Justice Dept. Issues New Torture Memo

The Justice Department tries again to define "torture," and in so doing, expands the definition.

The Justice Department published a revised and expansive definition late yesterday of acts that constitute torture under domestic and international law, overtly repudiating one of the most criticized policy memorandums drafted during President Bush's first term.

In a statement published on the department's Web site, the head of its Office of Legal Counsel declares that "torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and international norms" and goes on to reject a previous statement that only "organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death" constitute torture punishable by law.

Just a coincidence that the new definition comes less than a week before the confirmation hearings of Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General? Doubtful.

"Clearly the release of this now is backfilling for Gonzales's confirmation hearing," said I. Michael Greenberger, a senior Justice Department official in the Clinton administration who now heads the Center for Health and Homeland Security at the University of Maryland. "These memos have been a tremendous source of embarrassment to both Gonzales and the administration."

The prior definition of torture was widely criticized.

One of the most controversial provisions of the earlier memorandum, signed by Levin's predecessor, Jay S. Bybee, was an assertion that the president's executive powers were sufficient to permit tolerance of torturous acts in extraordinary circumstances. The International Committee of the Red Cross had declared in response that the prohibition on torture, embodied in a global convention signed by the United States, has no exceptions.

Here's the new definition:

Acting Assistant Attorney General Daniel Levin said in the new memo that torture may consist of acts that fall short of provoking excruciating and agonizing pain and thus may include mere physical suffering or lasting mental anguish. His opinion is meant, according to its language, to undermine any notion that those who conduct harmful interrogations may be exempt from prosecution.

There's more:

The memo, which states that it "supersedes the August 2002 memorandum in its entirety," also drops an attempt in the earlier version to rule that harmful acts not specifically intended to cause severe pain and suffering might be legal, and to define "specific intent." Instead, it deliberately left the notion of "specific intent" undefined to avoid, Levin wrote, any notion that conduct amounting to torture might under some circumstances be considered legal.

Human Rights Watch gives the memo some back-handed praise:

Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, which has been critical of the Bush administration's legal opinions regarding the treatment of detainees, gave the memo a generally positive review and said its "definition of torture is not as tortured as it was."

Sounds like the only person unhappy with the new memo is Law Professor John Yoo, who wrote the first memo...the memo that authorized torture.

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    Re: Justice Dept. Issues New Torture Memo (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 08:28:20 AM EST
    Pual in LA writes - "Untrue. We have direct statements about this from military intel and FBI, that most of the people being held were swept up for being in the wrong place at the moment, and not as a result of ANY specific intel on their culpability or participation in anything illegal." I offer you the same as I did SD. Provide a link. Absent that, I will continue to regard`it as an urban myth. And please. Credibile soureces, not blogs with no back up themselves. "Obviously untrue. Innocent people will NEVER produce intel..." You seem confused. As I noted, the ability to produce intelligence has nothing to do with guilt or innocent. A person who has been captured fighting American troops may be totally incapable of providing any useful information, but he is guilty of taking up arms against the US. And that is why he is being held. You can not release him to return to trying to kill Americans. A subtle point you appear to not understand. "There is nothing "artificial" about 80 years of sovereignty." The Kurds might disagree with you.

    Re: Justice Dept. Issues New Torture Memo (none / 0) (#2)
    by soccerdad on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 08:50:43 AM EST
    PPJ - I gave you a link.What a dishonest piece of .....

    Re: Justice Dept. Issues New Torture Memo (none / 0) (#3)
    by soccerdad on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 09:07:25 AM EST
    PPJ - you are worse than a troll because you are a blantent dishonest liar. For the 3rd time here are some links you can also go read the taguba report But its obvious you don't care about the truth or the facts. Your're just like a 4 year old who has their fingers in their ears as his parents are trying to talk to them just screaming so he doesnt have to hear them Link1 Link2 Link3 Link4

    Re: Justice Dept. Issues New Torture Memo (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 09:19:36 AM EST
    No credibility, Jim. The thread is about torture. Deal with it. This country is and has been wrong with our approach to the use of torture over the past several years. Our approach makes us pariahs in the world, in a league with the most repressive regimes. And your response is "they never had it so good." There are none so blind as he who will not see. Let him who has ears, hear.

    Re: Justice Dept. Issues New Torture Memo (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 01:28:57 PM EST
    CA writes - "No credibility, Jim. The thread is about torture" Then why are you writing about native americans and panties? This string of comments started when I took exception to the "Convention Against Torture" NOT defining "severe pain" and "lawful sanctions" posted by Randy Paul. I commented about six times in a row before you became involved with your off subject comments and snarky attack. But you want to talk about complaince? Compliance to what? A poorly written convention? Or is it that you want to tell us what "unlawful sanctions" and "severe pain" means, just as you like free speech, that is, until you disagree with what is said. So you have no rebuttal. That is clear. And you love to write, "They never had it so good." I wrote that, and haven't disavowed it. But why don't you provide a link to it? Let us look at the context.

    Re: Justice Dept. Issues New Torture Memo (none / 0) (#6)
    by soccerdad on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 02:26:53 PM EST
    PPJs arguements are the results of yet more mental masturbation in order to create a straw man argument so he can dismiss the CAT. In fact given his many posts on the matter there is no logic too convoluted or spurious that can stop him from excusing the torture that has gone on and most likely continues to go on. When confronted strongly enough he will invoke "few bad apples" defense. He also treats the CAT as if it existed in isolation. There is a long history in defining what torture is. The wording in the CAT is made more concrete by cases and rulings and discussions at meetings. I think it is also reasonanble to assume that people would agree on many treatments that qualified as severe pain, e.g. beating prisoners to death, shoving light bulbs up butts, etc. So to suggest that the CAT is too "vague" to follow ignores much and is a "straw man argument" in that he selects a couple of words from a single document ignoring all the law and precedents surrounding its implemnetation to then dismiss the CAT. And no I will not do your googling for you. But PPJ's stand has been well documented that torture has not been committed by the US. And when it has it was a few bad apples. This straw man argument is just another feeble attempt at preserving this delusion. Because the essence of his question is: what is torture? We know his answer would be that if it is committed by the US its not torture. WRT "never had it so good", this came up during discussions about torture and you dismissed the occurance of torture by stating that the prisoners held by the US "never had it so good". PPJs continued denial concerning torture by the US and the responsibility of this administration in its implementation combined with his continued manufacture of straw men is a clear demonstration of someone who is morally bankrupt as is this administration.

    Re: Justice Dept. Issues New Torture Memo (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 02:34:37 PM EST
    Thanks, Jim. I think you cleared up any misunderstandings.

    Re: Justice Dept. Issues New Torture Memo (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 02:43:37 PM EST
    Let's make this simple, Jim. This is from the article: Interviews with former intelligence officers and interrogators provided new details and confirmed earlier accounts of inmates being shackled for hours and left to soil themselves while exposed to blaring music or the insistent meowing of a cat-food commercial. In addition, some may have been forcibly given enemas as punishment. While all the detainees were threatened with harsh tactics if they did not cooperate, about one in six were eventually subjected to those procedures, one former interrogator estimated. The interrogator said that when new interrogators arrived they were told they had great flexibility in extracting information from detainees because the Geneva Conventions did not apply at the base. Do you think this is ok?

    Re: Justice Dept. Issues New Torture Memo (none / 0) (#9)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Jan 01, 2005 at 10:52:04 PM EST
    CA - Why do you go to a new source rather than answering my questions regarding the conventions? I find it funny that when the Left is beat, it tries to change the subject. Why don't you comment on my questions re "lawful sanctions" and "severe pain.?" I think the answer to the above is simple. You don't have an answer. BTW - I am waiting for the link that shows the context of my "They never had it so good." comment. Let's have it, big girl. If you can push it out, we can take it. SD - Babble, babble, here is SD. Let us go back to your links. If you actually read them, rather than just being proud of posting them, you will discover that they establish that: That we arrest people. (Agreed) And then they make a claim: That the people are innocent. I believe the former. Since you are against everything we are trying to do, you believe the latter. I am not surprised. After all, you agreed with Osama Bin Ladin. BTW - Note that I was capable to posting a rebuttal without calling you stupid, ignorant, etc. Are you smart enough to be able to do the same??????

    Re: Justice Dept. Issues New Torture Memo (none / 0) (#10)
    by soccerdad on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 04:01:41 AM EST
    PPJ How dishonest can you get? Truly Truly pathetic

    Re: Justice Dept. Issues New Torture Memo (none / 0) (#11)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 07:25:02 AM EST
    PPJ, What part of it's the law don't you understand? A suggestion for you PPJ: since you seem to favor rough interrogations, why not set yourself up as a guinea pig. We can waterboard you for several hours, put lit cigarettes in your ears, strip you naked, douse you with water and put you in a cold room, or other such tratments and you can comment on how severe they are. Willing to put your money where your mouth is?

    Re: Justice Dept. Issues New Torture Memo (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 07:28:51 AM EST
    How dishonest can you get? Soccerdad, There's probably no limit to that question.