Friday, December 31, 2004

Policy change...back to sanity.

Just in time for Robeto Gonzalez's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department has released a memo that "modifies" it's original stance on what constitutes torture, directly contradicting previous guidelines.

The previous guidelines drew the ire of concerned citizens because it stated that torture had to include "excrutiating and agonizing pain". With these guidelines, Abu Ghraib was made possible. And most Americans who saw those photos believe that the tactics they showed constituted torture.

Bur even more toubling F.B.I. memos have been obtained by the ACLU. These memos repeatedly refer to an “Executive Order” — the existence of which the White House denies — as justification for the techniques military interrogators used in Guantanamo: “We have also instructed our personnel not to participate in interrogations by military personnel which might include techniques authorized by Executive Order but beyond the bounds of FBI practices,” the top FBI official in Iraq, who is unnamed, said in a memo to officials in Washington.

Great. The F.B.I. has to reign itself in because it knows that these actions are illegal no matter what the executive branch is telling them.
But has there been any public outcry about these orders? Not much. But neither was there much interest in the Watergate scandal until it was revealed that the Oval Office was bugged and Nixon's actions could be directly examined. Perhaps if these memos come to light and people can connect the dots to those with their hands on the levers of power, the public will hold someone directly responsible. And as Iraq continues to drift toward anarchy, and as the American economy begins to feel the effects of war, deficit and isolation, the American people just might start looking around for someone to take the fall for this mess.

All of this reminds of a Mort Sahl anecdote I heard on Fresh Air yesterday. Remember when John Ashcroft had the statue of nude Justice covered up? Sahl says that was the last time justice was exposed in this administration. So funny 'cause it's true.


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