6.09.2004

the torture memo

I do not know what to make of this, and honestly I dare not try to make anything of it. I am only reporting what is out there on the interwebby thing and if you don't believe me read it for yourself.

The WSJ has the 56 page April 2003 Defense Department memo (PDF) outlining the legal basis in regards to questioning detainees. I vaguely remember hearing it referred to somewhere as the "torture memo" and I've read it and that is indeed what it deals with. Not sleep deprivation, but torture, killing and maiming people in custody.

Let me be the first to say that these things are obviously important to define in case someone accidenatally kills or maims someone, but you see no sentences like this in the memo; "If a soldier accidentally runs over a prisoner with a forklift we will defend him in this way..."

Instead you see "If any foreigner is taken prisoner, tortured then shot in the back of the head in the Oval Office, since they can't prove anyone premeditatively tried to expose him to prolonged mental harm, we can argue that although it may be illegal, it may not be unlawful."

That's an exaggeration, of course. It does not come out and say "we think torture can be justified in such and such way" but it has a pattern of laying out the president's role in war, then laying out the laws regarding things like torture, maiming, and killing prisoners, performs a deconstruction of them all, then gives examples of good defenses.

I suppose the key is in the pattern of the deconstruction. If you can read it and walk away thinking happy thoughts then everything is fine with the memo, but my guess is that you will want to take a shower afterwards.

I can't copy the text because it's not a real PDF, it's a PDF of photocopies of the memo, but I'll paraphrase:

where "X" is something like killing, torturing, maiming, making fun of their hair, or whatever...

"Doing X to a prisoner is considered illegal under these laws"
(bunch of laws)
"in order to prove it, these things must be proven"
(bunch of things to prove)
"a defendant could negate this in this way"
(a defense)
"so while it may be illegal under all known national and international laws it may also be possible to argue that while illegal, it is not unlawful"

I'm going to go take a shower.



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