Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Who authorized this crap?
I have always believed that once you sell your soul it is very hard to get it back. That goes equally for individuals and for groups. The national equivalent of selling my soul is the embrace of ideas like trading rights and freedoms for security and the philosophy of "to defeat the enemy, we must become the enemy." Macho posturings about getting tough and "doing what needs to be done" or declarations that "everything changed on 9/11" don't change anything. If America sells its soul, that soul is gone, and America is no longer America; it is just a line on a map filled with people who are just as bad as any other.

This administration would have us turn our back on a two-hundred-thirty-year history of defending human rights. They want us to embrace vile, outmoded, and un-American concepts like indefinite imprisonment by executive order, collective punishment, hostage taking, permanent suspension of due process and judicial oversight, and torture. In effect, they want to sell our soul for us. These things don't just happen because someone at the top wants them to. We are still a society of laws and processes; we have not yet succumbed to the feuhrerprinzip, whether the administration likes it or not. And so, there is a trail that leads to torture.

Eric Muller is asking some very pointed questions about that trail and the steps that must have been taken for even sham legality.
In which executive departments have attorneys been called upon to review the legality under American and international law of interrogation methods such as "water boarding" (in which people are dipped into water to make them fear they're about to be drowned) and multi-year confinement of people in total isolation? (On the strategy of permanent solitary confinement, see the Declaration of Lowell Jacoby, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, on which the administration has relied in court.)

What conclusions did these attorneys reach on the legality of these methods?

How were disputes among attorneys or departments about the legality of these methods resolved? By whom?

Was DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel ever asked to opine on the lawfulness of any specific methods of interrogation? On whether any specific method of interrogation or approach to interrogation constituted "torture" within the meaning of any federal statute or treaty, or a violation of any provision of the Geneva Conventions? Who prepared any such opinion? What conclusion did he or she reach? Did DOJ's position on any such question conflict with an opinion rendered in another executive department? If so, how was the dispute resolved?

Given that there was no explicit congressional authorization for techniques of this sort, was there discussion within the executive branch about whether any congressional act even implicitly approved of them? Or about whether it was necessary to inform Congress in any way about the more aggressive methods of interrogation? What position did lawyers take on these questions? How, and by whom, were any disputes on these questions resolved?

These are questions that any investigation into this horror needs to ask. This is the way we identify those who want to sell our soul and fire the bastards.

Fortunately, one person, one leader, or even one administration cannot sell our collective soul. They can only sell their own. If we repudiate them, we are saved; America is saved. If we embrace them, we are doomed; America is doomed. It's as simple as that.

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