CHERTOFF OKs TORTURE
Bizarre Choice for Homeland Czar Deep in
By James P. Tucker
Controversy continues to swirl around Michael Chertoff, President George W.
Bush’s pick to replace Tom Ridge as chief of the Homeland Security Department.
As the Senate began considering Chertoff’s nomination on Feb. 2, news broke
that Chertoff had been implicated in advising the CIA on the legality of
various means of torturing detainees held in U.S. prison camps in Iraq,
Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.
But as per its usual stand in the face of criticism, the White
House officially denied that Chertoff did anything wrong or that he even had
any part in issuing legal advice on torture techniques.
However, according to The New York Times, one current federal
official and two former senior officials say Chertoff told the CIA that certain
forms of torture were entirely permissible under the currently existing U.S.
Chertoff allegedly issued his advice in his capacity as head of the Justice
Department’s criminal division following inquiries from CIA employees who
wanted legal counsel as to how far they could go in physically manhandling
terror suspects who were being interrogated.
Evidently the conflict in the stories between Chertoff and his
accusers arises because the Justice Department does not want to be seen as
having issued any standards that could be construed as unconditional approval
for the use of torture.
It is alleged that Chertoff left open the possibility of other forms of
mistreatment, depending on the condition of the suspect.
OK WITH ME IF OK WITH BYBEE
Chertoff told the CIA that it could use forms of mistreatment if they were in
accordance with an August 2002 memorandum from Jay S. Bybee of the Office of
Legal Counsel to Presidential Counsel Alberto Gonzales.
Bybee’s memo said that harsh interrogation techniques qualified as torture only
if they were enough to cause organ failure or imminent death. This is the same
memo that has plagued Gonzales, Bush’s pick to replace Attorney General John
It has been argued that this memo set the legal justification for the CIA and
the Department of Defense to use brutal, inhuman methods on terror suspects as
documented in reports by the FBI, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and
the Justice Department.
Legal experts say that the memo, along with Chertoff’s recommendations,
violates specific international conventions and the anti-torture statute passed
by Congress in 1994, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 113(c), Sec. 2340(a) and 2340(b)
which provides for 20 years in prison or even death for torture.
Chertoff has denied that he made any specific recommendations on torture to the
CIA or the Pentagon.