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Call It the Abu Ghraib Memo

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"Yoo's 2003 memo arrived amid strong Pentagon debate about which interrogation techniques should be allowed and which might lead to legal action in domestic and international courts.

"After a rebellion by military lawyers, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in December 2002 suspended a list of aggressive techniques he had approved. . . .

"Largely because of Yoo's memo, however, a Pentagon working group in April 2003 endorsed the continued use of extremely aggressive tactics. The top lawyers for each military service, who were largely excluded from the group, did not receive a final copy of Yoo's March memo and did not know about the group's final report for more than a year, officials said.

"Thomas J. Romig, who was then the Army's judge advocate general, said yesterday after reading the memo that it appears to argue there are no rules in a time of war, a concept Romig found 'downright offensive.'"

Mark Mazzetti writes in the New York Times: "The thrust of Mr. Yoo's brief has long been known, but its specific contents were revealed on Tuesday after government lawyers turned it over to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sought hundreds of documents from the Bush administration under the Freedom of Information Act.

"Some legal scholars said Tuesday that they were amazed at the scope of the memorandum.

"'This is a monument to executive supremacy and the imperial presidency,' said Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School and the Washington College of Law at American University. 'It's also a road map for the Pentagon for fending off any prosecutions.' . . .

"Amrit Singh, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that the Yoo memorandum seemed to give military interrogators 'carte blanche' to use any techniques and suggested that it was the legal underpinning for abuses that occurred months later at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq."

Lara Jakes Jordan writes for the Associated Press: "The 81-page legal analysis largely centers on whether interrogators can be held responsible for torture if torture is not the intent of the questioning. And it defines torture as the intended sum of a variety of acts, which could include acid scalding, severe mental pain and suffering, threat of imminent death and physical pain resulting in impaired body functions, organ failure or death.

"The 'definition of torture must be read as a sum of these component parts,' the memo said.

"The memo also includes past legal defenses of interrogations that Yoo wrote are not considered torture, such as sleep deprivation, hooding detainees and 'frog crouching,' which forces prisoners to crouch while standing on the tips of their toes....

"The memo concludes that foreign enemy combatants held overseas do not have defendants' rights or protections from cruel and unusual punishment that U.S. citizens have under the Constitution. It also says that Congress 'cannot interfere with the president's exercise of his authority as commander in chief to control the conduct of operations during a war.'


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