"Attorney General John Ashcroft, whose Justice Department prepared the memos -- one of them running to 50 pages and signed by Jay S. Bybee, head of the Office of Legal Counsel -- assured the Senate the other day that the memos are of no consequence. They were only internal Justice Department stuff, the scribblings of lawyers, and -- most important -- the president has not ``directed or ordered'' torture, Ashcroft said. In another administration, such an assurance would be enough for me, but given this one's cavalier approach to civil liberties, I have to note that ``directed'' or ``ordered'' is not the same as condoned. That's what I wonder about.And, this
I wonder too why the much-pressed Justice Department -- with all those press releases to get out extolling Ashcroft -- went through all the trouble to come up with definitions of torture that might be permissible under American law when no one was supposedly considering torturing Al-Qaida prisoners in the first place. A 50-page memo is not an hour's work. It's clear someone had torture in mind. The Defense Department and the CIA were looking for guidance."
What if the CIA got its hands on a terrorist who it thought might have information about coming attacks? What should it do? What could it do? Could it, say, torture the guy a little bit -- not too much, mind you -- so he would cough up the information? In one of the memos leaked to the Washington Post, the Justice Department said yes, precisely -- torture, but only a bit. ``For purely mental pain or suffering to amount to torture, it must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.'' This is a very odd -- shall we say ``tortured'' -- definition.Which is what I've been saying, this is not the act of a couple of Specialists acting on their own initiative. This was policy, and in the military, privates don't decide policy.