White House-approved war crimes: Bush-era torture memo finally released

By End the Lie

Philip Zelikow (Image credit: Dickinson College)

Recently I reported on a study which showed that states who approve of institutionalized torture, also known as “enhanced interrogation,” must accept that they are going to torture innocent people for telling the truth.

UPDATE: Read the memo at the National Security Archive along with other supporting documents. Thanks to George Washington University for keeping up this important project.

This was a disturbing revelation for some, although many of my readers clearly realized that this was the case and made comments to the effect that it was just stating the obvious.

Indeed, in my mind, no government which allows torture to be carried out is legitimate, and that includes the government of the United States of America in the modern day.

Philip Zelikow helped bring much of these disturbing practices to light as he was in an unusual position as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s policy representative to the National Security Council Deputies Committee on matters surrounding intelligence and terrorism.

It is my contention that since Zelikow’s tenure, our government has become increasingly tyrannical and expansive with the now almost unbelievably large Department of Homeland Security (DHS), increasing use of Big Brother technology, and the near-complete eradication of our First Amendment rights, not to mention our Fourth Amendment rights and our now non-existent guarantee of due process.

Now Zelikow’s memo which challenges the supposed legal justifications for these practices has been released, around seven years after it was originally written and contains some damning statements, including designating the “enhanced interrogation” practices as war crimes.

Zelikow first gained access to the Office of Legal Council (OLC) memos which outlined the supposed justification for torture shortly after they were issued in May of 2005, at which point he also became aware of the details of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) program.

At the time, Zelikow was among a chosen few at the State Department, where only Secretary Rice and John Bellinger, her Legal Adviser, were the only others who were made aware of the details of this program.

It is worth noting that Zelikow was the executive director of the 9/11 Commission and he believes that the captives allegedly involved in the tragic events of September 11, 2001 are indeed responsible.

In a 2009 article for Foreign Policy, Zelikow claims, “the evidence against most – if not all – of the high-value detainees remains damning.”

Despite this position, Zelikow questioned the practices these individuals were subjected to, saying, “the issue is not about who or what they are. It is about who or what we are.”

Zelikow aptly noted that waterboarding cannot be considered alone, as the cumulative effect of the CIA’s dehumanizing program is much more significant than just waterboarding alone.

He notes, “Before getting to water-boarding, the captive had already been stripped naked, shackled to ceiling chains keeping him standing so he cannot fall asleep for extended periods, hosed periodically with cold water, slapped around, jammed into boxes, etc. etc. Sleep deprivation is most important.”

He also does a phenomenal job of pointing out that this issue should not necessarily be one put directly before lawyers, as their job is to determine if an activity could be seen as legal, not right or moral.

He frames it by saying that lawyers address the question “What can we do?” while the question we should be asking is “What should we do?”

But most importantly, Zelikow and his now released memo which the Bush administration attempted to completely destroy and wipe from all records, point out that the supposed legal justifications used to legitimize these programs “have grave weaknesses.”

His memo, originally put out in 2005 after he read the OLC memos, puts forth an opposing view of the legal reasoning.

While he held a bureaucratic position that did not allow him to offer an official legal opinion he “felt obliged to put an alternative view in front of my colleagues at other agencies, warning them that other lawyers (and judges) might find the OLC views unsustainable.

Instead of just ignoring the memo, the White House attempted to gather up all copies of the memo and destroy them in order to silence Zelikow’s well-reasoned objections.

The most powerful aspect of Zelikow’s argument is his highlighting of the fact that the OLC must essentially argue that the methods of interrogation and confinement used by the CIA would be acceptable and could be constitutionally inflicted on any American citizen in a county jail.

“In other words, Americans in any town of this country could constitutionally be hung from the ceiling naked, sleep deprived, water-boarded, and all the rest – if the alleged national security justification was compelling,” Zelikow wrote. “I do not believe our federal courts could reasonably be expected to agree with such a reading of the Constitution.”

Unfortunately, this point is becoming increasingly weak given that our government has already claimed that Americans can be assassinated based on nothing more than a closed-door meeting which in no way resembles due process, despite the claims of Attorney General Eric Holder.

Furthermore, with the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012, the government gave itself permission to place Americans in indefinite military detention for nothing more than suspicion, which means that there need not be any evidence or true basis for their allegations.

I hope that this trend is reversed, and soon, as the signs we are seeing today are far from positive.

Take, for instance, the recent massive purchases of ammunition, the National Security Agency’s massive new data center, the soon-to-be-implemented Internet Service Provider spying scheme, the ludicrous new powers given to the National Counterterrorism Center, the Obama administration’s abuse of secrecy and war on whistleblowers, along with the disturbing orders put out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and KBR.

Considered together, the outlook doesn’t seem all too bright, but thankfully more people seem to becoming aware of these issues, dropping their habit of consuming worthless establishment media while actually taking an active role in their lives and communities.

Hopefully if this continues and more people take responsibility for their world and make a concerted effort to change it, we can see this trend reversed and thus a return to the rule of law in the United States of America.

I’d love to hear your opinion, take a look at your story tips, and even your original writing if you would like to get it published. Please email me at [email protected]

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One Response to White House-approved war crimes: Bush-era torture memo finally released

  1. Anonymous April 8, 2012 at 12:48 AM

    Time for everyone in the Bush administration and Obama administration to face a war crimes tribunal!


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