Dalybean made an important point in EPU-land of the Gestation of Bradbury’s Torture Memos thread. As I pointed out in that thread, the May 30 Bradbury memo was a response–at least in part–to Congress’ demand that the Administration assess whether their torture program complied with the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments as they fulfilled the US obligation under the Convention Against Torture.
Well, that was one of the biggest points Phillip Zelikow made in his dissent to the May 30, 2005 torture memo.
At the time, in 2005, I circulated an opposing view of the legal reasoning. My bureaucratic position, as counselor to the secretary of state, didn’t entitle me to offer a legal opinion. But I felt obliged to put an alternative view in front of my colleagues at other agencies, warning them that other lawyers (and judges) might find the OLC views unsustainable. My colleagues were entitled to ignore my views. They did more than that: The White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo. I expect that one or two are still at least in the State Department’s archives.
Stated in a shorthand way, mainly for the benefit of other specialists who work these issues, my main concerns were:
- the case law on the "shocks the conscience" standard for interrogations would proscribe the CIA’s methods;
- the OLC memo basically ignored standard 8th Amendment "conditions of confinement" analysis (long incorporated into the 5th amendment as a matter of substantive due process and thus applicable to detentions like these). That case law would regard the conditions of confinement in the CIA facilities as unlawful.
- the use of a balancing test to measure constitutional validity (national security gain vs. harm to individuals) is lawful for some techniques, but other kinds of cruel treatment should be barred categorically under U.S. law — whatever the alleged gain. [my emphasis]
Zelikow, with a background in this area of law, wrote a dissent to the torture memo ripping its legal analysis. Significantly, Zelikow hit on one point that Congress was hitting on too: the importance of the Eighth Amendment in our compliance with the Convention Against Torture. As Zelikow apparently pointed out, the case law surrounding the Eighth Amendment said that even these detainees were entitled to protection from cruel and unusual punishment.