution is growing. Susan J. Crawford, the Cheney protege tapped as the senior Bush Administration official to oversee the Guantánamo military commissions, publicly admitted in an interview with Bob Woodward, that at least one of the detainees had been tortured through the application of an interrogation regime that had been approved by the White House. In their exit interviews, both President Bush and Vice President Cheney were emphatic that in authorizing torture, they relied on the advice of their lawyers, meaning John Yoo. But in the ultimate act of ingratitude, Bush left office without issuing the anticipated blanket pardons to his torture team. NATO allies and United Nations officials are reminding the new Obama Administration that it has a solemn obligation under article 4 of the Convention Against Torture to begin a criminal investigation….>Yoo cannot be oblivious to all of this. And indeed, his column in the Wall Street Journal and his presentations elsewhere tell us exactly what the defense will be. At its core is the argument that, no matter how mistaken, John Yoo acted in good faith when he issued the torture memoranda. He truly, sincerely believes the analysis…. That’s why from April 2004 forward, Yoo has been unwavering in his adherence to the views put forth in those memos…. [W]e see in his current column and other recent statements tale-tell signs that suggest this defense is dishonest….>Immediately after reading Yoo’s memos it struck me that they were the product of reverse-engineering. The way they drifted through issues, the bizarre choice of precedent, the curious misreading of the Constitution in which the clause granting to Congress the authority to address questions surrounding detainees simply disappears–and the equally tendentious and absurd readings of international conventions and precedents–could be explained if you imagined that Yoo had been approached and told to craft a memorandum that legalized practices already in place. If that were the case, those asking for the memo were looking for a get-out-of-jail-free pass from the Department of Justice, and Yoo’s memos were supposed to provide it. Viewed in this light, what Yoo crafted makes perfect sense; otherwise they strike me as impossible to explain….>[I]f Yoo did craft the memos for the explicit purpose of covering the torture project with impunity and pushing it forward by overriding the judgment of serious lawyers at the Pentagon and CIA, then Yoo made himself a part of the torture conspiracy; that he was an accessory after the fact goes without saying…. Considering that Yoo has been excoriated by his academic colleagues for the sloppiness of his reasoning and for his mischaracterization of the authorities he cites, why does he persist? The only explanation I can put forth is that he needs to preserve his good-faith defense–that he may be wrong, but his error is held in good faith….>Does John Yoo recognize that he has blood on his hands? Certainly not. Maybe he sleeps as comfortably as George W. Bush. Or maybe his consuming interest right now is in protecting himself from prison time. And he’ll have to do a much more convincing job if he wants to succeed at that.Former Gitmo Guard Tells All:Former Gitmo Guard Tells All—By Scott Horton (Harper’s Magazine): Army Private Brandon Neely served as a prison guard at Guantánamo…. Neely decided to step forward and tell his story. “The stuff I did and the stuff I saw was just wrong,” he told the Associated Press. Neely describes the arrival of detainees in full sensory-deprivation garb, he details their sexual abuse by medical personnel, torture by other medical personnel, brutal beatings out of frustration, fear, and retribution, the first hunger strike and its causes, torturous shackling, positional torture, interference with religious practices and beliefs, verbal abuse, restriction of recreation, the behavior of mentally ill detainees, an isolation regime that was put in place for child-detainees, and his conversations with prisoners David Hicks and Rhuhel Ahmed. It makes for fascinating reading….>Neely and other guards had been trained to the U.S. military’s traditional application of the Geneva Convention rules. They were put under great pressure to get rough with the prisoners and to violate the standards they learned…. Neely discusses at some length the notion of IRF (initial reaction force), a technique devised to brutalize or physically beat a detainee under the pretense that he required being physically subdued…. Neely’s testimony makes clear that IRF was understood by everyone, including the prison guards who applied it, as a subterfuge for beating and mistreating prisoners—and that it had nothing to do with the need to preserve discipline and order in the prison.>Second, there is a good deal of discussion of displays of contempt for Islam by the camp authorities…. Third, the Nelly account shows that health professionals are right in the thick of the torture and abuse of the prisoners—suggesting a systematic collapse of professional ethics driven by the Pentagon itself. He describes body searches undertaken for no legitimate security purpose, simply to sexually invade and humiliate the prisoners. This was a standardized Bush Administration tactic–the importance of which became apparent to me when I participated in some Capitol Hill negotiations with White House representatives relating to legislation creating criminal law accountability for contractors. The Bush White House vehemently objected to provisions of the law dealing with rape by instrumentality. When House negotiators pressed to know why, they were met first with silence and then an embarrassed acknowledgement that a key part of the Bush program included invasion of the bodies of prisoners in a way that might be deemed rape by instrumentality under existing federal and state criminal statutes. While these techniques have long been known, the role of health care professionals in implementing them is shocking.>Neely’s account demonstrates once more how much the Bush team kept secret and how little we still know about their comprehensive program of official cruelty and torture.

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