After 9/11, two officials at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) made decisions that led to major news. In 2002, one CIA official asked the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to clarify how aggressive CIA interrogators could be in questioning al Qaeda operatives held overseas. This request led to the August 2002 memorandum, later leaked, in which John Yoo argued that an interrogator crosses the line into torture only by inflicting pain on a par with organ failure. Yoo further suggested that interrogators would have many defenses, justifications, and excuses if they faced possible criminal charges. One commentator described the advice as that of a “mob lawyer to a mafia don on how to skirt the law and stay out of prison.” To cool the debate about torture, the Bush administration retracted the memorandum and replaced it with another.
- Afsheen John Radsan, a former federal prosecutor and a former CIA lawyer, teaches at William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul, Minn., where he is the director of the National Security Forum. Besides his work as a corporate lawyer and as a consultant, Professor Radsan served for over eight years in the federal government. He is an expert on legal issues related to national security. His combination of law enforcement experience, intelligence community experience, and Middle Eastern origins makes him unique within the legal academy. He is often quoted by the local and national media.