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Torture memos of Bush years.

Byline: Arab News

Excerpts from an editorial in New York Times yesterday on the Bush administration's abuses:

We had two powerful reactions this week after the CIA admitted to destroying 92 videotapes of interrogations that may involve torture and the Justice Department released several of the legal manifestos that President George W. Bush used to justify mangling the Constitution after Sept. 11, 2001. We were horrified to be reminded that the nation still has not plumbed the depths of the Bush administration's abuses. While the CIA's admission was made in legal proceedings, the government voluntarily released the Justice Department memos. A lot more transparency is needed. The documents do not include memos justifying harsh interrogations nor those justifying Bush's decision to authorize illegal eavesdropping on Americans.

The released memos were written by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which is supposed to ensure policies comply with the Constitution and the law. They make it chillingly clear how quickly that office was rededicated to finding ways for Bush to evade, twist or ignore both. Some low points:

N In an Oct. 23, 2001, memo, John C. Yoo, then a Justice Department lawyer, explained how Bush could ignore the Fourth Amendment and the Posse Comitatus Act and deploy the military within the United States in "anti-terrorist operations." In the same memo, Yoo argued that Bush could also suspend First Amendment rights to free speech and a free press.

N On March 13, 2002, Jay Bybee, the head of the office at the time, wrote that Bush could ignore the Geneva Conventions and the anti-torture treaty. Bybee, who now has a lifetime seat as a judge on a federal court, said Bush was free to send prisoners to countries known to employ torture - a practice known as extraordinary rendition - as long as there was no agreement to do the torturing.

N On Jan. 15, 2009, five days before Bush left office, Steven G. Bradbury, the head of the counsel's office in Bush's second term, repudiated the earlier memos and tried to excuse them by saying they were made "in a time of great danger and under extraordinary time pressure." They were, but that should have led honest lawyers to exercise extra prudence, not to rush into sweeping away this country's most cherished rights.

The Justice Department's internal ethics office is reviewing these and other memos and trying to decide whether political appointees knowingly twisted their interpretations of the law to provide legal cover for decisions made by the White House. At least two Congressional committees are, quite rightly, also looking into these issues.

Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is holding a hearing on Wednesday into the creation of a bipartisan inquiry into the range of Bush's abuses and has raised the possibility of granting immunity to witnesses. We are skeptical about immunity, but we are looking forward to hearing a careful debate about how to proceed toward the essential goal: Providing Americans with as much truth and accountability as possible about their government's actions.

Copyright: Arab News 2009 All rights reserved.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Mar 5, 2009
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