Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Recommended reading ... on the Bush Admin's "Torture Memo"

In the February 24th issue of COMMONWEAL, Cathleen Kaveny (Notre Dame, Law and Theology) has a piece well worth reading.  Alas, there is no electronic version to which I can link, but here are the first two paragraphs:

Behind the Administration's "Torture Memo"

In the Bush administration's most infamous "torture memo," dated August 1, 2002, Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee wrote to then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales:  "Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."  An American interrogator who inflicted anything short of this level of pain on a detainee in the war on terror
would not be committing torture, he argued, and therefore could not be charged with that crime under the federal antitorture law.

Bybee's purpose in adopting such a definition of torture was clearly to give interrogators maximum leeway to inflict physical pain in order to obtain information.  Where did his definition originate?  In international law?  No.  From scholarly commentary on torture?  No, again.  Bybee drew on an entirely unrelated body of law, federal health-care law, which mandates the alleviation of pain rather than justifying its infliction.  In my judgment, Bybee�s reasoning is not simply faulty, it is perverse.  It exemplifies the sort of reasoning that has given us lawyers a bad name.

[To read the whole piece, find Commonweal, 2/24/06, and go to pages 8-9.]

Have I missed something?  Has Robby George (Princeton, Politics) written anything critical of the "Torture Memo"?  Have any MOJers done so?



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