Thursday, May 07, 2009

Some torture with your coffee this morning?

Real life looks pretty pressing today, but here's some torture-lawyer news:

(1) Murray Waas has some inside chatter about the OPR memo on Yoo and Bybee.
Central to the OPR investigation, according to two attorneys involved, has been whether the three administration lawyers engaged in only crafting deficient legal opinions, or whether the they purposely and improperly skewed their advisory opinions to provide a legal rationale for Bush administration policies.

"Intent is everything," said a Justice Department official who was involved in overseeing the probe. "What their mindset was, whether they were writing legal opinions tailored to meet the desires of their client -- that is key to whether this was just shoddy legal work or them not meeting their professional obligations." * * *

In attempting to discern the attorneys' motives, investigators have reviewed emails traded between the three men as they drafted the legal controversial legal opinions, as well as emails between the three OLC attorneys and other Bush administration attorneys, according to sources close to the case.

Additionally, the investigators closely tracked drafts of the four legal opinions until they reached final form.

In some instances, the drafts changed progressively over time to afford those who wanted to engage in aggressive interrogation techniques additional legal cover, according to people who have read the draft OPR report.

One source indicated that at least two of the earlier drafts were "equivocal" and "nuanced" -- but noted over time they became "more advocative" of the views of then-Vice President Dick Cheney and others in the Bush administration that aggressive interrogation techniques were necessary to prevent new terror attacks.
That sounds like grist for a criminal investigation to me, but what do I know?

(2) Via Adler @ VC, a report that Yoo may be off the hook for any bar discipline, because the PA Bar has a 4-year statute of limitations on complaints. Even if they have a discovery rule, that would seem to hinder a complaint based on the memo leaked in May 2004; but what about last month's memo? (Also, I recall that someone *did* file a complaint vs. Yoo on the earlier memo, and the Bar's response was "wait and see what OPR does" -- would that toll the matter?)

(3) The leader of the Southern Baptist Convention's "ethics and public policy office" (who knew?) has gotten around to deciding that torture is just plain wrong. Unfortunately, he does this in typical Baptist fashion:
[Richard] Land, president of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said there is no circumstance in which torture should be permissible in interrogations by U.S. officials, even if the authorities believe a prisoner has information that might involve national security.

"I don't agree with the belief that we should use any means necessary to extract information," said Land. "I believe there are absolutes. There are things we must never do under any circumstances.

"For me the ultimate test is: Could I, in good conscience, do whatever I am authorizing or condoning others to do? If not, then I must oppose the action. If I could not waterboard someone--and I couldn't--then I must oppose its practice."
IOW, look inside your heart and decide what's right. Great. I expect Mr. Land will hear from a great many of his codenominationalists, who will explain that they too have searched their hearts, and would like to sign up for the next CIA waterboarding team at the Torture Olympics.

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