Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Look What the Post Dragged In 

Unreleased torture memos are bustin' out all over, which leads us to wonder: is the Bush administration so hopelessly incompetent it can't even manage a proper coverup? -- Or have our CIA friends (see below) already rendered a verdict on Election 2004?
A letter about the handling of detainees sent in 2002 from the State Department's legal adviser to the Justice Department's deputy assistant attorney general made no attempt at bureaucratic pleasantries.

William H. Taft IV said that Justice's legal advice to President Bush about how to handle detainees in the war on terrorism was "seriously flawed" and its reasoning was "incorrect as well as incomplete." Justice's arguments were "contrary to the official position of the United States, the United Nations and all other states that have considered the issue," Taft said.

Taft's Jan. 11 letter, obtained by The Washington Post, was omitted from the hundreds of pages of documents released Tuesday by the Bush administration. The release was part of an effort to present the administration's policies on detainees since Sept. 11, 2001, as fully compliant with domestic and international law.

A fuller picture -- of senior administration officials who sought to reinterpret the law and sanction tougher treatment of detainees in the face of strongly expressed internal dissents at the State Department and the military services -- emerges from the State Department letter and other previously undisclosed memos.

The dissents include three classified memos written in the spring of 2003 by senior military lawyers in the Air Force, Marine Corps and Army, and a classified memo written by the Navy's top civilian lawyer, Alberto J. Mora, say government officials who have read them. Those officials, and others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition that they not be named . . . .

Lawyers for the Joint Chiefs of Staff raised similar concerns -- about the specific interrogation tactics being proposed and the administration's decision that protections afforded by the Geneva Conventions were unavailable as a matter of law to suspected members of the Taliban militia in Afghanistan, according to a former military official familiar with the dispute.

"It was clearly the position of the senior leaders of the military that the Geneva Conventions should apply" to Taliban militia, the official said. Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the Joint Chiefs chairman, "was very strong with the Secretary of Defense on a number of occasions" in expressing this viewpoint . . . .

Taft, whose role made him the government's principal interpreter of treaties, accused John Yoo, the deputy assistant attorney general, in the Jan. 11 letter of preparing advice for Bush based on a series of "wrong" premises. He also said Yoo's idea that Bush could "suspend" U.S. obligations to respect the Geneva Conventions was "legally flawed and procedurally impossible."

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