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Torture Memos

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“Torture Memos”

The accusation of Bush administration officials of war crimes for approving torture has being raised by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Representatives of the Red Cross were permitted to interview the so called “high value” prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, which is part of the international standards for prisons. The International Committee of the Red Cross submitted a report of its findings to the Central Intelligence Agency in 2007. The report concluded that American’s interrogation methods should be categorized as torture, violating both American law and international law; the report also notifies that the abuse constituted of war crimes and threatened the highest officials of the US government of being prosecuted.
Red Cross representatives were not allowed access to the actual room interrogation of high level prisoners and secret prisons, however several CIA officers confirmed parts of the Red Cross report, and a CIA spokesman confirmed to the New York Times that the Red Cross Committee’s interrogation was based on detailed legal guidance from the Justice Department of the United States.
As a response to these accusations, certain memos providing the legal basis for certain interrogation techniques were released by the president Obama administration to the public eye. In a speech at the CIA headquarters, president Obama emphasized that he acted primarily because of the exceptional circumstances that surrounded these memos, particularly because of the fact that so much of the information had been publically acknowledged and reassured to CIA members that they have his full support. He also assured that the techniques described in those memos are no longer in action. The so called “torture memos” were filled with detailed descriptions of controversial interrogation techniques, such as waterboard, walling, cramped confinement, stress positions, and insects placed in a confinement box, among other methods. These memos gave CIA agents broad authority to use “enhanced interrogation techniques” in order to acquire the information needed.
After completing a two year review of Bush administration lawyers who authorized interrogation techniques such as the so controversial, water boarding, the Justice Department went against the finding of its own investigators and concluded that the only thing that the lawyers were guilty of was poor judgment. Three of the men responsible for these memos were, Steven Bradbury, the senior attorney at the Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility from 2005 until Bush left office in January 2009, who is now an attorney in private practice in the Washington state. Jay Bybees, at the time Assistant Attorney General, was responsible for signing the memo authorizing waterboarding, and the slamming of prisoners’ heads into a padded wall. He is now a federal judge in the state of California. The third is John Yoo, who was the Deputy Assistant Attorney General from 2001 to 2003. Mr. Yoo was one of the primary authors of the memos that supplied the legal basis the controversial interrogation techniques.
Subsequent to the disclosure of these memos a series of officials who served President Bush’ administration came in public to criticize the act. One of the speakers was the former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who declared that by releasing these memos the US is doing two things; one is given insights to the terrorists and letting them know what they should be prepared for, and the second is that the US is sending a message to its allies that the country is not reliable in safeguarding confidential information. Another former top official in the Bush administration cannot believe on the publication of the memos and says that president Obama’ actions are very damaging to the national security by ensuring that these techniques can never be used again.
In a debate between critics and supporters of the “torture memos”, on the Fox News Channel, it was flagrant how bias the Channel is in this topic. Cliff May, a former New York Times journalist, who is now the president of a foundation for defense of democracies, said that not all rough interrogation techniques are considered torture, he goes on saying that the techniques of scaring people, such as placing someone in a confined space with a counter pillar or pushing someone against a flexible wall with some type of cushioning on their neck to prevent whiplash are not torture. In fact, he emphasized how much effort was taken in order not to step over the line technically, morally and legally from harsh cohorsive interrogation to torture.
On the other hand, Judith Miller, another former New York Times journalist who now is a correspondent to Fox News, says that it is clear that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding someone 183 times, and strapping a prisoner down and immersing him in water, making the him feel as though he is drowning, are torture. She states that such crime should have its responsible held accountable. The FOX News anchor, Shepard Smith, was unmistakably opposed to Mr. May’s view and made his point very clear to the spectator by interrupting during Mr. May’s speech and by not letting him respond to his insinuations.
Nevertheless, this is not the first time the US has stepped over the line. This country has a long history of restraining its citizens’ rights during times of war and national emergency. The Civil War is most obvious example, when President Lincoln suspended what many would argue is the most sacred law of all, habeas corpus. During World War II, the FBI opened any piece of mail without asking. They listened in on phone calls, intercepted cable traffic, and they did all that without a warrant. And anyone who is naïve enough to think that the US treated the prisoners of war to the standards of the Geneva Convention has never spoken to a Marine who served in the Pacific. Not every Japanese prisoner was treated as well as we like to believe. Franklin Roosevelt, a man who is considered to be one the greatest presidents, incarcerated thousands of Japanese Americans, as well as German and Italian Americans. These people were confined in prison until the war was over, based simply on their ethnicity. So while there is a lot of people in America who would love to embrace compassion and tolerance, they do by conveniently ignoring the fact that it was through torture methods that the United States attained its place as the great superpower in the world.

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