Obama administration still operates under Bush torture memos

Gregg Levine writes: With today’s release of what is being shorthanded as the “torture report” (in reality, an executive summary less than one-tenth the size of the full classified document), America now has the printed consensus behind President Barack Obama’s August admission (for lack of a better word): “We tortured some folks.”

“While the Office of Legal Counsel found otherwise between 2002 and 2007, it is my personal conclusion that, under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured,” said Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But, as noted in today’s release, the Bush OLC knew they were doing legal gymnastics. White House lawyers specifically asked the Attorney General for “a formal declination of prosecution, in advance” for anyone the US oversaw who employed the techniques we now all understand to be torture. They knew in advance that the acts that were illegal, so they asked — in advance — for a blanket amnesty.

They knew it was illegal then, so what does that mean today?

As is implied by Feinstein’s use of those dates, and was likely inferred by most who heard the president this summer, the summary of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence torture report is looking backward (something Obama pooh-poohed in his earliest days in office), with the assumption that after 2007, or at least after the 2009 handover at the White House, everything changed.

But it is the reference to the OLC findings — in the summary and in Feinstein’s statement — that sort of strips the insulation off that convenient construct. [Continue reading…]

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