Why Are Two Top Torture Lawyers Working for Obama?

We've heard of John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales, and maybe even Jay Bybee. Some of us recall John Ashcroft, Michael Mukasey, and even David Addington. William Haynes, Stephen Bradbury, and Douglas Feith occasionally make the news. If I had any say about it all 40 of these facilitators of torture would be universally known -- plus the eight more that readers of this article will call to my attention and angrily accuse me of trying to cover for by only being aware of 40. I would also make universally known the fact that two of the worst now work for President Barack Obama.


Even if you haven't read them, you probably know that the Justice Department under Bush-Cheney produced memos pretending to legalize torture, gruesome memos stipulating exactly how many times a particular victim could "legally" be tortured with a particular technique. John Yoo and Jay Bybee wrote the worst of these memos. But the memos take the form of responses to inquiries from a guy named John Rizzo. Yes, Mr. Rizzo, you may slam that guy against a wall. No, Mr. Rizzo, you may not drown that one unless you have a doctor present. And so on. The memos are all headlined thus: "MEMORANDUM FOR JOHN A. RIZZO."

So, Yoo and Bybee didn't invent the torture techniques out of their own sadistic imaginations. They replied to Rizzo's requests for "legal" permission to use detailed techniques. What if those requests from Rizzo had been turned into news headlines, rather than the Justice Department's responses? Would activists then be focused on demanding Rizzo's, rather than Yoo's, removal from one of our prestigious institutions of higher learning? That's actually a very easy question to definitively answer, and the answer is no. Rizzo doesn't work in academia: he is still, until he retires this summer the top lawyer at the CIA.

Retirement is what counts as accountability these days in Washington. Future consiglieri are hereby put on notice: you back torture and death squads and drone strikes and you'll be forced to retire with the LA Times printing a profile on your great influence and wonderful taste in expensive suits. Rizzo served as top lawyer at the CIA for years, without the title, because the Senate wouldn't approve him. Serving as the "Acting So-and-So" is what now counts as compliance with the Constitution. Senators are hereby put on notice: you fail to confirm an appointee, and he or she will get the job without the title

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