Thursday, April 16, 2009

"[S]imply a controlled acute episode"

From page eleven of a memorandum from Jay S. Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice, to John Rizzo, Acting General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency, August 1, 2002.
The "subject's body" — not the person. No "actual physical harm," although four pages later, the writer acknowledges that "the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death." But if we haven't really killed you, we haven't harmed you. And a sentence that is frightening in its calm logic: "The waterboard is simply a controlled acute episode, lacking the connotation of a protracted period of time generally given to suffering." Because it's only for a few seconds at a time that we've made you feel that you're going to die, we haven't really made you suffer. I suspect that "controlled acute episode" will join "enhanced interrogation techniques" as historical shorthand for the George W. Bush administration's utter corruption of language, moral reasoning, and democratic principles.

The American Civil Liberties Union has downloads of the four Office of Legal Counsel memoranda released today.

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