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April 20, 2009

The Memos

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Although physical documents are certainly not new or unique to the internets, the government’s torture memos seem to have achieved a break-through, earning considerable recognition in their original form. (The ACLU has them, as does the NYT, WAPO, and many others.) To see the original documents, in their particular layout and format, ominously marked by redactions, is to personally puncture the paranoid shell around the Bush Administration.

As the presence of these records lead to calls for further disclosures and even prosecutions, I hope these memos will retain their physical uniqueness. Above, for example, is the notorious footnote on the May 10, 2005 Bybee Bradbury memo, for example. It’s that section, as exposed by Marcy Wheeler this past weekend, that reveals that the CIA far exceeded even its own already legally-questionable standards-of-practice for applying waterboarding, and other techniques.

(update: 9:11 am PST: The memo referenced above was written by Steven Bradury, not Bybee, and was intended to reauthorize waterboarding and to try and address CIA problems — including the gross overuse use of water while waterboarding, applying the technique excessively, and not having doctors present — in the application of original guidelines approved in the August 2002 Bybee Memo. As Marcie Wheeler concludes in the post, The CIA IG Report and the Bradbury Memos, this past Friday:

…”(T)he Bradbury memos basically prove that waterboarding, as practiced by the CIA (as distinct from how they were describing it), was out of control in several ways (and therefore probably illegal even according to Yoo’s descriptions).

  • JayDenver

    I’m confused. The May 10, 2005 memo appears to have been written by Stephen Bradbury not Jay Bybee, according to the ACLU post. Can you clarify this?

  • Books Alive

    I noticed the slip also. The three 2005 memos are signed by Bradbury. Jay Bybee was not at the DOJ in 2005, Wikipedia shows that he was appointed to the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003.

  • Books Alive

    Here’s the link I thought I had included correctly:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Bybee

  • JayDenver

    Books Alive: both links worked. Thanks.
    Another little question: Having looked at some of the torture memo pages over at the ACLU site, I am struck by the strange type font changes and what look like word substitutions. Were these changes made to the original memos prior to delivery to the intended recipients or were these changes made subsequently when the publication of the memos caused by the ACLU request was imminent?
    Tiny questions and quibbles aside, these documents present a chilling look at the legalistic approach the previous administration took to torture rather than a legal approach. Torturing the language, logic, and the law preceded (or, at least, coincided with) torturing the detainees.
    I can’t help but hope the authors of these memos and their superiors are going to see the inside of a criminal courtroom in the role of defendants.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/bagnews Michael Shaw (The BAG)

    Jay/Books,
    Yes, my mistake, thanks. The memo above was written by Bradbury almost 3 years after the Bybee document to “reauthorize” and try and smooth over the “abuse” of the waterboarding technique, and the application of others, such as sleep deprivation, in terms of how they were originally proscribed for use by the government. I added an update to the post for clarification.

  • Gasho

    This new “legal” documentation and the EVIL it exposes has me tearing my eyes out!
    Just what is going on here that Obama isn’t planning on bringing these sick monsters to justice?? WHAT?? This is so black and white to me.. i j u s t d o n o t u n d e r s t a n d .
    Obama: We are a nation of laws
    Constitution: International Treaties are the law of the land if we sign onto them
    Convention against torture and the Geneva Conventions: Torture is illegal no matter what
    Office of Legal Council: Torture away!!
    Bush: A few bad apples!
    Obama: Let’s not bother ourselves with ‘retribution’.
    What’s wrong here??!!
    The US is seriously in the crapper if we don’t even pretend to uphold our most serious legal obligations.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/johntanton jtfromBC

    Amy and Scott Horton discuss torture memos and potential avenues for prosecution
    http://www.democracynow.org/2009/4/17/memos
    France gave the Statue of Liberty, do we have to rely on Spain to give appropriate justice and try our Big bad apples, and what about a retrial for some of those Little bad apples.

  • http://reciprocity-failure.blogspot.com Stan Banos

    Supposedly, there were “strict” guidelines as to how these “aggressive” techniques could be applied. Then, at the very least, couldn’t we investigate and prosecute those who exceeded them?
    Not to mention that several people DIED while in our custody…

  • lytom

    The sign is great and question is clear. Why is UC Berkeley equating academic freedom with writing of legal rights to defend torture?
    At the same time this question has to be asked: Why is Obama giving protection to these criminals?
    So Obama prohibited the use of interrogation techniques by CIA, and at the same time gave immunity to the torturers. He called for the protection of the information in the name of national security, and provided immunity to those who needed to be thanked for their accomplishments. So he prohibited the torture… That was said before “We do not torture” thanks to those who worked on the Legal Memos. What a way to sanitize torture. What a way to keep the wheels turning… and forward march goes on.

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