Thursday, June 10, 2004


You know that the torture memo (PDF file here) says that the president's commander-in-chief authority gives him broad leeway in the conduct of interrogations, and thus shields torturers under his command. And you know it says that Guantanamo prisoners aren't subject to a U.S. law on overseas torture because Guantanamo is U.S. territory, even though the Bush administration has been saying that Guantanamo isn't part of the U.S., and thus U.S. citizens imprisoned there don't deserve due process.

But in addition to that, there's the parsing.

Now, I've heard all the complaints about Bill Clinton's word games in the Lewinsky affair. But Clinton was parsing words having to do with consensual sex.

Bush administration lawyers were parsing words having to do with brutality.

Remember how evil we were told Clinton was when he asked what "is" meant? Well, here's an example of the kind of parsing Bush administration lawyers were doing to determine how much abuse an interrogator could dole out before it ran afoul of torture law:

...disruption of the senses or personality alone is insufficient to fall within the scope of this subsection; instead, that disruption must be profound. The word "profound" has a number of meanings, all of which convey a significant depth. Webster's New International Dictionary 1977 (2d ed. 1935 defines profound as: "Of very great depth; extending far below the surface or top; unfathomable[;] ... [c]oming from, reaching to, or situated at a depth or more than ordinary depth; not superficial; deep-seated; chiefly with reference to the body; as a profound sigh, wounded or pain[;] ... [c]haracterized by intensity, as of feeling or quality; deeply felt or realized; as, profound respect, fear, or melancholy; hence, encompassing; thoroughgoing; complete; as profound sleep, silence, or ignorance." See Webster's Third New International Dictionary 1812 (1986) ("having very great depth; extending far below the surface ... not superficial"). Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary 1545 (2d ed. 1999) also defines profound as "originating in or penetrating to the depths of one's being" or "pervasive or intense; thorough; complete" or "extending, situated, or originating far down, or far beneath the surface." By requiring that the procedures and the drugs create a profound disruption, the statute requires more than the acts "forcibility separate" or "rend" the senses or personality. Those acts must penetrate to the core of an individual's ability to perceive the world around him, substantially interfering with his cognitive abilities, or fundamentally alter his personality.

Your tax dollars at work -- all to find a way to get as much barbarous conduct as possible declared legal.

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