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Thursday, August 01, 2002

Memo, Bybee: a narrow definition of torture

Jay S. Bybee, Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice, sends a memo to Alberto R. Gonzales, Counsel to the President entitled "Standards of Conduct for Interrogation under 18 U.S.C. Sections 2340-2340A". In it, he concludes that
Section 2340A proscribes acts inflicting, and that are specifically intended to inflict, severe pain or suffering, whether mental or physical. Those acts must be of an extreme nature to rise to the level of torture within the meaning of Section 2340A and the Convention. We further conclude that certain acts may be cruel, inhuman, or degrading, but still not produce pain and suffering of the requisite intensity to fall with Section 2340A's proscription against torture.
It will later be claimed that Michael Chertoff had a hand in writing this memo, however White House officials will deny this.

Many have written about this memo and found that it provides legal justification for torture. Notable is the letter sent by Congressperson Frank R. Wolf on 21 June, 2004 to Mr. Glenn Fine, Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice (pdf of letter). In an unusual move for a Republican, Wolf expresses moral misgivings about the memo

... I am deeply concerned that this memorandum provides legal justification for the U.S. government to commit cruel, inhumane and degrading acts - including torture - on prisoners in U.S. custody.

... The thought of the United States condoning torture is abhorrent. Not only is it inhumane, it jeopardizes the security of U.S. forces and our allies in places such as Iraq and around the globe. The security of civilian contractors and humanitarian aid workers also is threatened.


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