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Newly Released Documents Re-Expose Bush Administration To Legal Liability For Torture

As Rachel Maddow reported this Wednesday, despite the Bush administration's best efforts to destroy every copy of internal memo from former State Department counselor Philip Zelikow, one copy survived and has been obtained by Wired Magazine and the

As Rachel Maddow reported this Wednesday, despite the Bush administration's best efforts to destroy every copy of internal memo from former State Department counselor Philip Zelikow, one copy survived and has been obtained by Wired Magazine and the national security archive at George Washington University, three years after filing a FIOA request.

Rachel delved into the politics on this, noting the hard move to the right by the Republican Party even since their nomination of John McCain who spoke out against torture during the last presidential election.

MADDOW: And, if the Republican Party were still the party of John McCain, this would open up a whole new can of political worms, because the Obama administration, remember, looked into Bush administration ordered torture and they decided not to prosecute any of it. They decided effectively that the Bush administration was operating on good faith when they ordered torture? They thought it was legal? Probably not. Actually, it turns out they had good reason to know it was not legal, so that means it was a crime. It was probably a war crime, not to put too fine a point on it.

And that is something that we are legally obligated to prosecute in this country. This reopens the whole question of the legal liability for torture that was administered by the previous administration. The Democratic Party will be split by this because the White House politically doesn't want to deal with it, even if it's wrong and even if they know it's wrong.

And the Republican Party still has to figure out who it is. Is the Republican Party still the party of John McCain, which has now the opportunity to out flank the President on a matter of principle here, where the White House knows what the right thing to do is, but they don't want to do it. Or, are the Republicans still the party of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, who think torture is okay? Gut check time.

Given the fact that it appears they're well on their way to nominating Mitt Romney and hell will be warming over before we see anyone in the GOP pushing for prosecutions of the Bush administration, I think we've already got our answer. And given the fact that the Obama administration and the DOJ have not already pushed for prosecutions on this matter, I'm not holding my breath for them to do the right thing either.

Here's Spenser Ackerman's article over at Wired on the newly released memo -- CIA Committed ‘War Crimes,’ Bush Official Says:

A top adviser to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned the Bush administration that its use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” interrogation techniques like waterboarding were “a felony war crime.”

What’s more, newly obtained documents reveal that State Department counselor Philip Zelikow told the Bush team in 2006 that using the controversial interrogation techniques were “prohibited” under U.S. law — “even if there is a compelling state interest asserted to justify them.”

Zelikow argued that the Geneva conventions applied to al-Qaida — a position neither the Justice Department nor the White House shared at the time. That made waterboarding and the like a violation of the War Crimes statute and a “felony,” Zelikow tells Danger Room. Asked explicitly if he believed the use of those interrogation techniques were a war crime, Zelikow replied, “Yes.”

Zelikow first revealed the existence of his secret memo, dated Feb. 15, 2006, in an April 2009 blog post, shortly after the Obama administration disclosed many of its predecessor’s legal opinions blessing torture. He briefly described it (.pdf) in a contentious Senate hearing shortly thereafter, revealing then that “I later heard the memo was not considered appropriate for further discussion and that copies of my memo should be collected and destroyed.”

At least one copy survived in the files of the department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. The State Department has now disclosed it to Danger Room, mostly without redactions — three years after this reporter filed an official request for it. You can read the memo for yourself, below.

You can read the memo and the rest of their report at the link above.

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