Thursday, January 6, 2005

Talk of the nation
I'll be appearing on NPR's Talk of the Nation show today from 12:15 to 12:45 Pacific time (3:15 to 3:45 Eastern time) to discuss Alberto Gonzales and his nomination for the post of Attorney General. I've written some sharply critical things, including "The Road to Abu Ghraib" in the Washington Monthly and "Loyal to a Fault" in Slate, which question his fitness to serve as the nation's chief law enforcement officer. I'm tentatively scheduled to appear opposite David Rivkin, a prominent Washington lawyer who has generally supported the administration's policies in the war on terrorism. You can tune in via your local NPR station, or on the web at

Update I: But don't just take our word for it — read the transcript of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Washington Post's website.

Update II: You can listen to this broadcast of "Talk of the Nation" on NPR's website via streaming audio. My discussion with Mr. Rivkin starts about halfway through the segment.

Update III: American University law professor Kenneth Anderson has some interesting thoughts on AG's nomination, the confirmation hearings, and the law of armed conflict at his new blog "". He's also got a link to an interesting academic paper titled "The Role of the United States Military Lawyer in Projecting a Vision of the Laws of War" (4 Chicago Journal of International Law 445).

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Tsunami relief and military readiness
Within the past week, the U.S. military has committed a sizable amount of combat power to tsunami relief efforts. However, there appears to be a difference of opinion with respect to how these efforts are affecting U.S. forces. Interestingly, both of these reports appear to be based on the same set of remarks from senior military officials like Adm. Fargo (PACOM commander).


"U.S. Relief Effort In Asia Not Affecting Iraq Forces"
Bradley Graham, The Washington Post, p. A11.
The growing U.S. military relief effort for tsunami victims in South Asia is not being limited by U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor is it draining forces from those conflicts, according to the top U.S. commander in the Asia-Pacific region.

Adm. Thomas B. Fargo said at a Pentagon news conference yesterday that the substantial numbers of ships, planes and troops enlisted to provide humanitarian assistance have come from forces previously committed to his command.

"Fundamentally we had these assets in the Pacific," he said. "So we haven't had to detriment those capabilities in Afghanistan and Iraq."

"Aid Effort Stretches Military Resources"
Rowan Scarborough, The Washington Times, p. 1.
The deployment of thousands of sailors, airmen and Marines for the post-tsunami relief mission in Asia is adding new pressure to U.S. armed forces already stretched thin by the global war against al Qaeda and other terrorists.

Commanders have had to review war plans for any threatening action by North Korea as they pulled ships, aircraft and troops from the Pacific and sent them away from the Korean Peninsula to Indian Ocean storm centers.
My sense is that this deployment has resulted in the shifting of some military resources. But as I understand it, the USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Bonhomme Richard, along with their respective battle groups, were scheduled to be in the Pacific and Indian Oceans anyway. Granted, they might be otherwise engaged in training activities that could help them should they be ordered to combat duty off the coast of Iraq. But relief operations are an operational mission too, and we shouldn't ignore the benefits that accrue to these sailors and Marines from their work in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Indeed, humanitarian operations are one of the assigned tasks for a Marine unit like the one on the USS Bonhomme Richard, so they are getting valuable experience during the course of this operation. And there's no better training for logisticians than to execute an operation of this magnitude. Clearly, I think there are costs. But I also think it's clear that the costs are worth bearing.

And let's not forget the tangible security benefits which flow from helping those in one of the world's most populous Muslim countries. As Paul Richter reports in the L.A. Times from Jakarta, our efforts in Indonesia may pay huge dividends down the road, to the extent they displace or preempt Islamic fundamentalist activity in that nation.
Present at the creation
The New York Times and Washington Post both front articles on the role played by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, the President's current nominee for Attorney General, in the creation of several controversial legal memoranda surrounding the status of detainees, application of the Geneva Conventions, and the use of "coercive interrogation" tactics that may or may not be torture. The front-page stories come one day before Mr. Gonzales appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee in confirmation hearings for the post of AG. Senators on both sides of the aisle, but mostly Democrats, have pledged to ask him hard questions about what role he played in this process, although it's widely expected that Mr. Gonzales will tapdance out of any hard questions or assert a litany of privileges to the questions.

Also, former OLC chief Doug Kmiec, who now teaches at Pepperdine University law school, has a hard-hitting oped in support of Mr. Gonzales in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required). The oped hems and haws a bit, but tries to argue that Mr. Gonzales used the Office of Legal Counsel precisely as it should've been used — and that the great wisdom here was that they corrected their mistakes once made. It's an interesting argument... but I'm not sure that I buy it.

In the final analysis — It's all but certain that the Senate will give its advice and consent to Mr. Gonzales' nomination. Despite the serious questions about his background, and past legal work in the public and private sector, I think this issue has already been decided. He wins on a straight party-line vote; he probably also pulls some Democrats, particularly those who care about Latino support. Blocking Mr. Gonzales' nomination will not do the Democrats any good in the short run or the long run. Nonetheless, the Democrats ought to lead the Senate in exercising its Constitutional duties of oversight via the confirmation process. By and large, this administration has operated its legal war on terrorism out of the public view, and without public debate, since Sept. 11. There are broad policy questions that deserve such debate, and which can be effectively aired during these hearings, in my opinion. Moreover, even if the Senate does not torpedo this nomination, it can still do some good by asking these questions and using the confirmation process as a tool by which to scrutinze conduct which the Bush administration has claimed to be their executive prerogative (and unscrutinizable by anyone — Congress or the courts) since Sept. 11. The Senate has both the right and the duty to ask Mr. Gonzales the tough questions, and it must do so.

#1, with an exclamation point
The Trojans of Southern Cal stomped all over the Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl last night, staking their claim to a national championship with no caveats, asterisks, or footnotes. Heisman Trophy winning USC QB Matt Leinart threw for five touchdowns. Trojan backs LenDale White and Reggie Bush rushed for 118 yards in 15 carries and 75 yards in six carries respectively, with the Trojan offensive line looking as dominant as any team I've seen. Here's what the L.A. Times had to say:
[USC] showed the college football establishment that they had no equal. That they deserved to stand alone.

That was clear after top-ranked USC played its best game of the season and dominated No. 2 Oklahoma in all phases during a 55-19 rout in the Orange Bowl to complete a 13-0 season and win its 11th national championship.

"I think we proved tonight that we're the No. 1 team in the country — without a doubt," said junior quarterback Matt Leinart, who set an Orange Bowl record by passing for five touchdowns in front of a crowd of 77,912.

USC took advantage of five Oklahoma turnovers — including a game-turning fumble by punt returner Mark Bradley in the first quarter — to become the first school since Nebraska in 1994 and 1995 to win consecutive national titles. The Trojans joined Florida State's 1999 team as the only ones to start the season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll and maintain their ranking throughout.

The victory, USC's 22nd in a row, also served as a coronation of sorts for a program that has arguably been the nation's best in the last three seasons.

That it came so convincingly against the previously unbeaten Sooners, who were playing in the BCS title game for the third time in five years, surprised even Coach Pete Carroll.

"We wanted to see if we could make them look like everyone else," said Carroll, who has guided the Trojans to a 36-3 record and three BCS bowl game victories in the last three seasons. "I was surprised it happened as quickly as it did."
Even a lifelong UCLA Bruins fan like me has to congratulate the other local team when it wins a victory like this. Fight on, Trojans.

Monday, January 3, 2005

Pentagon swings its budget axe, hitting several programs
Jason Sherman reports for (subscription required) that the Pentagon's #2 official has approved changes to future budget plans which would cut $30 billion in major weapons system procurement over the next six years, and shift more than $10 billion to the ailing Army. The moves come at a time when the Pentagon is being pressured to balance its books, along with every other federal agency, in order to help the White House reduce the massive budget deficit.
Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, approved the spending changes Dec. 23 in Program Budget Decision No. 753, a copy of which was obtained by

The 26-page document marks one of the final steps in a year-long process to construct the Pentagon's 2006 spending proposal. Barring any persuasive last-minute appeal by a service chief or secretary, the decisions likely will be included in the Defense Department's 2006 spending request when it is forwarded to Congress in early February, according to a former Pentagon official familiar with the budget process.

The document directs significant changes to a number of major programs between 2006 and 2011 . . .

* * *
These actions followed guidance issued earlier in December by the White House Office of Management and Budget, which called on the Pentagon to reduce the size of the 2006 budget request. But for months, defense budget experts have been warning that mounting health care costs, rising expenses from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and increased personnel outlays were adding up to expensive bills that could shake up the Pentagon's weapons modernization plans.

"We're likely seeing the beginning of the end of the military build-up that began at the end of the last decade," said Andrew Krepinevich, executive director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
The list of major weapons systems cuts includes some of the most promising and successful programs in DOD. They're not just going after the low-hanging fruit here; these are tough choices being made. The list of affected programs includes:
- $5 billion in cuts to the Air Force's C130J program, and the Marines' KC-130J program;
- $10.5 billion in cuts to the Air Force's F/A-22 program, achieved by cutting the total aircraft purchase from 277 to 180 and speeding production;
- Restructuring the missile defense program, at a savings of $5 billion;
- Trimming $2.5 billion in Navy shipbuilding by cutting two ships from its next-generation destroyer procurement; axing the purchase of a new amphibious ship for $952 million; reducing Virginia class submarine production to one boat/year, saving $5.3 billion;
- Cutting entirely the Joint Common Missile Program, at a savings of $2.3 billion.
And the list goes on... I'd like to print the whole thing, but federal copyright law precludes me from doing so. So check out the article at InsideDefense.Com or on the DOD Early Bird. [Update: InsideDefense.Com has posted a public copy of the story for all to read.]

Analysis: The Pentagon appears to be taking the lead here by making a lot of the most painful cuts itself. The problem is that nothing's final in the area of procurement until the President and Congress get their say. Every weapons program has a constituency, from the contractors and subcontractors who build it to the communities who will be affected by these terminations to the members of Congress who depend on those jobs for reelection. There are also significant weapons system constituencies within each service, and any attempt to kill these programs must silence/suppress those so they don't wage guerilla warfare against the Pentagon's efforts on Capitol Hill. We're a long way from seeing these cuts put into action, but I'm cautiously optimistic. This proposal frees up more money for America's land-based warfighters, at a time when they really need it.

Update I: Also see this column by L.A. Times business columnist James Flanigan regarding the comparitive costs of weapons systems versus personnel in the Pentagon budget. And check out this article by Jonathan Karp in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) about where cuts are not going to be made: Iraq.

Update II: For a more critical take on this story, see Noah Shachtman's note at DefenseTech. He writes: "Don't be fooled by the dollar signs. Pentagon poobahs may say they're trimming $30 billion dollars from their budget over the next six years. But, chances are, those programs cuts will be grown back, once Congress has its say and bureaucratic inertia creeps in."

Sunday, January 2, 2005

The army we need?
Can we really afford to blindly invest in more military manpower when we have no idea what our future military requirements are?

The New York Times editorialized today that we need a bigger military. And I suppose, in a Pentagon bureaucrat's Utopia where there were unlimited amounts of money to spend on manpower, machines and bureaucracy, that would be great. But here in the real world, such proposals may not be prudent. Indeed, they may be quite daft, given our real resource constraints. (Matt Yglesias and Steve Clemons echo this sentiment, but focus on the demand side of the equation.) After citing a litany of facts indicating that today's military is overstretched, the NYT Times editorial board comes to this conclusion:
Listing all the dangers is much easier than coming up with solutions. But there are some obvious short-term answers. Barring any unexpected breakthroughs in Iraq, Washington needs to increase its recruitment quotas sharply for active-duty service in the Army and Marine Corps. The current Army [end strength] of just above 500,000 ought to go up to nearly 600,000, still substantially below the levels of the late 1980's. The Marines' [end strength] should go up from the current 178,000 to around 200,000. Attracting those recruits will require offering financial and other inducements on top of the added payroll costs. [corrections added]

Most of the additional money required for this could come from elsewhere in the military budget. The Pentagon is taking a big step in the right direction by proposing sharp cuts in the unneeded F-22 stealth fighter program. As the military raises recruitment targets for the Army and Marines, it can reduce recruitment for the Air Force and Navy, which have more active-duty members than they now need. America's ground forces have been asked to do too much, with too little, for too long.
People are more important than hardware, but people cost money too. In fact, the Army's Chief of Staff told a breakfast meeting of reporters in June 2004 that it costs $3.6 billion per year to train, pay, and equip a cohort of 10,000 soldiers. I always joke that the Pentagon doesn't care about numbers until they hit the 8th digit — that is, the .1 of a billion point. But buying an additional 100,000 permanent active-duty soldiers for the Army, and another 20,000 Marines, will cost serious money. It's not as easy as simply saying that we should cut expensive weapons systems. Just like weapons systems, soldiers cost money too. Moreover, you don't just pay for the soldier and his personal equipment — you pay for his family, their housing, their medical care, their leadership, their training base, their combat equipment (i.e. trucks and tanks), their training, et cetera. When you consider an increase of this magnitude to the permanent end-strength of the military, you've got to take the long view of how much these increases will cost. And, perhaps more importantly, you must consider quality in addition to quantity — you can't dilute the quality of today's force just to create more force structure. If we fall into that trap, we will have regressed back to the WWI/WWII attrition-based model of warfare.

As I wrote in June 2004 for Slate, the real problem is that we still don't have a good handle on the force requirements for the global war on terrorism. We don't know for certain whether it's prudent to invest in more permanent force structure, and we don't know for certain how many more troops/units to purchase if we choose that course of action. Simply put, we're chasing a moving target when it comes to military force structure.
. . . Today's National Military Strategy is a "1-4-2-1" model, meaning:
1) Defend the United States;
4) Maintain forces capable of deterring aggression and coercion in four critical regions: Europe, Northeast Asia, Southwest Asia, the Middle East;
2) Maintain a capability to combat aggression in two of these regions simultaneously;
1) Maintain a capability to "win decisively"—up to and including forcing regime change and occupation—in one of those two conflicts "at a time and place of our choosing."
But this model is failing spectacularly when it comes to dealing with the reality of Iraq. The 1-4-2-1 paradigm effectively commits us to holding everywhere else in the world for as long as it takes to extricate U.S. forces from Iraq. If the North Koreans attack South Korea, or more likely, if North Korea implodes, the United States will be hard-pressed to dispatch ground troops to help, although we still have a formidable air and naval response capability not tied down in Iraq.

The 1-4-2-1 model also provides very little help in predicting a force size because the range of possible post-9/11 missions is so vast—everything from formal major regional conflicts to small special forces and civil affairs deployments (as in the Philippines) to ongoing peacekeeping (as in the Balkans) to special ops works all over the world. The 1-4-2-1 model still sees military requirements through the prism of state-based warfare. But as the post-9/11 deployments show, that prism may be anachronistic. Tomorrow's major military deployment might not be for combat at all—it might require the deployment of an expeditionary nation-building force to stave off a humanitarian crisis. A new military planning model ought to take these kinds of missions into account, too.

In many of these places, firepower might not be the answer, and the 1-4-2-1 model also fails to predict the other kinds of forces which might be necessary for a given situation. If America decides to intervene somewhere like Sudan, it will need a mix of civil affairs troops, military police, engineers, and medical personnel, not just pure combat forces. Furthermore, military forces alone may not be sufficient; we may need to create units with the Treasury Department capable of managing the economic aspects of nation-building, or within the Department of Justice to manage the legal parts of the job. The 1-4-2-1 model also assumes the mission will end when major combat operations end—something which has proved to be wildly off the mark.

Finally, the 1-4-2-1 model is opaque. War planners may know how this model gets translated into personnel requirements, but congressional staffs and the public do not. Thus, politicians have a tendency to throw out arbitrary numbers, like the 20,000- and 30,000-man troop increases now being weighed on Capitol Hill without having any precise idea of what the Army really needs.

Which brings us to the Army expansion proposals now being floated in Washington. At best, these proposals take the current size of the Army and adjust from that point based on some conception of what the Army needs to get its job done; at worst, they represent a potentially dangerous wartime diversion of taxpayer dollars from places where the force really needs the money.

* * *
It would be very easy to throw more money at the troop-strength problem by hiring more infantrymen. But doing so won't fix the deeper structural issues which make today's military inefficient—like the decades-old decisions to concentrate critical support functions like military police and logistics in the reserves. Nor will throwing more troops at the problem take into account the revolutionary changes in warfare that have taken place just in the past 15 years. We may need more ground troops today to win wars and decisively manage the postwar aftermath, but we may not need more support personnel, sailors, and airmen. The only way to find out is through an intellectually honest assessment of America's military requirements. This is an assignment the next president—whoever he is—should give his Secretary of Defense immediately.
We don't have a new president and we don't have a new SecDef. But the current secretary has said he intends to continue transforming the Pentagon to be relevant and effective in the 21st Century. He will soon have an opportunity to address this problem, in the form of the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review. In theory, Secretary Rumsfeld can use this review to identify the requirements for American military force structure, and to create a strategic architecture for the procurement, management, mobilization and sustainment of that force structure. I say "in theory", because past QDRs haven't always been worth the paper they've been printed on. When he came into office in 2001, Mr. Rumsfeld committed himself to military transformation. Since the 2004 election, he has reaffirmed this commitment. It's time to prove it.
The face of American global leadership
The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Navy has established a beachhead in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. The USS Abraham Lincoln and its battle group have begun relief operations at the scene of the worst destruction from last week's tsunami. According to the Post, the presence of the U.S. military and its highly visible efforts have provided a much-needed shot in the arm for relief efforts in Aceh:
* * * Tropical rains poured down in intervals throughout the day, adding to the misery of tens of thousands of refugees living in tents or without shelter. Heavy rains also fell in Sri Lanka, creating flash floods that sent villagers running for high ground, according to news agency reports from Colombo, the capital.

Navy relief deliveries, carried out by a dozen specially fitted SH-60 Bravo helicopters from the USS Abraham Lincoln, marked the start of a large-scale international relief operation that residents of devastated Aceh province have been awaiting for nearly a week. Relief officials said the deliveries of food, water and medicine were particularly welcome along the shore south of Banda Aceh, where the wall of water destroyed a series of bridges and left the main road impossible to navigate.

"We are basically here to do whatever is needed," said Capt. Larry Burt of Lamore, Calif., who commanded the Navy's first group to arrive at Sultan Iskandar Muda Airport in Banda Aceh.

"I hope to get more stuff in here and start delivering it," said Cmdr. Frank Michael of Dallas, Pa., who piloted one of the craft.

The dull-gray Navy helicopters, usually deployed to hunt submarines, flew in from the Lincoln carrier group, which was steaming a few miles east of Banda Aceh in the now-tranquil Indian Ocean. With help from Australian and Indonesian military personnel, U.S. forces loaded supplies for immediate delivery southward.

According to civilian relief officials who flew over the disaster zone, significant relief is needed in coastal areas. Indonesian navy ships have delivered supplies to Meulaboh, a destroyed port 110 miles south of here, they said, but thousands of homeless and hungry victims have lined the main road north and south of the town, looking in vain for shelter and food since the tsunami washed away their villages.

As Burt and Michael spoke on the tarmac, C-130 Hercules transport planes from the Australian, U.S. and Indonesian militaries whined onto the runways with deliveries of more relief supplies. Singaporean Super Puma military helicopters joined Indonesian air force craft churning up the air, while trucks drove in and out picking up cargo. After days during which foreign governments seemed slow to respond to Indonesia's massive tragedy, there was a sense of sudden acceleration in the international relief operation.
Bravo Zulu to the crew of the Abe and her battle group. Right or wrong, the world expects us to act in this manner when a disaster of this magnitude strikes. After a slow start, I am impressed by the way the U.S. has swung into action. More is needed, of course. But as the proverb goes, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. The deployment of an aircraft carrier and its group represents one giant first step for the American response to this tragedy. I can think of no better ambassadors for the United States than the men and women of the U.S. military now engaged in this endeavor. Let's keep up the effort.

(Photo Credit: Choo Youn-Kong/Agence France Presse)

Saturday, January 1, 2005

Hook 'em horns!
I'm a diehard Bruin, having earned both my degrees at UCLA. As the bumper sticker says, my two favorite teams are UCLA and whoever's playing USC. However, my team didn't make it to this year's Rose Bowl. Still, I had no problem picking a team to pull for. During the three years I lived in Texas while stationed at Fort Hood (about an hour north of Austin) I developed a great deal of admiration for the University of Texas and their storied football program.

This year's Rose Bowl gave us a reason to all be Longhorn fans. This clash of the titans seasawed back and forth between Texas and Michigan all the way to the end, when walk-on Longhorn kicker Dusty Mangum booted the winning field goal from 37 yards out. Here's how the L.A. Times describes it:
Mangum had done nothing all day but boot five extra points, but there he was, all 175 pounds of him, a white shoe on his plant foot and a black shoe on his kicking foot, trotting out in a spotless uniform to join the grass-stained warriors with two seconds on the clock.

No. 13 Michigan (9-3) twice called timeout in an effort to fluster him. For Texas Coach Mack Brown, it was time to start earning the $25-million, 10-year contract he agreed to earlier in the week. He put his arm around his kicker and said, "Dusty, you are the luckiest human being in the world. You are going to make the kick to win the Rose Bowl."

Moments later, Mangum was being carried from the field on the shoulders of teammates, confetti falling on his head, the Texas fight song ringing in his ears.

* * *
As for this season's final rankings, the Longhorns hoped that the right combination of outcomes in other bowl games could vault them as high as No. 2.

More likely, however, they will check in at No. 5 or remain No. 6. The rap on Brown is that he can't win the big one and, truth be told, this wasn't truly big, even though it was his team's first BCS game, first Rose Bowl and laid to rest any controversy that California should have been here instead of Texas.

Just don't tell that to Mangum, who despite being Texas' all-time leading scorer among kickers was awarded a scholarship this year for the first time.

It didn't matter that his winning kick was grazed by Wolverine Ernest Shazor. It didn't matter that the lack of trajectory caused Benson to say, "My heart stopped and didn't restart until I knew it was good."

Mangum wore a grin so bright it cut right through the atypical gray Pasadena skies.

"I watched our team play so hard the entire game and I just hoped I had a chance to do this," he said. "A lot of people around the country downplayed this game, but it meant everything to us."
Way to go, Longhorns.

(Photo Credit: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

Friday, December 31, 2004

DOJ publishes new torture memo
Jess Bravin, who first broke the 'torture memo' story back in May 2004, and who's been all over the story since, reports in Friday's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that a new Justice Department torture memo has hit the street. (The Washington Post and AP also have stories on this.) This one, authored by the Office of Legal Counsel (who acts as the executive branch's in-house Constitutional lawyer), purports to clean up some of the extraneous language and dicta that clouded the earlier memoranda from August 2002 and March 2003. In a July 2004 press conference, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales (whose confirmation hearings start in early January) repudiated those memos, and said new ones would be forthcoming. Here's what Mr. Bravin had to say about the new one in today's WSJ:
The 17-page memorandum issued by the Office of Legal Counsel, the Justice Department unit that provides definitive legal guidance for the executive branch, replaces a 50-page opinion issued in August 2002 that offered a legal framework to justify inflicting agony on prisoners and contended President Bush could set aside laws and treaties prohibiting torture.

The new document also concludes that the 2002 memo was wrong when it found that only "excruciating and agonizing pain" constituted torture, and that prosecution for committing torture was only possible if the defendant's goal was simply to inflict pain, rather than to extract information. "There is no exception under the statute permitting torture to be used for a 'good reason,' " the new memo concludes, even if the aim is "to protect national security."

Still, the memo concludes that even under its wider definition of torture, none of the interrogation methods previously approved by the Justice Department would be illegal.

The 2002 memo was incorporated into Defense Department interrogation policies approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, although administration officials say neither he nor the president actually authorized torture and say that subsequent incidents of prisoner abuse reported in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were aberrations.

But administration officials moved to revise their legal views after The Wall Street Journal published a draft of the Pentagon's interrogation policies, which were predicated on the more aggressive view of torture, in June. Subsequent disclosures of confidential legal memoranda led White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to disavow the August 2002 memo, which administration officials said would be replaced within weeks with a new memo ruling out torture. That effort stalled amid interagency disagreements, and was only completed after Deputy Attorney General James Comey, the Justice Department's No. 2 official, ordered it released by year end.

A senior Justice Department official said the memo's delay — it originally was planned for completion by August — derived from differences among agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense and State departments and the White House.

Some apparently small semantic points occupied much of the internal debate over the memo, the official said. In particular, lawyers wrestled with whether "severe physical suffering" was something apart from "severe physical pain," and whether each could independently be defined as torture.

"If you induced nausea in someone, day after day for weeks," how would it be classified, the official said, by way of example. "It's not severe pain, it's not mental as it's a sensation," the official said. But over a prolonged period it could be considered physical suffering, and the Justice Department ultimately concluded it could constitute torture.

The new document comes less than a week before Mr. Gonzales, nominated to succeed John Ashcroft as attorney general, faces a Senate confirmation hearing where Judiciary Committee members plan to grill him on his role in formulating interrogation policies. The White House declined to comment on the new memo.

* * *
John Yoo, a former Justice Department official who worked on the 2002 memo, said the revision would be of little help to agencies charged with fighting the war on terror. "This memo muddies the water because it makes it difficult to figure out how the torture statute applies to specific interrogation methods," said Mr. Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. "It removed all the clear lines but didn't change the basic analysis."
More to follow — I just wanted to post the basic story today. I highly recommend reading the original torture memos authored back in 2002 and 2003, and comparing them to this new one. The differences are striking. It's still unclear how this new memo will translate into guidance for the field. After all, all the interrogation measures officially approved under the old memo remain kosher under this new one. One has to wonder whether this new memo is just one big exercise in legal sophistry.

Update I: Neil Lewis has an article in Saturday's New York Times describing many of the authorized methods of coercive interrogation at Gitmo. Among the methods described: subjecting detainees to endless loops of the "Meow Mix" cat food jingle; forced enemas; and the use of a ruse to trick detainees into thinking they had been "rendered" to Egyptian intelligence officials. I'm all for interrogating detainees where we need to get intel to save American lives. But given the length of time most detainees have been at Gitmo, and out of the fight, and the reports that these guys are mostly low-level foot soldiers, are we sure these methods are justified?

Update II: Dana Priest, the Washington Post's star reporter covering the intelligence community, has an extremely important report in Sunday's Washington Post. According to Ms. Priest, the Bush administration is considering the implications of the war on terrorism's amorphous nature for the length of time we keep men imprisoned at Gitmo. In theory, a nation may detain prisoners for the duration of hostilities. If the war on terrorism lasts for 10, 20, or 30 years (or longer), then we must face the likelihood that we will be holding prisoners for the remainder of their natural lives.