A nation of (secret) laws

Via Laura Rozen, an important NYT article on a 2005 secret opinion issued by Alberto Gonzales’s Justice Department which authorized continued use of torture by the CIA. A short sample:

When the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.

But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.

Read Marty Lederman at Balkinization on this topic:

Between this and Jane Mayer’s explosive article in August about the CIA black sites, I am increasingly confident that when the history of the Bush Administration is written, this systematic violation of statutory and treaty-based law concerning fundamental war crimes and other horrific offenses will be seen as the blackest mark in our nation’s recent history — not only because of what was done, but because the programs were routinely sanctioned, on an ongoing basis, by numerous esteemed professionals — lawyers, doctors, psychologists and government officers — without whose approval such a systematized torture regime could not be sustained.

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