The declassification and release of Yoo's memorandum to William Haynes, General Counsel of the Department of Defense, written in March 2003, has caused a firestorm in the press. Yoo's memo is the smoking gun for those looking for evidence of how the Bush Administration flouted basic human rights law, the UN Convention Against Torture, and the U.S. War Crimes Act to initiate a campaign of torture against detainees swept up in the aggressive U.S. military and covert campaigns that followed 9/11.
The NLG nicely summarizes much of what is outrageous about Yoo's memo. But as an excellent article in the current Vanity Fair, Philippe Sands' "The Green Light," explains, the torture began before Yoo's memo was even written.
Starting in late 2002 a detainee bearing the number 063 was tortured over a period of more than seven weeks....Yoo's memo sought to give the legal justification to the worst kind of physical and psychological torture. The NLG memo and the press have not fully plumbed the significance of what doors were opened by Bush and his co-conspirators. Jeff Stein, at Congressional Quarterly, tied the Yoo memo to an increase of drug use on detainees. The use of drugs -- from marijuana to LSD to PCP to sodium amytal -- in interrogations was a hallmark of the CIA's MKULTRA research program in the 1950s-1960s.
The Bush administration has always taken refuge behind a “trickle up” explanation: that is, the decision was generated by military commanders and interrogators on the ground. This explanation is false. The origins lie in actions taken at the very highest levels of the administration—by some of the most senior personal advisers to the president, the vice president, and the secretary of defense. At the heart of the matter stand several political appointees—lawyers—who, it can be argued, broke their ethical codes of conduct and took themselves into a zone of international criminality, where formal investigation is now a very real option.
There can be little doubt now that the government has used drugs on terrorist suspects that are designed to weaken their resistance to interrogation. All that’s missing is the syringes and videotapes.Stein also cites the CIA/Rand Corp./American Psychological Workshop in 2003 that looked at use of "pharmacological agents" on interrogation subjects as part of an attack on prisoner attempts at deception. The full story on this "workshop", which also included work on sensory overload mechanisms to "overwhelm the senses" of detainees, was first broken by me last year.
Another window opened on the practice last week with the declassification of John Yoo’s instantly infamous 2003 memo approving harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects.
Yoo advised top Bush administration officials that interrogators could employ mind-altering drugs if they did not produce “an extreme effect” calculated to “cause a profound disruption of the senses or personality.”
Yoo had first rationalized the use of drugs in a 2002 memo for top Bush administration officials....
“The new Yoo memo, along with other White House legal memoranda, shows clearly that the policy foundation for the use of interrogational drugs was being laid,” says Stephen Miles, a University of Minnesota bioethicist and author of “Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror".... “The use of these drugs was anticipated and discussed in the memos of January and February 2002 by DoD, DoJ, and White House counsel using the same language and rationale. The executive branch memos laid a comprehensive and reiterated policy foundation for the use of interrogational drugs.”
The heat is on the administration on torture yet again. But I warn all my readers that NONE of the crimes of the Bush Administration have yet met any legal consequences. The relevant governing bodies seem to have no stomach for actually prosecuting any top war criminals, much less taking Bush, Cheney, and their mob on politically. The news media of record, the New York Times, the Washington Post, etc., bluster about the outrages, but have yet to call for any prosecution or impeachment. It seems likely that little of consequence will come from the latest expose over Yoo's 2003 memo. One can't help but feel that in America the government can declare they will pull the fingernails out of your children, and there still will be no action taken.
Is it fear? Is it laziness? What is it?
The following is the text of the NLG release, signed by Marjorie Cohn, NLG President, and Heidi Boghosian, NLG Executive Director. I've added bold emphases for editorial effect.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 9, 2008Cross-posted at American Torture and Daily Kos
Contact: Marjorie Cohn, NLG President, email@example.com; 619-374-6923
Heidi Boghosian, NLG Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org; 212-679-5100, x11
NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD CALLS ON BOALT HALL TO DISMISS LAW PROFESSOR JOHN YOO, WHOSE TORTURE MEMOS LED TO COMMISSION OF WAR CRIMES
New York. In a memorandum written the same month George W. Bush invaded Iraq, Boalt Hall law professor John Yoo said the Department of Justice would construe US criminal laws not to apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants. According to Yoo, the federal statutes against torture, assault, maiming and stalking do not apply to the military in the conduct of the war.
The federal maiming statute, for example, makes it a crime for someone "with the intent to torture, maim, or disfigure" to "cut, bite, or slit the nose, ear or lip, or cut out or disable the tongue, or put out or destroy an eye, or cut off or disable a limb or any member of another person." It further prohibits individuals from "throwing or pouring upon another person any scalding water, corrosive acid, or caustic substance" with like intent.
Yoo also narrowed the definition of torture so the victim must experience intense pain or suffering equivalent to pain associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure or permanent damage resulting in loss of significant body functions will likely result; Yoo's definition contravenes the definition in the Convention Against Torture, a treaty the US has ratified which is thus part of the US law under the Constitution's Supremacy Clause. Yoo said self-defense or necessity could be used as a defense to war crimes prosecutions for torture, notwithstanding the Torture Convention's absolute prohibition against torture in all circumstances, even in wartime. This memo and another Yoo wrote with Jay Bybee in August 2002 provided the basis for the Administration's torture of prisoners.
"John Yoo's complicity in establishing the policy that led to the torture of prisoners constitutes a war crime under the US War Crimes Act," said National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn.
Congress should repeal the provision of the Military Commissions Act that would give Yoo immunity from prosecution for torture committed from September 11, 2001 to December 30, 2005. John Yoo should be disbarred and he should not be retained as a professor of law at one of the country's premier law schools. John Yoo should be dismissed from Boalt Hall and tried as a war criminal.
The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association, which did not admit people of color, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.