Many commencement speakers take the opportunity of addressing graduates to talk about integrity, ethics, principles, leadership, or morality. Not our Attorney General! No, Michael Mukaskey thought Boston College Law School’s graduation ceremony would be the perfect time to . . . defend torture. The more we learn about our nation’s torture scandal, the more we see how much damage was done by lawyers who acted as enablers and apologists for those in power instead of standing up to them and saying “no”. There’s a lot that could have been said about the role of lawyers and their professional obligations. Too bad Mr. Mukasey didn’t say it.
I’m sure the graduates (and their families) were thrilled that the Attorney General decided to turn their commencement address into a defense of his bad judgment rather than a celebration of their accomplishments.
Mukasey defends author of so-called torture memos
WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Michael Mukasey is defending former government lawyers who drew up the legal basis of the Bush administration’s use of harsh interrogation methods against terror suspects.
Mukasey told Boston College Law School graduates Friday that lawyers doing their part to protect the country in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks should not now be held liable or face criminal charges for doing so.
Mukasey did not mention any specific lawyers by name.
Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo is facing at least one civil lawsuit and demands for his firing from Berkeley Law School. Yoo worked in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 to 2003.
While there, he wrote several memos legally defending the use of harsh interrogation tactics which are now under criticism by human rights groups and members of Congress. Yoo’s memos concluded that President Bush has broad, unfettered wartime authority that cannot be limited by domestic law or international bans on torture.
One memo defined torture, as recognized by U.S. law, as covering “only extreme acts” causing pain similar in intensity to that caused by organ failure or accompanying death.
An internal Justice Department investigation is now considering whether such advice was improper.
At the Friday ceremony, Mukasey lambasted critics seeking to bring lawsuits or charges against the lawyers. “The rhetoric of these discussions is hostile and unforgiving,” Mukasey said in his prepared remarks.
Mukasey’s confirmation as attorney general briefly stalled over the issue of waterboarding, an interrogation method simulating drowning that critics call torture. He has since refused to say whether waterboarding is illegal since it is no longer used by the CIA or military interrogators.