June 22, 2004


Bush Claimed Right to Waive Torture Laws (SCOTT LINDLAW, 6/22/04, Associated Press)

Bush outlined his own views in a Feb. 7. 2002, document regarding treatment of al-Qaida detainees from Afghanistan. He said the war against terrorism had ushered in a "new paradigm" and that terrorist attacks required "new thinking in the law of war." Still, he said prisoners must be treated humanely and in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

"I accept the legal conclusion of the attorney general and the Department of Justice that I have the authority under the Constitution to suspend Geneva as between the United States and Afghanistan, but I decline to exercise that authority at this time," the president said in the memo, entitled "Humane Treatment of al-Qaida and Taliban Detainees."

In a separate Pentagon memo, dated Nov. 27, 2002, the Defense Department's chief lawyer, William J. Haynes II, recommended that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approve the use of 14 interrogation techniques on detainees at Guantanamo Bay, such as yelling at a prisoner during questioning and using "stress positions," like standing, for up to four hours.

Haynes also recommended approval of one technique among harsher methods requested by U.S. military authorities at Guantanamo: use of "mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger and light pushing."

Among the techniques that Rumsfeld approved on Dec. 2, 2002, in addition to that one, the yelling and the stress positions:

_ Use of 20-hour interrogations.

_ Removal of all comfort items, including religious items.

_ Removal of clothing.

_ Using detainees' "individual phobias such as fear of dogs to induce stress."

In a Jan. 15, 2003, note, Rumsfeld rescinded his approval and said that a review would be conducted to consider legal, policy and operational issues relating to interrogations of detainees held by the U.S. military in the war on terrorism.

Rumsfeld's decision was prompted at least in part by objections raised by some military lawyers who felt that the techniques approved for use at Guantanamo Bay might go too far, officials said earlier this year.

The review was completed in April 2003, and on that basis Rumsfeld reissued his guidance on April 16, 2003. He approved 24 interrogation techniques, to be used in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions, but said that any use of four of those methods would have to be approved by him in advance. Those four were use of rewards or removal of privileges from detainees; attacking or insulting the ego of a detainee; alternating the use of friendly and harsh interrogators, and isolation.

If anything the Administration appears to have been overly scrupulous.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 22, 2004 10:26 PM

The idea that these sorts of techniques required special permissions is astonishing.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 22, 2004 10:48 PM

Can't use the good cop - bad cop act without special advance permission from the Secretary of Defense? What on earth? Is Rumsfeld channeling Willie Brennan?

Posted by: Random Lawyer at June 22, 2004 11:15 PM

Why do I have this ugly feeling that all of this concern over the legal technicalism like this is going to be considered quaint by the next decade?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at June 23, 2004 12:49 AM

I wonder how far up the Al Qaeda chain of command you need to go to get permission to behead.

Posted by: Peter B at June 23, 2004 6:11 AM

Al Qaeda has a flat hierarchy with distributed decision making.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 23, 2004 7:20 AM

If this was a Democrat administration there would be no problem nor interference on the part of Republicans. This is not a humanitarian problem but a political obstruction of the War on Terror. Do you think Teddy would give a damn otherwise? For him it's a gotcha moment. Politics is the motivation and the MSM the tool. If they can't be on the winning side their response is obstruction, even realizing the result could be destruction.

Posted by: genecis at June 23, 2004 7:59 AM

The irony is thick here; on the same day that a Korean civilian is murdered in the most grisly manner possible in Iraq, U.S. media obsesses on memos from two years ago about using dogs and removing clothing of enemy combatant POWs.

Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw at June 23, 2004 8:22 AM

This is exactly the sort of stuff I went through during the POW phase of survival school.

Was it uncomfortable and sometimes painful? Yes.

Did it qualify as torture? Not by a long shot, unless one desires to deprive the word of all its meaning.

Posted by: at June 23, 2004 11:53 AM

Read in the paper that Rumsfeld approved one of the memos on the subject that limited the "stress position" of standing up to 4 hours, but scrawled on the memo, "I stand up for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours? D.R."

He could easily have added, "And I'm 71 years old, for goodness' sake."

Posted by: Random Lawyer at June 23, 2004 12:39 PM

Yeah, how many sales clerks and cashiers stand up 8 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week? Give me a break!

Posted by: Kay at June 23, 2004 1:03 PM