Here’s the New York Times’s Eric Lichtblau reporting today on the trio of superlative appointments announced for the Justice Department today: David Ogden to be Deputy Attorney General, Elena Kagan to be Solicitor General, Dawn Johnsen to be head of the Office of Legal Counsel (italics mine):
The records and public statements of the four nominees named by Mr. Obama suggest a sharp break from the legal policies of the past eight years in a number of key areas, including the detention, interrogation and surveillance of terrorism suspects.
For instance, Dawn Johnsen—whom Mr. Obama said he would nominate to lead the Office of Legal Counsel, which has become controversial because of its legal defense of practices bordering on torture—did not try to hide her skeptical views on recent counter-terrorism policies in a law review article last year entitled: “What’s a President to Do: Interpreting the Constitution in the Wake of the Bush Administration’s Abuses.”
Got that? John Yoo and Steven Bradbury were defending practices “bordering on torture.” We’re talking about waterboarding, hypothermia, long-time standing, the use of psychotropic drugs and burying people in a box for prolonged periods, among other things.
Dear Times editors: read your own pages. When Russia used the practice of stoika in the Stalin era, you called it “torture.” It is. Why does it become “bordering on torture” when the Bush Administration uses it? When the Nazis used the practice of Pfahlbinden during World War II, you called it “torture.” So when Bush uses it, suddenly it becomes “bordering on torture”? By consciously softening your language, you are allowing those who introduced torture to escape the opprobrium that is their due. Moreover, you are enabling torture. Your readers deserve better.