The Torture Memos - We Knew In 2006 What Was Going On

This is a reprint of something I wrote in 2006. Knowledge of the torture memos has been around that long. Why is all the outrage saved for today? Cowards in the legal community. They didn't want to take on the Bush Administration. Of course, they are all outraged now that it is safe and even popular. Where were they when it counted most?

While working for the CIA in 2006, I wrote on my classified blog that Waterboarding Is Torture, and Torture is Wrong. I outlined how torturing people by using waterboarding could still get someone convicted of a crime despite the immunity law.

I was fired after being told that "everything I have ever read, and everything I have ever written will be examined for signs of illegal activity." With that hanging over my head, I went out into the world by myself.

I got letters and calls from people all over the world. The words of support were gratifying, and I will never forget the people who wrote to me. It really made a tremendous difference at a time when I was reeling. Thank you again.

2006 blog post:
The federal statute making torture criminal is found in 18 U.S.C. sections 2340-2340A. The statute cites the definition of torture: "means an act committed by a person acting under color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control."

The 2004 Torture Memo restricted its analysis to "(1) the meaning of severe; (2) the meaning of "severe physical pain or suffering"; (3) the meaning of "severe mental pain or suffering"; and (4) the meaning of "specifically intended." " See page 5 of the Department of Justice, Office of the Assistant Attorney General, Memorandum for James B. Comey, Deputy Attorney General, Re: Legal Standards Applicable Under 18 U.S.C. sections 2340-2340A, dated December 30, 2004. This memo is commonly known as one of the Torture memos, and will be referred to here as Torture Memo II.

The last post discussed and gave examples from the Torture Memo II of what was not severe.
Footnote 13 of Torture Memo II cites dictionary definitions of torture to bolster the view that to be considered torture, severity of pain or suffering must be present. Readers can look at dictionaries themselves. However, Econo-girl considers it significant that examples of what would constitute torture are given within the context of references to dictionary definitions.

Specifically, burning, crushing and wounding are the actions mentioned in Torture Memo II footnote 13 as examples of what would constitute torture.

This is important because almost nowhere else in the document is specific guidance given as to what torture actually is. Much describes what it is not.

So one thing we know is that burning, crushing and wounding are referred to as concrete examples of torture in Torture Memo II. The authors are careful to note that "[w]e emphatically are not saying that only such historical techniques - or similar ones - can constitute "torture" under sections 2340-2340A." So torture is recognized as being broader in scope that burning, crushing and wounding. But in terms of drawing a line, that is the only one I have seen so far.

Stay tuned.

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