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Monday, March 02, 2009

Goodbye for Now - Just as President Obama Releases Some Secret War on Terror Legal Documents

I sign off from PrawfsBlawg just as I see the AP news story about President Obama’s releasing secret Bush Administration "War on Terror" legal documents.  This glasnost is a move in the right direction, and I hope that many of us will pore over these materials and sort the good legal reasoning from the bad.  I am struck most by the CIA’s destruction of videotapes of their interrogations of suspected terrorists.  Guantanamo interrogations were apparently based on a “mosaic theory” (as explained here by Joe Margulies in his excellent Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power (2006)), meaning that prisoners (assuming they are terrorists) might all have little bits of information, information that even they might not know was valuable - and that even the interrogators might not know was valuable.  The value might come to light only later, as other pieces of the mosaic appear.  So, might CIA review of these tapes, even years later, yield important “new” information about al Qaida? If so, then destroying the tapes was a very bad idea. And not just any old tapes were destroyed. The AP story says, “Tapes of those interrogations [of two al-Qaida leaders, including Abu Zubaydah] were destroyed, in part, the Bush administration said, to protect the identities of the government questioners at a time the Justice Department was debating whether or not the tactics used during the interrogations were legal.”  Conclusion: Backside-covering trumped national security.

Anyway … Thanks so much, Dan, for the guest slot. And thanks to all who read, and all who commented on, my posts. I enjoyed the exchange. I will be visiting at BU again next year, so I look forward to seeing many of you around, at conferences, in journals, in the blogosphere, and in the regular old atmosphere (even down the hall). And, I hope to see some of you at our second Applied Legal Storytelling Conference, at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, July 22-24, which I’m co-organizing with Steve Johansen (Lewis & Clark), Robert McPeake (The City Law School, University of London - UK), Erika Rackley (Durham Law School - UK), and Ruth Anne Robbins (Rutgers-Camden).  We will launch a website soon with program and registration details.

All the best.

Posted by Brian J. Foley on March 2, 2009 at 08:23 PM in Blogging, Current Affairs | Permalink


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