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The Tally Ho

Sunday, January 30, 2005

More on Chertoff

The Bush Administration is following their well defined pattern of taking the worst in their administration and offering promotions. With Condi! going to head the State Department and torture advocate Judge Gonzalez heading the Justice Department, why not have a torture sympathizer as head of Homeland Security. In the New York Times article Security Nominee Gave Advice to the C.I.A. on Torture Laws, David Johnston, Neil A. Lewis, and Douglas Jehl write
Mr. Chertoff's division was asked on several occasions by the intelligence agency whether its officers risked prosecution by using particular techniques. The officials said the C.I.A. wanted as much legal protection as it could obtain while the Justice Department sought to avoid giving unconditional approval.

One technique that C.I.A. officers could use under certain circumstances without fear of prosecution was strapping a subject down and making him experience a feeling of drowning. Other practices that would not present legal problems were those that did not involve the infliction of pain, like tricking a subject into believing he was being questioned by a member of a security service from another country.

But in other instances Mr. Chertoff opposed some aggressive procedures outright, the officials said. At one point, they said, he raised serious objections to methods that he concluded would clearly violate the torture law. While the details remain classified, one method that he opposed appeared to violate a ban in the law against using a "threat of imminent death."

Mr. Chertoff and other senior officials at the Justice Department also disapproved of practices that seemed to be clearly prohibited, like death threats against family members, administration of mind-altering drugs or psychological procedures designed to profoundly disrupt a detainee's personality. It is not clear whether the C.I.A. or any other agency proposed these techniques.

But Mr. Chertoff left the door open to the use of a different set of far harsher techniques proposed by the C.I.A., saying they might be used under certain circumstances. He advised that they could be used depending on factors like the detainee's physical condition and medical advice as to how the person would react to some practices, the officials said.

In responding, Mr. Chertoff's division said that whether the techniques were not allowed depended on the standards outlined in an August 2002 memorandum from the Office of Legal Counsel that has since been disclosed and which defined torture narrowly. That memorandum, signed by Jay S. Bybee, then the head of the legal counsel's office, said inflicted pain, for example, qualified as torture only if it was of a level equivalent to organ failure or imminent death...

...The officials said Mr. Chertoff was directly involved in these discussions, in effect, evaluating the legality of techniques proposed by the C.I.A. by advising the agency whether its employees could go ahead with proposed interrogation methods without fear of prosecution.

Mr. Chertoff is scheduled to appear on Wednesday before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. Senators have said that Mr. Chertoff, a highly respected former prosecutor, will have little difficulty being confirmed.

Still, questions about interrogation practices dominated the confirmation hearing of Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general, and Mr. Gonzales's unwillingness to discuss his legal advice on the issue was a reason some Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee gave for voting against sending his nomination to the full Senate for approval.

Once again I will point you to Mark Bowden's article in the Atlantic, The Dark Art of Interrogation. Lets hope that Chertoff gets asks about this during his confirmation hearing. It is chaired by Sen. Collins and Sen. Lieberman. Others on the committee are Sens. Carper, Levin, Pryor, Laughtenberg, Dayton, Akaka, Stevens, Voinovich, Coleman, Coburn, Bennett, Warner, Domenici, and Chafee.

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