As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Yoo Go Directly To Jail

It's actually difficult to absorb the shock of the release of the infamous John Yoo memo authorizing torture and detainee abuse from March 2003. This was written the day after Jay Bybee resigned as the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, and the task went to Yoo, a mid-level lawyer in the DoJ at best, to authorize the crimes of the Bush Admnistration. What's assumed, at least to me, is that Bybee quit because he refused to issue this memorandum. Cheney orchestrated that Yoo get this out there as soon as possible, bypassing the Attorney General and the acting head of the OLC.

If you're interested in weeping, you can read the 81-page memo yourself.

Part 1

Part 2

Yoo simply made up a new set of executive powers that trumped the Geneva Conventions, domestic statutes against torture, and virtually the whole system of the law itself.

If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network. In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch's constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions.

Kind of a "self-defense before the fact" belief, completely contrary to how the American legal system works. Berkeley must be exceedingly proud.

Glenn Greenwald continues.

As Jane Mayer reported two years ago in The New Yorker -- in which she quoted former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora as saying that "the memo espoused an extreme and virtually unlimited theory of the extent of the President's Commander-in-Chief authority" -- it was precisely Yoo's torture-justifying theories, ultimately endorsed by Donald Rumsfeld, that were communicated to Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commander of both Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib at the time of the most severe detainee abuses (the ones that are known) [...]

John Yoo's Memorandum, as intended, directly led to -- caused -- a whole series of war crimes at both Guantanamo and in Iraq. The reason such a relatively low-level DOJ official was able to issue such influential and extraordinary opinions was because he was working directly with, and at the behest of, the two most important legal officials in the administration: George Bush's White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, and Dick Cheney's counsel (and current Chief of Staff) David Addington. Together, they deliberately created and authorized a regime of torture and other brutal interrogation methods that are, by all measures, very serious war crimes.

If writing memoranda authorizing torture -- actions which then directly lead to the systematic commission of torture -- doesn't make one a war criminal in the U.S., what does?

The closed loop here is self-perpetuating. The DoJ writes a memo saying that the President has virtually unlimited power in wartime. The CIA and the Pentagon then takes the memo and uses it as proof of legality for their crimes. So we have an executive branch validating the rest of the executive branch, essentially a one-branch government that writes, executes and adjudicates the law.

There is no question that John Yoo is a war criminal; he provided the legal theories that the executive branch follows to this day, even though the Defense Department vacated this particular memo in 2003. The idea that the statement "this memo is no longer operative" somehow inoculates the Administration from past crimes is ludicrous. But that's an abstract concept based on memos and theories. Let me make you aware of the human consequences of this monster.

At the age of 19, Murat Kurnaz vanished into America's shadow prison system in the war on terror. He was from Germany, traveling in Pakistan, and was picked up three months after 9/11. But there seemed to be ample evidence that Kurnaz was an innocent man with no connection to terrorism. The FBI thought so, U.S. intelligence thought so, and German intelligence agreed. But once he was picked up, Kurnaz found himself in a prison system that required no evidence and answered to no one. The story Kurnaz told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley is a rare look inside that clandestine system of justice, where the government's own secret files reveal that an innocent man lost his liberty, his dignity, his identity, and ultimately five years of his life.

There's video at the link.

A lot of this business abut Yoo was well-known. But we never saw the evidence until today. This was the touchstone for the Pentagon to send out thugs like Geoffrey D. Miller to torture people. You can meet these people and shake their hand. Your tax dollars were used to do them harm, and a lot of them were innocent of any crime. Even if they weren't, the shattering of our moral authority in this reign of Bush is unquestionable. We have completely lost ourselves.

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