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Friday, January 07, 2005

Justice Department Defines Torture

On Dec 30, Daniel Levin, acting chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, issued a statement for the Justice Department defining torture. "In 2002 we wrote a memo on the legal standing of mujahideen captured in Afghanistan. Our main point was not that we should torture them; but rather that, according to the Geneva Convention, these were illegal combatants rather than soldiers. Even professors Koh and Hutson, called before congress to testify against Gonzalez during his confirmation hearings, suprised Senators by agreeing with him that Al-Quaeda fighters are not POWs.

"That was when we realized maybe we needed a definition of torture, since people had different ideas. The Red Cross and ACLU said that being wrapped in an Israeli flag, being kept up late at night (which happens to me every time my neighbors have a party), or even just playing music was a form of torture, even going so far as to say it is 'inhuman.'

"Now if we're talking about Barbra Streisand, I agree, that is inhuman. But AC/DC? No way! I would love it if someone were to torture me by making me listen to them all day! Unless of course it was the Celine Dion version of You Shook Me All Night Long. That is torture, definitely ...

"Excuse me ...

"Excuse me, I just threw up a little in the back of my mouth ... "

He went on, "But what we really needed was something that stated unequivocally what torture is. We were really worried about the harm that might come to prisoners, not because we're worried about retaliation against US soldiers (they already get tortured when caught) but we don't want to violate our own law and torture these mujahideen, just because some only pretended to surrender, hiding weapons, or tried to kill us after they were captured - So we worked as fast and hard as we could to come up with concrete guidelines for our prisons.

"Some criticize us for taking so long, but we had a lot of work to do, and wanted to make sure it got done right, to protect both our soldiers and to protect the prisoners."

He indicated one of the office workers and said, "Jim here had an important task: he had to organize our annual volleyball tournament. That alone takes up most of the year, and since we have one every year, you can imagine he doesn't have much time for less important things.

"I personally had a lot of vacation time built up, and they told me if I didn't take it I would lose it, so I was forced to take the vacation time. That was about 80 days of vacation. Then the rest of the time I had other work, like organizing the annual bake off.

"As far as the rest of the team goes, they were busy training for the Justice Department's team we entered into the Eco-Challenge 'Law Enforcement Special.' So that took up most of the last two years for them. Hopefully all that training will pay off this year.

"So you can see, we had to work hard to make sure we were able to define absolutely what torture was. I'm sure all the prisoners in Guantanimo Bay will appreciate our detail orientedness."