Bush's 'tortured legal' opinions

PHOTO: White House

(Sorry about the bad pun in the headline)

The Times has obtained Bush administration emails from 2005 which illustrate the pressure Department of Justice lawyers were under from the White House to put a legal stamp of approval on their torture program.

Dan Froomkin sums up the emails well:

The e-mails … were written by then-deputy attorney general James Comey. They reveal Cheney’s extraordinary influence over then-attorney general Alberto Gonzales and key lieutenants — including top officials in the department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).

Comey describes how he and some of his colleagues had “grave reservations” about the legal analyses being concocted for Cheney. And he accurately predicts that Cheney and other White House officials would later point the finger at the Justice Department during the investigations that would inevitably ensue once the administration’s actions were made public [bold mine – Chris].

Indeed, in one e-mail, Comey describes an exchange with Ted Ullyot, then Gonzales’s chief of staff: “I told him that the people who were applying pressure now would not be there when the s— hit the fan. Rather, they would simply say they had only asked for an opinion.”

Gonzales and Ullyot both came to Justice from the White House counsel’s office. And Comey writes that “everyone seemed to be thinking as if they still work at the White House and not the United States Department of Justice.”

None of this is all that shocking. It fits right in with how the Bush administration fixed the intelligence in the run up to the Iraq invasion. The recipe is simple. Start with your desired outcome (Iraq war, torture program) pressure government agencies (CIA, DOJ) to invent justification, blame said government agencies when sh*t hits the fan.

Flickr photo of the White House by Scott Ableman

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