Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Yoo and Addington Obstruct Congressional Effort to Examine Bush Administration’s Authorization of Torture

In a contentious hearing before the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, last Thursday, two “architects” of the Bush administration’s torture policies refused to yield any information on the authorization of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques. David Addington, Chief of Staff and Former Counsel to Vice-President Cheney, and John Yoo, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, appeared before the Subcommittee on June 26, the 21st anniversary of the adoption of the Convention Against Torture. Yoo appeared voluntarily, but a defiant Addington came only under subpoena, without submitting written testimony or offering an opening statement.

Yoo, author of the now infamous “Yoo memos,” which provided the legal analysis that led to the adoption of torture tactics in interrogation of detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere, deflected the majority of questions from Committee members with the shield of a “professional obligation to the Department of Justice to obey their instructions.” Whatever those instructions may have been, they prevented Yoo from saying anything about his opinions and knowledge of the use of the memos he drafted. Upon the Chairman’s insistence that Yoo either assert a privilege or start answering questions, he claimed attorney-client privilege and the need to protect confidential or sensitive information.

Addington, on the other hand, claimed impaired recollection. When asked about his trips to Guantánamo, after which it is reported that officials started using harsher interrogation techniques, he could not recall whether he had discussed interrogation techniques while there. He also denied having advocated any particular position regarding interrogation techniques, claiming only to have requested Yoo’s legal analysis.

While seemingly futile, the testimony of Yoo and Addington is revealing. U.S. government agencies administered interrogation techniques in reliance on the Yoo memos. Yoo and Addington’s obstructionism and unwillingness to even acknowledge, let alone take responsibility for, the effect of their actions on the types of techniques used further demonstrates a severe lack of accountability within the Bush administration. Torture has been committed in violation of domestic and international law, and one by one, U.S. officials refuse to answer questions from the American people and their representatives. As Chairman Nadler asserted in his opening statement, “that is unacceptable.”

By Danielle Goldstone, Human Rights & Anti-Terrorism Legal Intern at Human Rights USA

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