19 April 2009

Questions Raised by the Obama Administration's Release of the "Torture Memos" and Subsequent Unwillingness to Confront the Consequneces ...

This past week the Obama Administration released yet more damning documents from the BushCo war on liberty and justice. You can find the so-called 'torture memos' drafted by BushCo's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) here. At the same time Obama's Justice Department announced - quite preposterously for a bunch of "pragmatists" who allegedly are concerned for consequences - that it would not pursue prosecution of CIA agents who had, under cover of the legal opinions presented in these memos, tortured prisoners. Think about it, we trust the CIA to gather intelligence on matters of crucial national security, but we cannot presume that the agents employed by the agency are capable of knowing total self-serving bullshit when they see it! After all, the OLC memos are just that - rationalizations of policies that everyone knows now and knew then presented a pretext for torture which, as everyone also knows, is illegal under American and International Law. So, if the CIA cannot tell bullshit when it is dished out by Government lawyers, how will they be able to discern the difference between truth and falsity when it is dished out by dangerous suspects of secret informants or other spook-like entities?

This week too the Spanish government announced that it would not pursue an investigation or prosecution of those Americans officials who devised and implemented this most recent incarnation of U.S. torture policy. They (perhaps rightly) decided that any such activities should be undertaken here in the States. Except, of course, that the Justice Department has announced that it will not do any such thing. In any case, I simply could not help but wonder, after hearing the decision from the Spanish prosecutors, who had called and leaned on them. I am sure they were lobbied by friends of BushCo. But what about members of the Obama Administration? Did anyone from the Justice or State Department, discreetly of course, make it clear to the Spaniards that it might be imprudent to make good on their intention to investigate American torturers?

Finally, this editorial in The New York Times today rightly recommends that Jay Bybee, author of some of the most egregious of the torture memos, and now a federal Appeals Court Judge, should be impeached. Over at The New Yorker Jeffrey Toobin writes of Bybee: "He was confirmed by the Senate on March 13, 2003—some time before any of the “torture memos” became public. He has never answered questions about them, has never had to defend his conduct, has never endured anywhere near the amount of public scrutiny (and abuse) as Yoo."* I agree that Bybee should be dragged out into the light. I doubt, though, that the Congress has the courage needed to impeach the miscreant. At a minimum, then, I suggest that Bybee be compelled to amend the brief biographical sketch posted on the federal government's web page to read as follows:
Bybee, Jay S.

Born 1953 in Oakland, CA

Federal Judicial Service:
Judge, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Nominated by George W. Bush on January 7, 2003, to a seat vacated by Proctor R. Hug, Jr.; Confirmed by the Senate on March 13, 2003, and received commission on March 21, 2003.

Brigham Young University, B.A., 1977

Brigham Young University, J. Reuben Clark Law School, J.D., 1980

Professional Career:
Law clerk, Hon. Donald Russell, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, 1980-1981
Private practice, Washington, D.C., 1981-1984
Attorney, Office of Legal Policy, U.S. Department of Justice, 1984-1986
Attorney, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 1986-1989
Associate counsel to the president, The White House, 1989-1991
Professor, Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Louisiana State University, 1991-1998
Professor, William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada, 1999-2000
Assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice, Special Division for Justifying War Crimes, 2001-2002

Race or Ethnicity: White

Gender: Male
That is my last question for now: Can we get someone to take on the editing job?
* Yoo would be John Yoo, who served as Bybee's Deputy at OLC and who was an active composer of justifications for torture.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is hardly a surprise. Obama has no backbone whatsoever. He's shown no courage or leadership throughout the economic crisis, and I wouldn't expect him to display boldness elsewhere.

19 April, 2009 01:09  
Blogger Pragpro said...

Nice blog. Keep up the good work.

19 April, 2009 02:52  
Blogger Jose Guilis said...

Just to set the record straight,the Spanish government hasn't done anything about that. Good or bad. A group of Spaniards took six persons to court here for devising Guantanamo (Gonzales, Yoo, Feith, Addington, Beybee, Haynes). The court has accepted the case, all the Fiscal (public prosecutor or DA or something like that) did was recommend it wasn't accepted. Now the judge will instruct the case and if he finds enough evidence and decides to follow trough, he will build a case and propose to the Audiencia Nacional, where it would get an open hearing in front of a team of several judges. The Spanish system isn't at all like the US one.
The problem is on one hand, that they are accusing people who did devise the system but did not intervene in the tortures directly, and on the other, that under Spanish universal jurisdiction law, this type of trial is only possible if the country where the crimes are commited doesn't judge them. The state of Israel, for instance, is now being prosecuted for the Gaza massacre, and several other prior occurences of the genre. Pinochet was almost prosecuted. Rigoberta Menchu was able to seek justice for the genocide in Guatemala,. etc. But the judges at the Audiencia Nacional may think that these crimes will be judged in the US. Still, the judges who are investigating the secret flights of the CIA who did land in Spain while transporting illegal detainees are very active and this case may end up in trial. Hope so... in all the cases, even if that means that Spanish diplomats have to work extra hours to smooth things with Obama.

21 April, 2009 10:26  

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