[JURIST] US Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official profile; JURIST news archive] defended Bush administration attorneys who authored memoranda supporting the legality of coercive interrogating tactics - the so-called "torture memos" [JURIST news archive] - in a commencement address [text] to Boston College Law School graduates Friday. Emphasizing the legal complexity of the issues raised in the memos and criticizing the vilification of the authors [JURIST op-ed] in some quarters, Mukasey told the audience:
Today, many of the senior government lawyers who provided legal advice supporting the nations most important counterterrorism policies have been subjected to relentless public criticism. In some corners, one even hears suggestionssuggestions that are made in a manner that is almost breathtakingly casualthat some of these lawyers should be subject to civil or criminal liability for the advice they gave. The rhetoric of these discussions is hostile and unforgiving.The author of one such memo [PDF text] for the Department of Defense in 2003, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo [faculty profile], faces a civil lawsuit and calls for his resignation from Berkeley Law School. Earlier this month, a federal judge directed the CIA [order, PDF; JURIST report] to produce a 2002 Department of Justice memo that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claims authorized the agency to use specific torture techniques, including waterboarding [JURIST news archive]. AP has more.
The difficulty and novelty of the legal questions these lawyers confronted is scarcely mentioned; indeed, the vast majority of the criticism is unaccompanied by any serious legal analysis. In addition, it is rarely acknowledged that those public servants were often working in an atmosphere of almost unimaginable pressure, without the academic luxury of endless time for debate. Equally ignored is the fact that, by all accounts I have seen or heard, including but not limited to Jack Goldsmiths book [The Terror Presidency], those lawyers reached their conclusions in good faith based upon their best judgments of what the law required.