The word from the Justice Department is that torture is okay as long as you don't hurt anyone. John Ashcroft's people handed down a ruling to the CIA and the Pentagon that torture was justified, but only when trying to get someone to spill the beans.

Where do law students learn this?

I take you to Slam Dunk Law School, where Professor Garroting is holding a class in Torture 101.

Professor: Students, this is a very important course, especially for those seeking employment in the Justice Department. What is the definition of "torture"?

Student: It is making another person say something he doesn't want to.

Professor: Good. When is it lawful?

Student: When the country is at war and the president is looking the other way. Professor Garroting, does this mean you can force a prisoner to go naked?

Professor: Yes, but it is unlawful to take pictures of him and then give them to the news media.

Student: When deciding which torture is legal, what guidelines should we use?

Professor: The rule is, if the prisoners are held without a lawyer, then you don't have to read them their rights.

Student: Is there anything on the books that says a person, while being tortured, can invoke the Fifth Amendment so he won't incriminate himself?

Professor: An intelligence officer will refuse to accept that because the United States Constitution doesn't apply to Iraqis or members of al Qaeda.

Student: So there is nothing in the Constitution about torture?

Professor: Not in so many words, but the Founding Fathers didn't reject using it against the British when we were fighting during the Revolutionary War.

Student: What about the Geneva Conventions?

Professor: Wash out your mouth with soap and water.

Student: Where do the CIA, the Pentagon and the White House stand on torture?

Professor: They look to the Justice Department to tell them what they can do and not do. In legal terms we say they are all protecting their derrieres.

Student: Let's say a prisoner claims he has been arrested without reason.

Professor: The rule of thumb is a suspect is guilty until proven innocent.

Student: Professor, after graduation I am going to sign up with a contractor who wants me to do intelligence work in Iraq. Will I be protected from congressional committees who want to know what I am doing there?

Professor: Yes. You don't have to answer any questions about torture because you are a civilian. That is why the Pentagon and CIA will pay you so well.

Student: Several of the prison guards are awaiting courts-martial for being bad apples in the military. How should we handle their trials?

Professor: The defense will maintain their clients were only following orders. As a friend of the court, the Justice Department will say, "Okay, try them, and then let's sweep the rest of it under the rug."

Student: Then it should not go up the chain of command?

Professor: No, because if it did it could land on the desk of the secretary of defense.

Student: If we write a memorandum for the Justice Department stating torture may be justified for those who won't talk, do we have to disclose that we wrote it?

Professor: No way, because you have a lawyer-client relationship with the CIA and the Pentagon. In the case of Darkness v. Misery, as a friend of the court, Ashcroft defended Darkness, maintaining that the International Red Cross has nothing to say about torture if it is done in good faith. The thing you must remember is that we are at war and human rights are thrown out the window.

My time is up. There will be a test on Thursday. Your homework is to bring in any obscene pictures from the newspapers you can find.

(c) 2004, Tribune Media Services