From The Washington Post:
Two key architects of the Bush administration’s controversial interrogation policies defended their legal positions today, sparring with House Democrats over whether discredited Justice Department opinions led to unlawful torture of military and CIA detainees.
The testimony from David S. Addington, chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, and John C. Yoo, a former senior Justice Department lawyer, was light on details but heavy on semantic disputes with lawmakers on a House Judiciary subcommittee.
Both witnesses avoided answering a host of specific questions about their roles in establishing a regime of harsh interrogation tactics at the CIA and Defense Department, while arguing that such tactics had been crucial in preventing another terrorist attack on U.S. soil after Sept. 11, 2001.
Yoo was the main author of an August 2002 memo, later rescinded by the Justice Department, that narrowly defined torture as treatment that resulted in “death, organ failure or serious impairment of bodily functions.” In March 2003, Yoo wrote another memo arguing that federal laws that prohibit assault, maiming and other crimes did not apply to military interrogators who questioned al-Qaeda captives because the president’s ultimate authority as commander in chief overrode such statutes.
In his testimony, Addington minimized his role in setting Bush administration interrogation policies and said he could not recall numerous details surrounding the internal debate. He said he was more deeply involved in the CIA’s interrogation program than the one used by the Pentagon at the military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Much of the hearing was consumed by legalistic disputes over what answers Addington or Yoo could provide. Yoo frequently said he could not answer details about internal deliberations, citing instructions from the Justice Department.
Addington, who appeared at the hearing under subpoena, seemed visibly perturbed by many of the questions and engaged in a series of contentious and often hostile exchanges with subcommittee Democrats. He refused to answer some questions and criticized others.
During one tense exchange with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Addington asked sharply: “Is there a question pending, ma’am?” He then began to suggest a different line of questioning, prompting Schultz to respond: “I’m pretty clear on why I’m asking you a question.”
Such tensions prompted Democrats to complain that they were being stonewalled. Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) said he would be “banging my head against the wall and wasting my five minutes” of allotted time by questioning Addington and Yoo.