British human rights lawyer Phillipe Sands wrote in Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values that the decision to ignore the Geneva Conventions
was not a case of following the logic of the law but rather was designed to give effect to a prior decision to take the gloves off and allow coercive interrogation; it deliberately created a legal black hole into which the detainees were meant to fall. The new interrogation techniques did not arise spontaneously from the field but came about as a direct result of intense pressure … from Rumsfeld’s office. The Yoo-Bybee Memo was not simply some theoretical document … but rather played a crucial role in giving those at the top the confidence to put pressure on those at the bottom. And the practices employed at Guantánamo led to abuses at Abu Ghraib.
“The fingerprints of the most senior lawyers in the administration were all over the design and implementation of the abusive interrogation policies.”
Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Richard Addington, former Justice Department lawyers Jay Bybee and John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, and former Defense Department counsel James Haynes “became, in effect, a torture team of lawyers, freeing the administration from the constraints of all international rules prohibiting abuse.”
Finally, there is the summary of the Senate Armed Services Committee released last month: “The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.” (For a video summary of this history from Human Rights First, go here.)
Proceeding briskly from unconscionable ignorance to an outrageous conclusion, Newsweek’s Taylor and Thomas praise Bush for vetoing the law that would have required the CIA to use “no investigative methods other than those permitted in the Army Filed Manual” because “these are extremely restrictive.” Indeed, they are restrictive: they are the rules that every previous administration has adhered to since World War II, because they prevent Americans from committing exactly the same kind of war crimes we prosecuted at Nuremberg.
For the record, this is the truth about the torture authorized at the very top of the Bush administration. There is no evidence that it ever produced any useful information, except for the uncorroborated boasts of Cheney and his henchmen. There are more than forty retired admirals and generals who have lobbied congressmen and senators continuously because they know that these methods are not only immoral and illegal but also completely counter-productive. And every experienced Army interrogator agrees that non-coercive methods produce more reliable information than the ones Cheney plucked from the “dark side” in an criminally misguided effort to protect America.