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Russ Feingold Nails Torture Advocates

Sarah's picture

J'adore Russ Feingold, all over again. Because Russ Feingold (D.-Spinal Integrity) doesn't think Peggy Noonan's point of view is legitimate any more than I do.

"If you want to see just how outrageous this is, I refer you to the remarks made by Peggy Noonan this Sunday," he said, referring to the longtime conservative columnist's appearance on ABC's This Week. "I frankly have never heard anything quite as disturbing as her remark that was something to the affect of: 'well sometimes you just have to move on.'"

"Some things in life need to be mysterious," Noonan said on Sunday about the release of the torture memos. "Sometimes you need to just keep walking. ... It's hard for me to look at a great nation issuing these documents and sending them out to the world and thinking, oh, much good will come of that."

Feingold's remarks, delivered before the Religious Action Center convention, represent some of the most forceful pushback against the line coming out of the White House to date. Emanuel and senior adviser David Axelrod have suggested that prosecution of Bush officials is likely off the table due to the political sensitivities that would accompany such retroactive action. On Tuesday morning, however, the New York Times reported that White House "aides did not rule out legal sanctions for the Bush lawyers who developed the legal basis for the use of the techniques."

A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a long-time critic of torture, Feingold viewed investigations and, perhaps, prosecutions as a key tool to restoring America's moral standing.

The Wisconsin solon also understands how poverty motivates both pirates and terrorists, and that the two need not be seen as interchangeable.

For a long, long time now Russ Feingold's been one of the better advocates of sanity in the Senate.

More examples are available. Over the past week, this Senator has had more to say with which I can readily agree than most Democrats come up with in a year.

But in checking over those samples I found another Democrat who might be worth watching -- a Representative from New York:

But not everyone thinks the memos clear the administration. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, said while he applauds the Obama administration for releasing the memos, their " alarming content requires further action."
These memos, without a shadow of a doubt, authorized torture and gave explicit instruction on how to carry it out, all the while carefully attempting to maintain a legal fig leaf," he said. "These memos make it abundantly clear that the Bush administration engaged in torture. Because torture is illegal under American law -- as the U.S. is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture -- we are legally required to investigate and, when appropriate, to prosecute those responsible for these crimes."
The memos, written between 2002 and 2005, concluded that the interrogation techniques listed in them did not violate anti-torture laws.
One May 2005 memo detailed 12 techniques and concluded that none of them constituted torture, while describing how they would result in minimal damage to a detainee.
On dietary manipulation, through which suspects are fed liquid diets, the memo said all detainees would be weighed weekly -- and the restricted diet would be ceased if a detainee loses more than 10 percent of his body weight. On "walling," through which a suspect is slammed into a "flexible, false wall," the memo said the technique is not intended to "inflict any injury or cause severe pain."
Other methods included slapping and placing a prisoner in "stress positions" -- methods the memo said also are not intended to inflict long-term or significant pain.
Those descriptions haven't calmed a number of analysts, activists and lawmakers.
"These memos provide yet more incontrovertible evidence that Bush administration officials at the highest level of government authorized and gave legal blessings to acts of torture that violate domestic and international law," ACLU Director Anthony Romero said in a statement.
(David Rivkin, a constitutional lawyer and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, released a statement Friday saying the release of four memos provides a "great benefit" to the former president. "This data is analyzed in great detail to establish that the use of these techniques does not inflict either physical or psychological damage," said Rivkin, who served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. "The conclusions (the) memos reach -- that the specific interrogation techniques used by the CIA did not constitute torture -- are eminently reasonable.") Rivkin argued that the documents were "well-written" and featured "careful and nuanced legal analysis." He said the United States did not use "brute force" and the memos prove detainees weren't tortured.

"In short, these memos go a long way towards rebutting shrill and unfair attacks on the integrity of Bush administration officials, and, more generally, on America's honor," he said.

The Obama administration has sought to abolish the legal interpretations in the memos, with Attorney General Eric Holder revoking all Bush-era legal opinions and documents that justified interrogation programs.

President Obama declared the interrogation methods a "thing of the past," but also tried to assure CIA operatives they would not be prosecuted for their actions provided they followed the legal advice of the Justice Department.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., though, released a statement suggesting that anyone who gave "improper legal advice" or authorized the program or used non-approved techniques should be prosecuted.

"The so-called enhanced interrogation program was a violation of our core principles as a nation and those responsible should be held accountable," he said.

The handling of the interrogation issue has drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle, as liberals criticize Obama for protecting CIA agents and conservatives chastise the administration for releasing the memos.

Reward Good Behavior -- Write to Nadler and Feingold. Make Congress Prosecute!!!

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Submitted by cg.eye on

I refer those interested in the UK suffragette struggles, where a liquid diet meant a funnel thrust in the jaws and a tube into the stomach. It don't sound like Slim-Fast, folks.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on


and most enlightening, from UAE:

Wilder Tayler, the acting secretary general of the International Commission of Jurists, said: "If a nation committed to law is not willing or capable to hold those responsible who authorised some of the worst crimes under international law it sends a terrible message to the rest of the world. It does great harm to the universal prohibition of torture."

The Washington Post described the meticulous instructions through which interrogators were provided with legal guidance on how to approach the threshold of torture.

"Doctors had to evaluate in advance the ability of each detainee to survive the coercion; slaps to the head and gut could not provoke severe or lasting pain; the water used for dousing had to be safe for drinking, and those holding the hose had to stop at two-thirds of the time that normally causes hypothermia.

"Detainees could not be allowed to hang from their shackles. Simulated drowning could be practiced only with a saline solution, to keep blood sodium levels in a safe range, with the liquid poured for up to 40 seconds at a time, reaching a total of 12 minutes per day. Moreover, the detainees had to be fed a liquid diet in advance, to keep them from choking on their own vomit.

"David B Rivkin Jr, a lawyer at Baker Hostetler who supported the detainee policies, says the memos' 'careful and nuanced legal analysis' of such trade-offs produced 'eminently reasonable results'.

"But a frequent complaint by other lawyers was that the documents' language, including the articulation of precisely calibrated limits, was circular. The memos relied heavily on the CIA's assurances and information about the limits of pain and suffering, and repeated them in their instructions.

"A senior Obama appointee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to comment, said, 'My overwhelming feeling is boy, what a kind of corruption of the system of law to serve a political end.' Tax lawyers, for instance, may always work at the edge of the law, he said, but 'you don't treat the [anti-]torture convention the same as the tax code.'

"Louis Michael Seidman, a constitutional law professor at Georgetown University, said the memos' authors fell into a familiar trap: They looked so hard for legal authority that they paid too little heed to sound intuition. Sometimes, he said, 'the law promotes rather than stands in the way of morally reprehensible behaviour.' "

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

but Feingold is one of the reasons we have Torture Roberts on the Surpreme Court.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

Roberts is Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, a torturer has a life time appointment.

Submitted by jawbone on

in 2005, as he is now free to discuss them:

In compliance with the security agreements I have signed, I have never discussed or disclosed any substantive details about the program until the classified information has been released.

Trying to remove the BushCo taint? To push Obama into real investigations? To make a clear and honest contribution to the public discourse on this matter?

Last two paragraphs are chilling (and could have been/probably were written by any number of lefy bloggers):

The underlying absurdity of the administration's position can be summarized this way. Once you get to a substantive compliance analysis for "cruel, inhuman, and degrading" you get the position that the substantive standard is the same as it is in analogous U.S. constitutional law. So the OLC must argue, in effect, that the methods and the conditions of confinement in the CIA program could constitutionally be inflicted on American citizens in a county jail.

In other words, Americans in any town of this country could constitutionally be hung from the ceiling naked, sleep deprived, water-boarded, and all the rest -- if the alleged national security justification was compelling. I did not believe our federal courts could reasonably be expected to agree with such a reading of the Constitution. (My emphasis)

Shudder. Makes my sore left shoulder ache just thinking about it....

Link via bernhard at Moon of AL.

Salmo's picture
Submitted by Salmo on

The White House must not tell prosecutors who they can and cannot prosecute and prosecutors must not accept such direction. One need only look back a year or two to see why this is fundamental. It seems to me that obstruction of justice should be the first charge on which Rove should be tried. Of the many abominations of the Bush Administration, that shift to a nakedly political administration of the DOJ seems to me to be the most dangerous precedent.

Now we see that behavior continued. Obama gets to pardon whoever he wants, and I suppose he is effectively pardoning the whole Bush Administration when it comes to torture. However until he actually uses the pardon, he and his team in the White House do not get to decide when it is politically convenient to enforce the law. We must not allow that to stand if we are to be a nation of laws, and not a nation of temporary despots.