Goner Gonzales? (Veiled Subscription Pitch)

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From the top of today's Wash Post:

Gonzales Helped Set the Course for Detainees:
Justice Nominee's Hearings Likely to Focus on Interrogation Policies

There's nothing that's exactly news in the story, but I'm betting that the Dems--and maybe some anti-torture Reps, too--take a pretty mean hatchet to Gonzales as confirmation of him as attorney general gets underway, even to the point of killing the nomination. Someone in the Bush admin is eventually going to pay for screwups with detainees, Abu Ghraib, etc. and Gonzales is as likely a candidate as anyone (more so than Rummy, I'd wager today). Especially since as Clinton showed, it can be tough to get someone through to the AG post (and what a goddamned multiple disaster his third pick turned out to be).

For the March issue of Reason, now in production and out on newsstands in early February (subscribe!), we've interviewed Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News Channel and author of the good new book Consitutional Chaos. The hardcore civil libertarian had this to say about Gonzales:

Alberto Gonzales will be the first attorney general in American history, publicly, to be in favor of torture. The others may have been in favor of it privately, but Al Gonzales is in favor of it publicly.

Update on Gonzo: The Wash Times like his odds of being confirmed.

Did I mention you should to subscribe to the print edition already? Rates are going up but if you act quickly, you can still get a year of Reason (11 issues) and a free copy of Choice: The Best of Reason for a measly $19.95.

NEXT: Zero Tolerance

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  1. There will most certainly be resistance. If it's light, the Dems will have made their point, focused on a widely perceived distasteful aspect of the White House; and Bush will get his trusted ally at AG. If it is heavy, the Dems will have overplayed a weak card and the Reps will pick up an extra 5-10% of the Hispanic vote in the 2006 mid-term elections by playing up the Dems once again blocking the nomination of an Hispanic man to a high post.

    As for subscriptions, I was going to get one and buy the book, but then I decided the money would be better spent on tsunami relief. I figured you'd understand, since I'm sure that's what the Reason staff did with the money they were planning to spend on celebrating New Year's.

  2. in the end, mr sulla, as many of the dems see the end of the constitution (and, more importantly, the restraint of action it was meant to embody) as a liberation to act as the reps. i'd be surprised if they made more than a show of it.

  3. Someone in the Bush admin is eventually going to pay for screwups with detainees, Abu Ghraib, etc.

    What? No no no no. That was all the work of a few misguided individuals. The United States does not torture people. The world will know this when they see us prosecute and convict those wayward, low-ranking souls. Speaking of which I heard something briefly on the radio yesterday about courts-martial proceedings getting underway against a Navy Seal. I guess they'll get to the hanging quickly as they started without his attorney.

  4. "That was all the work of a few misguided individuals."

    Yep - Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales...

    So, um, who exactly would these "anti-torture Reps" be?

  5. And Sulla, the GOP's attempts to denounce Senate Democrats as anti-Hispanic and anti-Catholic because they opposed a Latino and a Catholic judicial nominee went over like a lead ballon. Republicans play race cards about as well as the Queen of England plays linebacker.

    Since we saw Orrin Hatch lecturing Ted Kennedy on being a good Catholic, perhaps we'll get to see Trent Lott lecturing Senator Salazar on Latino Pride. Yeah, sure, that'll work.

  6. "Republicans play race cards about as well as the Queen of England plays linebacker"

    DON'T EVER, EVER, EVER put a graphic visual like that out on hit and run. EVER.

    but joe - they did do a good job with the senate race here in illinois: keyes was picked, in part, as a racial candidate. and also to show how the head of the state party is powerless

    and look how bush supporters (to differentiate from conservatives) had smug comments about powell, too. they're quite adept at the race card.

    trent lott & paulina hansen (aus): separated at birth. next on donahue.

  7. Someone in the Bush admin is eventually going to pay for screwups with detainees, Abu Ghraib, etc.

    We can hope so, Nick. I believe it much more likely that this will just be another case of, "oh, look at those wacky administration people, aren't they just so silly."

  8. Bush went from 35% of the Hispanic in 2000 to 44% in 2004. Maybe the Reps are indeed incapable of purposefully picking up this vote, but that merely means the Dems are quite good at losing it.

    From last April in the NYT:

    "The reality is that we're entering May and the Kerry campaign has no message out there to the Hispanic community nor has there been any inkling of any reach-out effort in any state to the Hispanic electorate, at least with any perceivable sustainable strategy in mind," Alvaro Cifuentes, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee's Hispanic Caucus, said in an e-mail message to party leaders provided by a recipient who insisted on anonymity. "It is no secret that the word of mouth in the Beltway and beyond is not that he does not get it, it is that he does not care."

    Separately, in a letter addressed to Mr. Kerry, Raul Yzaguirre, the president of the National Council of La Raza, denounced the "remarkable and unacceptable absence of Latinos in your campaign."

    "Relegating all of your minority staff to the important but limited role of outreach only reinforces perceptions that your campaign views Hispanics as a voting constituency to be mobilized, but not as experts to be consulted in shaping policy," wrote Mr. Yzaguirre, whose group is among the oldest, largest and most influential representing Hispanics."

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/30/politics/campaign/30KERR.html?ex=1398657600&en=8397856fb8525cf8&ei=5007&partner=USERLAND

    It can be debated whether the cause is Rep pull or Dem push, but the direction of movement is clear. That said, I fail to see how a successful Dem block of the first Hispanic AG (even despite legit torture memo points), will help their cause in 2006 or 2008. Even with the Queen at LB, yards can be lost if the RB continually trips himself up in the backfield.

  9. but I'm betting that the Dems--and maybe some anti-torture Reps, too--take a pretty mean hatchet to Gonzales as confirmation of him as attorney general gets underway, even to the point of killing the nomination.

    Nick - are you giving odds on this? I'm betting that nary a dem will go after him.

  10. Actually, Sulla, that data, like so much other exit poll data, turned out to be wrong. Bush improved his numbers among Hispanics by four points over 2000, roughly equivalent to his improvement overall.

    However, it is clear that Hispanics vote for Republicans a lot more readily than, say, Arfican Americans or Jews. 2:1 is pretty far from 9:1. This suggests to me that the group politics of the sort used by NAACP or AJC isn't really relevant to Hispanics, as far as political strategery goes. Senats Dems would have to really go out of their way to racialize their opposition for there to be a backlash among Hispanics, or Republicans suddenly become adept at the language of racial grievance (among a group that isn't particularly motivated to define their politics that way), and I don't consider either particularly likely.

    As for La Raza, Kerry decided to run a national campaign, rather than a collection of interest group appeals, and the organized Civil Rights groups don't like it. Well, that's the future.

  11. If the Dems fight his confirmation, it will be no worse than a fraternity pledge in a tough initiation ritual.

  12. During the oral argument in the Guantanamo detainees cases, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg posed a hypothetical to the lawyer arguing the Bush administration?s case, Deputy Solicitor General Paul Clement.

    ?Suppose the executive says, `Mild torture, we think, will help get this information,?? Ginsburg said to Clement. ?Some systems do that to get information.?

    ?Well, our executive doesn't,? Clement replied. ?And I think the fact that executive discretion in a war situation can be abused is not a good and sufficient reason for judicial micromanagement in overseeing of that authority."

    "You have to recognize that in situations where there is a war, where the government is on a war footing, that you have to trust the executive,? said Clement.

  13. While I was using the NEP stats, I am aware of variations in recording/interpreting the change in the Hispanic vote from 2000 to 2004. I did this for two reasons: 1) There seems to be little consensus on an accurate measure, with some interpreting lower numbers for Bush and some higher. 2) While there were indeed problems with the exit poll numbers, these were almost across the board found to be overestimating Kerry's portion of the vote, therefore it seemed safe to use them as a low to mid range of the amount of the Hispanic vote that the Dems got.

    I'm not sure where in particular your stats came from, but they seem to fall in line with numbers I've found in analysis by Ruy Teixeira at the emerging democrat majority weblog.
    http://www.emergingdemocraticmajorityweblog.com/donkeyrising/archives/000951.php

    He also links to a piece from La Raza that while he claims finds similar numbers, doesn't really upon actual reading. It finds a range, but is well worth the read.
    http://www.nclr.org/files/28218_file_NCLR_HOW_DID_LATINOS_REALLY_VOTE_IN_2004.pdf

    One of the most telling figures from charts in this piece is that when four national polls that are individually compared from 2000 to 2004, they show Bush increasing his Hispanic numbers from 7-12%. Even the WCVI/SVREP poll which found him at only 31% of the vote in 2004, showed an increase of 7%. In this light, handpicking counties, as Teixeira seems to have done to arrive at the 4% increase seems even more suspect than the rest of the suspect exit poll data.

    This lowballing of their losses has not served the Dems well in the past, as it helps them avoid trying to fix what's broke. They can ignore the current trends in Hispanic voters, and they can continue to run these national campaigns while pissing off the largest and fastest growing minority with silly congressional blocks, but if they don't like where it gets them; well, too bad, that's reality.

  14. Sulla, when we're talking about approving an attorney general who supports torture, why should we give a shit about who wins Hispanic voters?

    Let's save the affirmative action for a debate that doesn't involve torture.

  15. Gonzo. That's funny.

    I wonder if we might not have a Kerik scenario here. Bush's gut likes they guy, likes his style, he toadies just right, no need for a background check, you don't say no to the Leader. Then a bunch of stuff gets leaked out and suddenly he has a "nanny problem" or something. Wishful thinking probably.

  16. I avoided caveats or quotations around generic descriptive words in the above discussion because I thought it would be obvious that while important to the individual, it is not as meaningful when discussing national level or large scale statistics. Of course there are varying preferred names, group associations, ideologies and what not in the Hispanic community, as there are in the black, Asian or white communities. I have "white" friends who refer to themselves as "Polish" or "Italian". No group is a monolith. However, in discussing largescale voting trends gender, age, ethnic groups, etc. are useful. Furthermore, when particular groups vote overwhelmingly in favor of one party, then in just a couple election cycles move significantly towards 50/50, it is notable. Trying to figure out the reasons for this and what might cause it to continue or reverse are important questions for the both major parties, as well as any smaller or emerging parties and any outside observers. Pretending that no trace of these group dynamics or changes in their behavior exist, seems to be trying to avoid the obvious. At what gain I don't quite understand.

  17. What? No no no no. That was all the work of a few misguided individuals. The United States does not torture people.

    Whether the United States tortures people or not isn't really the issue. What is the issue is whether most Americans would classify the interrogation techniques Gonzales signed off on as "torture" -- or, more specifically, "unjustified torture". I think the answer to that question is an unqualified "no". I think the average American, if told that the would-be attorney general favors depriving terrorists of sleep, subjecting them to loud noises, making them think they're going to die, humiliating them, etc, would say "excellent, keep up the good work". This is a dead issue for the Democrats, I suspect.

    But who knows, Gonzales may get shot down. The likely result of that would be that Bush will appoint someone significantly to the right of Gonzales -- John Ashcroft version 2.0, if you will -- and the Democrats will lack the political capital to oppose him. If the Democrats were smart they'd give Gonzales a pass and save their strength for the Supreme Court appointees.

    But then, if the Democrats were smart, President Lieberman would be the one appointing the new Attorney General.

  18. In the original post Nick writes...

    "...but I'm betting that the Dems--and maybe some anti-torture Reps, too--take a pretty mean hatchet to Gonzales as confirmation of him as attorney general gets underway, even to the point of killing the nomination."

    I was merely pointing out one aspect of fallout should the Dems play hard here. While you may wish that this confirmation hearing will go down on only the merits of Gonzales' torture stance, that's simply not the case. Political fallout will play some role in how the many of the actors will act. While this may seem a tangential issue, it is indeed one with substance. If you don't wish to discuss this angle, then don't.

    What exactly does affirmative action have to do with potential Hispanic voter backlash to Dem hardball against Gonzales anyway? It seems you are bringing up an even more remote topic.

  19. Sulla, I don't disagree with your observation that's it's dumb to pretend actual changes don't exist. I'm saying, it's equally dumb to pretend that there are changes happening when there aren't. I'm sure we'll be seeing more about whether or not there was a significant change in how Hispanic voters voted, and we'll know for sure after the 2006 and 2008 elections.

    "Incidentally, you weren't really suggesting above that Republicans are all pro-torture, were you?" No, not at all. I'm saying, I've seen Republicans who are pro-torture. I've seen Republicans who have remained silent on the issue. I've seen Republicans who attack people who are anti-torture. But I can't think of any who have come out and denounced the Bush administration for endorsing torture, who could be expected to take a hard line on Gonzalez because of it, as Nick suggests might happen. Maybe McCain.

  20. ...I'm betting that the Dems--and maybe some anti-torture Reps, too--take a pretty mean hatchet to Gonzales as confirmation of him as attorney general gets underway, even to the point of killing the nomination."

    I sure hope you're right.

  21. Yeah, I don't see how even rabid partisanship can allow you to keep your mouth closed about the torture issue. Even if you think it's being blown out of proportion, I think there's definitely plenty of reason to want to know the truth about who authorized what. Some things have to be above power politics, right?

  22. I think the average American, if told that the would-be attorney general favors depriving terrorists of sleep, subjecting them to loud noises, making them think they're going to die, humiliating them, etc, would say "excellent, keep up the good work".

    What a horrible disgusting accusation to make concerning "the average American".

    You must hold them in great disdain.

  23. 'I think the answer to that question is an unqualified "no".'

    The average American considered hanging people up with their arms behind their backs or beating them to be torture when it was done to John McCain. Though you might be right, the average American might not consider it torture when done to an Arab or other Muslim.

  24. Well, does the "average American" really know what is going on? Something bad has happened or is happening, but the details are still in dispute. I don't think it's fair to attribute something as loathsome as indifference to torture/abuse to people in general. Rather, I think we've all become a little jaded by the hyperbole that dominates politics these days and don't entirely trust what we read and hear. Personally, I've seen enough to think there's a major problem in how we're treating these prisoners; then again, I'm a whacko libertarian who doesn't trust the government to begin with 🙂

    This is where all of the skewed journalism really hurts us, because a reasonably reliable source for investigating this sort of thing is sorely needed. Whether the biases come from political leanings or from lust for marketshare, we have, ironically, fewer sources we can trust, while having an order of magnitude more sources for information today than ever before.

  25. "What is the issue is whether most Americans would classify the interrogation techniques Gonzales signed off on as "torture" -- or, more specifically, "unjustified torture". I think the answer to that question is an unqualified "no". I think the average American, if told that the would-be attorney general favors depriving terrorists of sleep, subjecting them to loud noises, making them think they're going to die, humiliating them, etc, would say "excellent, keep up the good work". This is a dead issue for the Democrats, I suspect."

    Only lawyers and Republican propaganda victims think that Gonzales' definition of torture is legitimate.

    "You have asked for our office's views regarding the standards of conduct under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment as implemented by Sections 2340-2340A of title 18 of the United States code. As we understand it, this question has arisen in the context of the conduct of interrogations outside of the United States. We conclude below that Section 2340A proscribes acts inflicting, and that are specifically intended to inflict, severe pain or suffering, whether mental or physical. Those acts must be of an extreme nature to rise to the level of torture within the meaning of Section 2340A and the Convention. We further conclude that certain acts may be cruel, inhuman, or degrading, but still not produce pain and suffering of the requisite intensity to fall within Section 2340A's proscription against torture. We conclude by examining possible defenses that would negate any claim that certain interrogation methods violate the statute."

    ----Alberto Gonzales August 1, 2002

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/documents/dojinterrogationmemo20020801.pdf

    If our politicians unleash an Attorney General on the American people who thinks that inflicting "mental or physical" "pain or suffering" isn't torture if it isn't "extreme", then they will be doing us all a great disservice.

  26. ...Let's try that again.

    If our politicians unleash an Attorney General on the American people who thinks that inflicting "mental or physical" "pain or suffering" isn't torture if it isn't "extreme", then they will be doing us all a great disservice.

  27. Ken, I'm not sure how seriously to take Gonzales' memo. On the one hand, he's a lawyer writing about a legal issue. Arguably, his sole task was to examine the law, not to make policy recommendations or moral judgments. In fact, he might've relied on his superiors to make those sorts of determinations, and he might even have made verbal recommendations against any form of torture. Not that there's a problem opposing him on this issue--what he might have done is not important, because any questions about his suitability for the office must be answered to the satisfaction of the Senate.

    On the other hand, the attorney general needs to be someone who sees beyond mere blackletter law. More moral authority in Reno or Ashcroft might have helped us avoid some constitutionally deficient actions by the administrations they served.

  28. Ken,

    The pdf you link is actually a memo for Gonzales. If you go down to page 46 (of the pdf) you'll see it's signed by Jay S. Bybee, Assistant Attorney General.

  29. Thank you Sulla.

    Do you have any question that this was the advice given to the President by Gonzales? This is the infamous "Gonzales Torture Memo", is it not?

    If it is not, can you provide a link to the memo we're talking about?

  30. Pro Liberate,

    I take the Torture Memo seriously because of what happened subsequently. Indeed, the Schlesinger Report ultimately blamed the torture at Abu Gharib on confusion subsequent to Rumfeld's change of torture policy at Guantanamo. I'm not aware of anyone having asked Rumsfeld if he changed torture policy per the Schlesinger Report, because of the Torture Memo, but I don't think it's much of a stretch to assume he did.

    All this is to say that the Bush Administration, apparently, tried to make cruel and inhuman acts, AKA torture, policy, and, as part of that effort, Alberto Gonzales, who wants to be Bush's chief of law enforcement, oversaw, at least in part, the effort to make cruel and inhuman acts legal per this memorandum.

    ...To me, hence, the Gonzales Torture Memo is effectively a smoking gun.

    P.S. ...Now where was that link to the Schlesinger Report?

  31. Ken,

    It would seem that this is the info that Gonzales passed along to Bush. I haven't seen another memo from this same date about torture with Gonzales' name on it that would be a different 'torture memo'.
    It wouldn't seem very noteworthy, this memo was written up for him by a lesser member of the committee that he chaired, except for one thing. Now the WPost is reporting that Gonzales might not be the originator of the ideas in the memo:

    "But one of the mysteries that surround Gonzales is the extent to which these new legal approaches are his own handiwork rather than the work of others, particularly Vice President Cheney's influential legal counsel, David S. Addington."

    http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1802&u=/washpost/20050105/ts_washpost/a48446_2005jan4&printer=1

    I admit to being a bit confused about these particular authorship details and their import at the moment, but I also hadn't actually gone to the source document until today. Reading it, I'd have to say that while I'm a bit more alarmed than some seem to be, I'm far less alarmed than others seem to be. I suppose much of this difference, though not all, comes from folks relying on various sources for their analysis.

  32. Just to show I'm not conjuring a connection between the Torture Memo and the Schelsinger Report out of thin air, I'd cite the following:

    "In the Summer of 2002, the Counsel to the President queried the Department of Justice Office of Legal Council (OLC) for an opinion on the standards of conduct for interrogation operations conducted by U.S. personnel outside of the U.S. and the applicability of the Convention Against Torture. The OLC responded in an August 1, 2002 opinion in which it held that in order to constitute torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict sever physical or mental pain and suffering that is difficult to endure."

    ----The Schlesinger Report, PDF pp. 9 of 126:

    The Gonzales Torture Memo is, of course, dated August 1, 2002 and uses the verbiage as described.

    ...The Schlesinger Report then goes on to detail Donald Rumsfeld's subsequent authoriztion to use techniques previously prohibited as tortuous on prisoners at Guantanamo.

  33. "I think the average American, if told that the would-be attorney general favors depriving terrorists of sleep, subjecting them to loud noises, making them think they're going to die, humiliating them, etc, would say "excellent, keep up the good work"."

    That's probably true, but what if the average American was told that the would-be attorney general favors doing all those things to ALLEGED terrorists? I think the average American has forgotten that the Army stated that approximately 70% of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib were innocent. Considering that the efficiency of the military is no greater than most other government agencies, there's no reason to believe that the same isn't true in the rest of the military prisons in Iraq where many more cases of torture have been documented.

    Unless, of course, you trust the government to do things right.

  34. "I think the average American, if told that the would-be attorney general favors depriving terrorists of sleep, subjecting them to loud noises, making them think they're going to die, humiliating them, etc, would say "excellent, keep up the good work"

    I think the average American has already spoken up about that. If we gauged the average American's reaction to the photographs that came out of Abu Gharib, it would be on a scale of outrage.

    Doesn't the photograph of the hooded, naked man on the stool with the electrodes connected to his fingers fit your description? Doesn't the photograph of Lyndie England walking a leashed, naked and hooded prisoner fit your description? Don't pictures of people stacked in naked pyramids fit your description?

    ...Did you think the reaction of the average American to these photographs was, "excellent, keep up the good work"?

  35. Ken, perhaps "the average American" doesn't capture what's going one. In a polarized nation, half the country was outraged, and the other half wasn't.

  36. Doesn't the photograph of the hooded, naked man on the stool with the electrodes connected to his fingers fit your description? Doesn't the photograph of Lyndie England walking a leashed, naked and hooded prisoner fit your description? Don't pictures of people stacked in naked pyramids fit your description?

    what's truly horrifying, mr schultz, is that for many of these people, it doesn't. indeed, for many, there is nothing the government could do which would shock them out of their ethical slumber.

    for altogether too many, i fear, the deaths of millions would be nothing if the cause were "noble".

  37. joe,

    Half the country may think that what happened was a couple of isolated, poorly supervised lower-downs, but that doesn't mean that those people weren't outraged.

    They just weren't willing to point the finger of blame at the President or Rumsfeld.

  38. Some of the confusion I was having earlier seems to be because there is also another memo from Jan 25th, 2002 (can't find a link at the moment, the GWU one I found on google seems to be bad). This was the one Gonzales penned (allegedly according to the WPost) where he goes into whether or not the Geneva Conventions apply in the case of al Qaeda.

    As for the ongoing, "keep up the good work" discusion here's how I feel as an average American. While the three images you mention all disturb me, I also moved beyond sheer gut reaction and gave them further thought. Two of these are not like the other. In the two that have US military personnel posing with the prisoners, they are not acting a professional manner, which gives me pause as to wonder whether they were just acting on orders at all. Certainly, they were using humiliation, as described in the Aug 1st memo, and on that note blame can be traced back to the memo in question. The other, with the hooded man with electrodes attached to his hand, is another matter. Given that in the photograph and subsequent descriptions I recall he was standing on a box over a puddle of water and told if he fell off, he would be electrocuted. This actually falls under the heading of severe psychological torture by the memo in question. Therefore I wonder if significant blame should be passed along to the top in this case.

    To be sure, there are questions to be asked here, but there also seems to be a whole lot being lumped together that maybe shouldn't. I suppose I'm just not as disturbed by how the limitations of torture were discussed now that I've read the memo. Is it unpleasant, yes. Do I want to see the Dems (and the Reps) get some things out in the open during the questioning, yes. But do I want to see the Dems try and run a block here on a nominee that I find far more palatable than Ashcroft? No. I think the cost may be too high down the line, and I also worry that the next nominee may have us looking back at Gonzales with regret.

    Further, as some one above mentioned, it may give the Dems more power come SC time if they don't pull out the stops now. Gonzales is out in four years, a SC nominee may last decades.

  39. The average American considered hanging people up with their arms behind their backs or beating them to be torture when it was done to John McCain.

    Three points: First, there is no evidence that Gonzales or the President authorized the beating of detainees, so it is irrelevant whether or not that constitutes torture. Second, what was done to McCain involved a great deal more than hanging him up with his arms behind his back. Equating what Gonzales signed off on to what was done to McCain is like equating sexual harassment with forcible rape. Get back to me when you find a document showing that Gonzales ordered prisoners' bones to be broken and left unset for years.

    But most importantly, it doesn't matter if Americans feel that what was done to McCain was torture or not, because McCain wasn't a Muslim terrorist interested in murdering Americans. It may be hypocritical, but most Americans, like most people, take a different view of the torture of enemies than they do of the torture of friends.

  40. I don't think the energy expended on fighting the Gonzales nomination depletes the energy reserve for fighting a Supreme Court nomination. Indeed, fighting the Gonzales nomination might galvanize the loyal opposition--something we seem to lack right now buty something every healthy democracy needs.

    ...And as bad as Ashcroft was, I'm not certain that Gonzales will be better.

  41. Ken,

    It is a fact that not all intentionally-inflicted discomfort and pain legally constitutes torture. There is, therefore, some point at which the amount of pain and discomfort inflicted becomes too much -- when that pain and discomfort meets the *legal* definition of torture.

    All that the Gonzales memo did was make the factually accurate observation that it was possible to make prisoners uncomfortable and/or inflict pain on them without legally running afoul of anti-torture statutes. No serious legal arguments have been put forward to refute him on this point. What is arguable is not whether he gave valid legal advice, but whether he acted in a moral manner.

  42. "It is a fact that not all intentionally-inflicted discomfort and pain legally constitutes torture.

    That's just a legal argument Dan--not a fact. It isn't even a law.

    ...And it's a legal argument that Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush Administration has abandoned out of sheer embarrassment. It's just the propaganda victims making your argument now.

  43. Let's talk about legal advice in a different context.

    Suppose that a federal agency was looking to do some shady accounting. Suppose that the chief counsel of that agency looked at all of the relevant statutes and found that technically certain shady gimmicks would not run afoul of the various laws governing how federal agencies handle money.

    Now, this government lawyer may be correct in his interpretation of the law. I realize that it's a lawyer's job to tell his clients what the law says, and that sometimes the law says some things that we may not like. And I realize that he can't tell his bosses that something's illegal if it isn't actually illegal. But if a government lawyer provides his bosses with the cover needed to do some despicable things, how many of us would want to see this guy promoted to a more powerful post?

    Being promoted to Attorney General should be an honor reserved for a person who has served his or her country with distinction, not a reward for a today who has managed to not break any laws while finding ways to justify dirty deeds.

    To put it in perspective, the guys who sued the tobacco industry didn't break any laws. And they've enjoyed highly successful legal careers. Does that mean that one of them should be Attorney General?

  44. CORRECTION

    ...not a reward for a toady...

  45. "It isn't even a law"

    Actually, if you take a look at the legal code, it is the legal definition. Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113C, 2340 definitions:

    '1) ?torture? means an act committed by a person acting under the 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'

    http://assembler.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode18/usc_sec_18_00002340----000-.html
    There's also a definition of psychological torture. These definitions are contained in and then further discussed in the memo you linked above.

    The use of the word "severe" while not drawing a definitive line, clearly indicates that there are certain levels of inflicted pain that constitute torture and certain levels that don't. This seems to be what Dan was alluding to, and what Gonzales and his committee was trying to seek clarification on. Whether you agree with the conclusion of where they drew the line is one thing, but there is a legal definition, drawn up long before this administration that says there are two different kinds of inflicted pain: non-severe (not torture) and severe (torture).

  46. Thoreau,

    You bring up a good point with your analogy, and in the case of handling federal monies I would agree with you. However, if the economic issues at hand where revolving around what can legally be done to freeze monies being used to fund certain terrorist organizations, then my agreement must be reconsidered (though not necessarily withdrawn).

    On an interesting side note to the final part of your analogy along with mine, one of the tobacco attorney's, Ron Motley, has indeed turned his sights onto terrorist funding. He's going after saudi money on behalf of some of the 9/11 families.

    http://www.sptimes.com/2003/03/04/Worldandnation/A_bulldog_lawyer_s_ci.shtml

  47. sulla-

    Even if a gov't lawyer found a shady but technically legal way of freezing terrorist monies, I would not want a guy who found shady loopholes promoted to AG. (And when I say "shady", I'm referring to the means, not the ends.)

    People who are good at exploiting loopholes can serve an important function in this world. But they should not be the government's chief lawyer and head of the federal law enforcement agencies. There is a time and a place for dirty work, and when dirty work is done well in those times and places the people who did it should even be (quietly) rewarded in some way. But the people who do dirty work should not be put in charge. To do otherwise is to put the ends ahead of the means, which is a dangerous notion in a constitutionally limited republic.

  48. "Actually, if you take a look at the legal code, it is the legal definition. Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113C, 2340 definitions:..."

    Please note Dan's comment:

    "It is a fact that not all intentionally-inflicted discomfort and pain legally constitutes torture."

    If I could re-write my comment, I would probably write that it isn't a fact and leave it at that.

    ...On second thought, I would keep the part about how the Bush Administration has abandoned Dan's argument out of sheer embarrassment.

  49. ...Did you think the reaction of the average American to these photographs was, "excellent, keep up the good work"?

    Apparently, it was for 52% of them.

  50. 52 percent of registered voters, as a block, voted in favor of Bush to show their support on the single issue of torturing people in Abu Gharib a la the offending photographs, is that what you're suggesting?

    ...That's the stupidest suggestion I've seen this year--congratulations!

  51. Game, set, match to Sulla, I think - no?

  52. What is arguable is not whether he gave valid legal advice, but whether he acted in a moral manner.

    precisely. the question really is this: is immorality, and being accessory to immorality, rewarded by the bush administration?

    i submit that it is, if and only if such immorality and/or accessory helps the bush adminstration toward some end which they desire.

    that is to say, the bush administration rewards not immorality, but amorality. it follows then that the bush adminstration is clearly amoral.

    the next question: can any law restrain the powerful and amoral?

  53. "What is arguable is not whether he gave valid legal advice, but whether he acted in a moral manner."

    I'm with you gaius marius; however, I would maintain that it is arguable whether the torture memo contains valid legal advice. We have a Constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment, self-incrimination, etc., which the torture memo ignores completely.

  54. Here are memos enough to keep any obsessive-compulsive occupied through the night.

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