"we can do whatever we want to whoever we want and no one can touch us."
(CBS/AP) The Pentagon on Tuesday made public a now-defunct legal memo that approved the use of harsh interrogation techniques against terror suspects, saying that President Bush's wartime authority trumps any international ban on torture.
The Justice Department memo, dated March 14, 2003, outlines legal justification for military interrogators to use harsh tactics against al Qaeda and Taliban detainees overseas - so long as they did not specifically intend to torture their captors.
Even so, the memo noted, the president's wartime power as commander in chief would not be limited by the U.N. treaties against torture.
"Our previous opinions make clear that customary international law is not federal law and that the president is free to override it at his discretion," said the memo written by John Yoo, who was then deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.
The memo also offered a defense in case any interrogator was charged with violating U.S. or international laws.
"Finally, even if the criminal prohibitions outlined above applied, and an interrogation method might violate those prohibitions, necessity or self-defense could provide justifications for any criminal liability," the memo concluded.
Is there a reason why John Yoo is not sitting in a Federal prison right now? Just on the basis of his inability to tell the difference between the law and "what the boss wants" he should be incarcerated. This legal opinion tries to tear down the rule of law in this country. Tries to, because it had to be withdrawn.
And I don't think anything these people have done will ever stand up over time. We will move on from them soon. We will rebuild this country and we will reject the logic in this memo and condemn it for the rest of our days. This is the framed document that should welcome people to the George W. Bush Presidential Library--framed under glass and tastefully lit next to the PDB that says "Bin Laden Determined to Strike U.S. and the text of his "Mission Accomplished" speech.
"The whole point of the memo is obviously to nullify every possible legal restraint on the president's wartime authority," Jaffer said. "The memo was meant to allow torture, and that's exactly what it did."
The 81-page legal analysis largely centers on whether interrogators can be held responsible for torture if torture is not the intent of the questioning. And it defines torture as the intended sum of a variety of acts, which could include acid scalding, severe mental pain and suffering, threat of imminent death and physical pain resulting in impaired body functions, organ failure or death.
The "definition of torture must be read as a sum of these component parts," the memo said.
The memo also includes past legal defenses of interrogations that Yoo wrote are not considered torture, such as sleep deprivation, hooding detainees and "frog crouching," which forces prisoners to crouch while standing on the tips of their toes.
"This standard permits some physical contact," the memo said. "Employing a shove or slap as part of an interrogation would not run afoul of this standard."
The memo concludes that foreign enemy combatants held overseas do not have defendants' rights or protections from cruel and unusual punishment that U.S. citizens have under the Constitution. It also says that Congress "cannot interfere with the president's exercise of his authority as commander in chief to control the conduct of operations during a war."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said the memo "reflects the expansive view of executive power that has been the hallmark of this administration." He called for its release four months ago.
"It is no wonder that this memo ... could not withstand scrutiny and had to be withdrawn," said Leahy, D-Vt. "This memo seeks to find ways to avoid legal restrictions and accountability on torture and threatens our country's status as a beacon of human rights around the world."
That's what we have to rebuiild. That's what we have to restore to get our soul back. And there has to be accountability. Has to be.
The rule of law doesn't mean much when third-rate legal minds are allowed to write whatever they want and pass it off as legal advice. To think that these people concocted such a policy and have never repudiated it and keep defending what they did is enough hubris to last us a lifetime.