Overlooked by Media, Important Torture Testimony!

(this is amazing – promoted by pfiore8)

Cross-posted at DailyKOS

Memos written at the request of high-ranking government officials by Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo on August 1, 2002 (also signed by Jay Bybee, now a federal judge) and March 14, 2003, assured the Bush administration that

. . . . the Department of Justice would not enforce the U.S. criminal laws against torture, assault, maiming and stalking, in the detention and interrogation of enemy combatants.”

Of course, we know that the purpose of Yoo’s memos were simply established as a means of legal clearance for all that ensued thereafter.  

Daniel Levin, Acting Assistant Attorney General Office of Legal Counsel (December 30, 2004)

. . . . specifically rejects Yoo’s definition of torture, and admits that a defandant’s motives to protect national security will not shield him from a torture prosecution.  The rescission of the August 2002 memo constitutes an admission by the Justice Department that the legal reasoning in that memo was wrong.  But for 22 months, the [sic] it was in effect, which sanctioned and led to the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody.”

Note:  all quoted material above from Marjorie Cohn, President National Lawyers Guild.

On May 6, 2008, three very distinguished law professors gave testimony before the House Judiciary Committee– the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.  They are:  

Marjorie Cohn, President, National Lawyers Guild

   Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Philippe Sands, Professor Laws, University College, London

    Barrister, Matrix Chambers

David Luban, Professor of Law, Legal Ethics

 Georgetown University Law Center

Ms. Cohn’s opening statement stands out sharply:

What does torture have in common with genocide, slavery, and wars of aggression?  They are all jus cogens.  Jus cogens is Latin for “higher law” or “compelling law.” This means that no country can ever pass a law that allows torture. There can be no immunity from criminal liability for violation of a jus cogens prohibition.

I think after listening to the testimony of each of these three individuals, you will conclude that it is compellingly and overwhelmingly clear as to the legality of our role as torturers.  In fact, it would be interesting to see if there is anyone who can challenge these testimonies.  

Cohn Text

Luban Text

Sands Text                        

There appears to be little, if any, mainstream coverage of this very important event before the House Judiciary Committee.  

While I’m not sure what or how the testimony of these expert legal scholars was prompted, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, is done with it and the perpetrators (named) of war crimes.  But, somehow, just knowing that this testimony has been given provides some (hope) and sense of justice.  We shall see!


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  1. And, maybe, just a little glimmer even in the midst of so much world tragedy and sadness!

    • Alma on May 13, 2008 at 22:10

    by the House Judiciary.  When I looked this morning at the HJ site, no new hearings or papers were out on it.

  2. i’d urge you to publish this at orange… number 1. if so, maybe think rework title to something like…

    Yoo: DOJ will not enforce U.S. laws against torture

    i’ve just listened to Marjorie Cohn. i am reeling. i am overjoyed to know somebody, fucking somebody, spoke those words in our Capitol.

    thank you for this. thank you!!!!!!!

    also, e-mail this to any and everyone you can think of.

    • srkp23 on May 14, 2008 at 00:24

    Thanks for posting.

    I heard Sands lecture the night before his testimony. He said that there were prosecutors in other countries, parties to Geneva Conventions, who were interested in all of his research and taped interviews for his new book Torture Team. He shared all of the materials with them. In his view, the lawyers will be subject to war crimes prosecution if they leave the country.  

  3. I hope it will create more awareness of the legal ramifications of torture by our government.

    Thank you, again!

  4. On NPR’s “Day to Day” program that aired this afternoon, the topic was:   “US Drops Charges Against 20th Hijacker”  (you can listen to the program on this link)

    The NPR and Salon legal analyst Dahlia Lithwizk?  discussed two recent pertinent cases:  The dropping of charges against the “20th” hijacker”, despite a lot of evidence against him, because of the way (torture) that a confession had been extracted from him.  She also mentioned the fact that on Friday a judge ruled that Guantanamo prosecutor Thomas Hartman had

    “so blurred the roles of prosecution, defense and judges that he could no longer be involved in the case”.  

    The interviewer said that in both cases the common thread is that the use of coercive techniques or torture “is a problem” in prosecuting cases.  She asked the legal analyst to comment: (emphasis mine)

    “I think it highlights a problem we’ve talked about for years:”

    “…The government needed to made a decision immediately after 9/11 about whether it wanted to extract information-whether this was in fact, a “ticking time” bomb situation& the most critical thing was to torture people if they needed to–to get information from them, or if you wanted to highlight the rule of law and due process really worked in the West…”  

    “They made a decision to try to do both and it’s becoming clear that you cannot do both.  If you’re going to try to get information out of people, you can’t turn around and try them using that information.  The most interesting thing I think it signals is:  that this is almost a rebellion that’s happening from the ground up-from individual prosecutors, from individual judges, from people who are saying, “look-I’m a military person, I believe that these people are guilty, I believe in these tribunals, but I still can’t go forward under these circumstances, this is not real evidence.”  

    IMHO, that’s a “glimmer of hope” for due process.  Unfortunately for everyone, the bushies managed bungle things to the point that they’ve damaged this nation’s concept of “Rule of Law” -and despite their lawlessness and despicable use of torture,   they’ve also managed to destroy the cases against people who may indeed be dangerous.  

  5. I loved the way the questioner made sure to ask about the time left on the statute of limitations. He knew the answer & the way Ms Cohn replied was perfect. There is no statute of limitation. Never

    Thank you for a putting this information together. Now I`m off to email the link to your essay, to as many people as I know.  

  6. Apologizes for Pentagon inspired psy-op.

    In this tidbit words of mass diversion were used to associate the term “Spygate” with the taping of pre-game practices by the New England Patriots football team and not on government/business massive increases in mining your personal data. Judging from the “responses” of clueless clod citizen zombinals over the blogosphere the operation was a total success.  From WBZ TV Boston.

  7. tahoe, since Mr. Chairman was present at these hearings & I thought I’d tweak him a bit, on the order of “what’s he going to do about this?”

    • Valtin on May 15, 2008 at 06:39

    I’m going to post something of my own analysis on this, but you have done superlative work on this story.

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