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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CIA Torture Began In Afghanistan 8 Months Before DoJ Approval

Last December, in a typically bullish defense of the Bush administration’s conduct in the “War on Terror,” Vice President Dick Cheney stated, “On the question of so-called ‘torture,’ we don’t do torture, we never have. It’s not something that this administration subscribes to. [W]e proceeded very cautiously; we checked, we had the Justice Department issue the requisite opinions in order to know where the bright lines were that you could not cross. The professionals involved in that program were very, very cautious, very careful, wouldn’t do anything without making certain it was authorized and that it was legal. And any suggestion to the contrary is just wrong.”
The “requisite opinions” referred to by Cheney consisted primarily of two memos issued in August 2002 by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), whose lawyers interpret the law as it relates to the powers of the executive branch, which were issued in connection with the administration’s “high-value detainee” program.
The first of these memos (PDF), which has become known, simply, as the “torture memo,” was leaked in June 2004, in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal. Notorious for the attempts by its primary author, OLC lawyer John Yoo, to redefine torture as the infliction of physical pain “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death,” or the infliction of mental pain which “result[s] in significant psychological harm of significant duration,” it had been vilified by lawyers and human rights activists for nearly four and a half years by the time that Cheney made his pronouncement.


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