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John Yoo's tortured logic on torture

To the editor: I am appalled that The Times provided a forum to John Yoo, who drafted the Bush administration memos that enabled torture. He is unrepentant in his defense of the torture memo that allowed the pain, degradation and humiliation of human beings, many of whom were ultimately found to be wrongly detained. ("Dianne Feinstein's flawed torture report," Op-Ed, Dec. 13)

It was reliance on Yoo's narrow definition of torture — that it must cause serious physical injury, organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death, and that prolonged mental harm must last for months or even years for it to be of concern — that allowed the CIA and its contractors to perform acts in my name that cause me irrefutable shame as a human being and as an American.

As I lawyer, I find Yoo an embarrassment to my profession and a curse on the America we stand for.

Barbara H. Bergen, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Yoo writes, "For us [at the Justice Department at the time], as I think for most reasonable Americans, almost all of the CIA's proposed interrogation methods did not constitute torture — the only one close to the line was waterboarding."

Hanging a prisoner by shackles chained to a wall for days on end was viewed as torture even in the 18th century. Keeping a prisoner locked in a coffin-sized box is inhumane by anyone's standards. If force feeding a detainee rectally isn't torture, I'd hate to think what Yoo does classify as torture.

At best, Yoo's interpretation of the law is tortured. And contrary to what he says, the ends will never justify these means.

Ken Goldman, Beverly Hills

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To the editor: Yoo contends that the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on CIA interrogation has only one virtue: "moving the debate from legality to effectiveness." One might also contend, if our actions are determined only by their effectiveness, that the execution of every person suspected of a crime would effectively eliminate crime.

Yoo submits that if the interrogations were effective, "all that is left of the Feinstein report is an appeal to 'our values.'" Just our values? Then, I submit, as long as we dump our values, Yoo has made a wonderful and effective point.

Russ Woody, Studio City

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To the editor: Yoo got it wrong when he wrote, "In the end, Feinstein makes her case against CIA on effectiveness, not the law." But no matter what the argument is in favor of torture, it is clearly against the law and a violation of human rights.

Craig Simmons, Northridge

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