Following the Torture Narrative.

As the CIA inspector general’s 2004 report shows, the abuse of detainees was systematic and brutal and as exacting as a lawyer’s brief: “In 2004, when Daniel B. Levin, then the acting assistant attorney general in the counsel’s office, sent a letter to the C.I.A. reauthorizing waterboarding, he dictated the terms: no more than two sessions of two hours each, per day, with both a doctor and a psychologist in attendance,” wrote Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti in The New York Times. The details about the interrogation program are chilling and reveal the extent to which government lawyers were involved in its execution.

Up until now, the role of attorneys in the scandal has been well-known and -- typically for lawyers -- also well-documented. This is particularly the case since John Yoo, the author of the infamous August 2002 “torture memo,” has been publicly defending the work of the Bush administration and its interrogation program. But facts about what the lawyers actually did have been rare -- until the revelations of the report show, for example, how they dictated various, specific aspects of interrogations. Luckily, Scott Horton has been following the story for years and can help shed light on it. Before he was a blogger for Harper’s Magazine, he was a New York attorney with a copy of the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech by his former client Andrei Sakharov on the wall. “I never thought I’d end up spending time on torture cases in the U.S.” These days, that is what he does now, apparently full time.

On his blog, Horton explains that the the CIA report demonstrates that “all trails lead to the Vice President’s office.” Moreover, Horton says it is not true, despite claims of David Ignatius, whom he describes as “the official spokesman of the CIA torture team,” that the cases have already been investigated and do not warrant attention. “No grand jury was impaneled or testimony taken,” writes Horton. “What happened instead was inaction.” And that, as is clear from the recent disclosures about the work of the lawyers and other professionals on the interrogation program, is about to change.

--Tara McKelvey

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