DOJ Memo Allowed Free Speech Curbs, Military Force Against US Terrorists
Posted Mar 3, 2009 7:38 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Newly disclosed memos from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel sanctioned the use of military force against U.S. terrorists, curbs on free speech and the transfer of terrorism suspects to countries known to commit human rights abuses.
Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch told the Washington Post that the nine legal memos released yesterday "read like a how-to document on how to evade the rule of law."
One 37-page document says government troops could storm buildings housing terrorists, and protections guaranteeing free speech and warrantless searches could be suspended in wartime, according to the Post and the New York Times. Terrorists in the United States can be treated as an invading army, the memo says.
The authors were John Yoo, a deputy assistant in the Office of Legal Counsel, and Robert Delahunty, a special counsel in the office, according to the Times. Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is also the author of a memo authorizing harsh interrogation techniques.
Another memo says detainees could be transferred to countries that commit human rights abuses if U.S. officials didn’t intentionally seek their torture, the Post says. Memos also said Congress could not bar the transfer of detainees to other countries or intervene in treatment of detainees, the Times reports.
The memos were later withdrawn in whole or in part, the Post story says. Steven Bradbury, acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel during the last three years of the Bush administration, wrote a memo to file dated five days before the inauguration of Barack Obama that summarized flaws in the documents. Bradbury went on to explain the memos were issued "in the wake of the atrocities of 9/11, when policy makers, fearing that additional catastrophic terrorist attacks were imminent, strived to employ all lawful means to protect the nation." Bradbury said the government had not relied on the documents since 2003, according to the Times account.
The memos released yesterday don’t include long-sought controversial documents justifying harsh interrogations and warrantless surveillance, the Post says.