John Yoo

Obama’s Last Laugh

The Daily Beast

Jon Stewart didn’t just go for the gags.

While joshing around with Barack Obama last night on a set festooned with faux Roman columns, Stewart spoke as the voice of disenchanted liberalism, demanding to know: What happened to that hope-and-change guy?

“You ran with such, if I may, audacity… yet legislatively it has felt timid at times,” the host said. “I am not even sure at times what you want out of a health care bill.”

The guest, buoyed by an adoring audience, pushed back: “Jon, I love your show”—here Stewart mugged for the camera—”but this is something where I have a profound disagreement with you…This notion that health care was timid—you’ve got 30 million people that will have health insurance because of this.”

That the president of the United States would appear on the Daily Show six days before a midterm election that could sink his party speaks volumes, or at least chapters, about that buzzworthy forum. But it was also a test of sorts for the host, who is casting his big “sanity” rally in Washington as an escape from the nuttiness fostered by the extremes of both parties.

Can Saturday’s extravaganza live up to its nonpartisan billing if its ringmaster is seen as too friendly with the Democrat-in-chief? I’d say Stewart passed the initial exam, making Obama feel comfortable while also delivering the zinger that “Democrats this year seem to be running on ‘please baby one more chance.’”

Stewart told me years ago that he regarded the nightly interview segment as little more than filler that spared his staff from having to write one more comedy sketch. But it’s evolved into an key component of the program, as anyone who saw his combative sessions with CNBC’s Jim Cramer or health care critic Betsy McCaughey can attest (though Stewart conceded that Bush torture defender John Yoo “slipped through my fingers”).

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NYT Editorial Calls for Investigations on Illegal Torture Experiments


The June 8 New York Times will carry an editorial, “Doctors Who Aid Torture,” that endorses the recommendation of Physicians for Human Rights in their new report, “Experiments in Torture: Evidence of Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program” (PDF), for investigations by the executive branch and Congress of the charges of illegal human experimental research undertaken in support of Bush and Cheney’s torture program. The editorial is online now.

Disturbing new questions have been raised about the role of doctors and other medical professionals in helping the Central Intelligence Agency subject terrorism suspects to harsh treatment, abuse and torture….

The report from the physicians’ group [PHR] does not prove its case beyond doubt — how could it when so much is still hidden? — but it rightly calls on the White House and Congress to investigate the potentially illegal human experimentation and whether those who authorized or conducted it should be punished. Those are just two of the many unresolved issues from the Bush administration that President Obama and Congressional leaders have swept under the carpet.

Within only a day of the report’s release, there has been an amazing amount of coverage, from the New York Times itself, to Scott Horton at Harper’s, Jason Leopold at Truthout, Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel, Adam Serwer at The American Prospect/Tapped, and dozens of other commentators and news outlets. I had my own article covering the report’s release yesterday.

Especially interesting was an interview at BoingBoing with the reports lead medical author, Dr. Scott Allen. The story has also penetrated the academic and scientific communities with stories at Nature and Scientific American.

You don’t charge “Nuremberg crimes” and not have people sit up and listen.

In their report, PHR charged that “Health professionals working for and on behalf of the CIA monitored the interrogations of detainees, collected and analyzed the results of [the] interrogations, and sought to derive generalizable inferences to be applied to subsequent interrogations.” In other words, they engaged in research. Except, when you engage in research with human beings, you must get their full informed consent. The history of government research is replete with criminal failures to do that, with tragic results.

In recent history, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the U.S. government’s Human Radiation Experiments are two of the more egregious examples. Another example are the MK-ULTRA and Artichoke and other mind-control experiments of the 1950s-1970s.

In the case of the CIA “enhanced interrogation” program (EIP), the government used medical professionals (doctors and psychologists) to determine the parameters of the torture techniques, to make them conform to the twisted ideas of John Yoo, David Addington and Jay Bybee about the torture and what constituted “severe pain,” so they could write a near-blank check for torture in the Office of Legal Counsel memos approving the EIP. While Yoo was gaming the system by drawing definitions out of obscure Medicare regulations, the doctors and psychologists at CIA black sites were determining whether or not extending sleep deprivation, the amount of water during waterboarding, and manipulating various combination of torture techniques would cause severe pain — or not. This patently constituted unethical research in the service of constructing an illegal, experimental torture program.   Continue reading…