Torture Memo released

John Yoo’s memo that told the president torture is okay has been declassified and released publicly in response to an ACLU lawsuit. It states, in part:

If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network… In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch’s constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions….

Another criminal statute applicable in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction is
-18 U.S.C. § 114. Section 114 makes it a crime for an individual (1) ”with the intent to torture (as
defined in section 2340), maim, or disfigure” to (2) “cut, bite, or slit the nose, ear, or lip, or
cut out or disable the tongue, or put out or destroy an eye, -or cut off or disable a limb
or any member of another person.” 18 U.S.C. § -114. It further prohibits individuals from
“throw[ing]or pour[ing] upon another person-any scalding water, corrosive acid, or caustic
substance” with like intent. Id.35

So good so far, right? You can’t do this shit… Until:

The offense requires the specific intent to torture, maim or disfigure. [emphasis mine] See United States v.
Chee, No. 98-2038, -1999 WL 261017 at *3 (lOth Cir. May 3, 1999) (maiming is a specific intent
crime) (unpublished opinion); see also United States v. Salamanca, 990 F.2d 629, 635 (D.c. Cir.
1993) (where defendant inflicted “enough forceful blows to split open [the victim’s] skull,
shatter his eye socket, knock out three of his teeth, and break his jaw” requisite specific intent
had been established;). Moreover, the defendant’s method of maiming must be one of the types
the statute specifies-i.e., cutting, biting, slitting, cutting out, disabling, or putting out-and the
injury must be to a body part the statute specifies-i.e., the nose, ear, lip, tongue, eye, or limb.
See United States v. Stone, 472 F.2d 909, 915 (5th Cir. 1973). Similarly, the second set of acts
applies to a very narrow band of conduct. It applies only to the throwing or pouring of some sort
of scalding, corrosive, or caustic substance. See id.

Here, so long as the interrogation methods under contemplation do not involve the acts
enumerated in section 114, the conduct of those interrogations will not fall within the purview of
this statute. Because the statute requires specific intent, i.e., the intent to maim, disfigure or
torture, the absence of such intent is a complete defense to a charge of maiming.
[emphasis mine]

Damn we just love using legalese to sterilize, modernize, and Westernize government sanctioned terror

Take action and tell Yoo now a law professor at Berkeley, and his dean, Christopher Edley, Jr., what you think of his torture memo.

Here’s some more commentary on the memo:




Khaleej Times Online


April 6, 2008 - Posted by | Torture News, Yoo Torture Memo | , ,


  1. “cutting, biting, slitting, cutting out, disabling, or putting out … the nose, ear, lip, tongue, eye, or limb”


    Granted, we are talking about extreme examples of torture here, but this is an example of when even the driest legalese doesn’t do a good job of easing the visceral horror.

    Comment by Shane | April 6, 2008

  2. So well said, Shane. So well said. When can I add smithshane to the blogroll?

    Comment by warprompts | April 6, 2008

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