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I recently examined how the Bush Justice Department was developing a “Culture of Torture,” that is, the Bush Administration’s addiction to torture has become its defining element. Opposition to torture policies is not tolerated, as Daniel Levin and Michael Mukasey have learned. Silence can be tolerated among career employees, perhaps, but it will certainly check their advancement.
And now, courtesy of the ACLU, we learn some more about the logical corollaries of the culture of torture: secrecy and lies.
Legal papers filed in federal court Monday in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations disclose that the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) for the Department of Justice issued three secret memos in May 2005 relating to the interrogation of detainees in CIA custody. Until now, the existence of only two of those memos had been reported and it was not known precisely when the memos had been written. The memos are believed to have authorized the CIA to use extremely harsh interrogation methods including waterboarding.
“These torture memos should never have been written, and it is utterly unacceptable that the administration continues to suppress them while at the same time declaring publicly that it abhors torture,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “It is now obvious that senior administration officials worked in concert over a period of several years to evade and violate the laws that prohibit cruelty and torture. Some degree of accountability is long overdue.”
The ACLU had previously sought disclosure of Justice Department torture memoranda, and the Justice Department responded with a list that excluded the OLC memos. On October 4, the New York Times reported on the two torture memoranda authored by Steven Bradbury—the OLC head who was appointed by Alberto Gonzales and who it now appears was placed in the office for the specific purpose of being a torture “yes man.” The ACLU noted that the Bradbury memoranda had not been revealed in the Justice Department in their response, triggering an admission that the documents had been “missed” coupled with an embarrassed and hardly tenable explanation.
With the disclosures about Daniel Levin’s dismissal from OLC, it becomes increasingly apparent that Steven Bradbury was picked for one reason: to provide continuing OLC cover for the torture conspirators. Like his soulmate John Yoo, Bradbury clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a position long thought to reflect the inside track for Kool Aid-drinking Republican Party legal warriors. He departed that position to work at the feet of the master of Republican legal trickery, Ken Starr. Bradbury could, therefore, be counted upon to render up to his bosses whatever they desired in the form of legal opinions. He is also suspected of deep involvement in the process of crafting warrantless surveillance programs which violated the FISA statute, and an internal inquiry into the legal ethics of his conduct was quashed by the Saturday-Night-massacre like direct intervention of President Bush. Today Bradbury’s nomination to serve as head of OLC is viewed as “dead on arrival” in the Senate, and his legal power to issue opinions is subject to legal question, as is his right to sit in his office in the Justice Department.
The Justice Department’s strategy has been to cloak Bradbury’s torture memoranda in secrecy classifications and then to lie aggressively about their very existence. On November 13, the Justice Department will be invited to explain itself in a federal courtroom in New York. No doubt we’ll hear a lot about super-dupper national secrets that justify its practices of falsehood and evasion. The major question is whether at this point there is a court in the country gullible enough to believe these absurd claims.
This episode demonstrates once more the intimate interrelationship between the policies of torture, secrecy and the right to lie to the public and the courts in the interests of shielding the Bush Administration from public embarrassment. And once more the Justice Department is enlisted not in the enforcement of the law, but rather in a sordid criminal conspiracy.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”