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Ted Sorenson is best known as the writer who filled the speeches of John F. Kennedy with wit, humor, and elegance. Today, Sorenson is 81 and bothered by failing eyesight. But he shows penetrating vision in a speech delivered last week at his alma mater, the University of Nebraska Law School in Lincoln. Addressing a class of newly minted lawyers, Sorenson raised a loud note of concern about what has occurred to the legal profession in the last eight years. In particular, his subject is the lawyers who betrayed their calling by implementing the Bush Administration’s torture policies. The Lincoln Journal-Star reports his remarks:
“Most of you as new lawyers will soon find it easy to make a buck but find it hard to make a difference. Yes, torture gets results. It has resulted in easier, swifter, more successful recruitment for terrorist organizations among the millions of young Islamic fanatics who are willing to use the one weapon against which an open society such as ours has no sure defense — suicide bombing. It also resulted in a sharp decline in America’s standing among allies who might otherwise have provided intelligence and other forms of help. It has cost us the respect of other countries that we enjoyed, which protected us against attacks from abroad.”
“Intellectually and morally dishonest lawyers (in the Department of Justice) disgraced not only their country but their profession. In a country based on the rule of law, in which no man is above the law, whatever his rank or title, no man can undertake, authorize or immunize unlawful conduct. Our current wonderful president cannot promise the CIA practitioners of torture that they will not be prosecuted. With all those now exposed of complicity in torture pointing fingers of blame at each other, it is clear that the guilty include political ideologues, cowardly bureaucrats, and inexperienced psychologists, all of whom plead ignorance of the law. But what about the lawyers?”
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”