Fall 2009 Critical Thinking Student Sample Work

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Practice Recon #1

Student #1

Reconstruction - Closing Guantanamo will be a mistake

The author of this article argues that Obama’s executive order to close Guantanamo Bay will be a mistake. Her main rationale to support this claim was that the assumptions of the prison being unsecured, poorly maintained, and will resolve the torture prisoners endured are not accurate. She supports this by illustrating her visit to the prison. When she went to Guantanamo proved to be a “state-of-the-art, climate-controlled, clean facility.” Moving detainees to another prison location, for example, Camp X-Ray may be much worse as the facility has not been in function in the past years based on her research. Therefore, keeping the detainees at Guantanamo would better since it is the best they have. She disproved the assumption that Guantanamo was a threat to national security by witnessing that there was tight security over the detainees as she saw security guards checking on them every three minutes. She explains that it would be more dangerous to move the location of the prison and moving the prisoners, first because another location would make it more for a target for terrorists. Guantanamo’s location at the tip of Cuba makes the prison geographically isolated. The movement of detainees does not change the horrors that may or may have not happened in the prison. The torture of prisoners that occurred in Abu Ghraib is similar to that of Guantanamo, therefore the location of the prison does not change what did and can happen in other prisons. The trials for suspects may never happen because the transferring to a different prison will only delay it, already since the most highly secured, most technologically advanced courtroom in the world has already been built at Guantánamo.

Student #2

P: The torturous perception of Gitmo is based on old facts and photos. P: Moving Gitmo into the U.S. could cause the new site to be a target for terrorist attacks. P: The most technologically advanced courtroom is already at Guantanamo. P: Moving everyone to a different location would delay justice for some inmates.

GC: Closing Guantanamo Bay would be wrong for everyone and would not make the U.S. safer.

The general conclusion that the author was trying to convey was that there would be no winners if Guantanamo Bay was closed, and moving it would not make the U.S. safer. Her main argument is that moving inmates into the United States would endanger U.S. citizens as well as inmates. She also argues that there is no torturing going on at Gitmo and that the public perception of the camp is based off of old facts and photos of a different camp before renovations. The author claims that by moving the inmates to a different location, some of them would not receive justice like fair and speedy trials. She states that the Obama administration has considered creating a camp with a state of the art facility to hold courtroom sessions. The author argues that we already have a state of the art courtroom that is already at Guantanamo.

Student #3

The rationale of this article is that “closing Guantanamo will be a mistake.” The premises for this rationale are the following: the injustices that the prisoners endure will not end, there is no geographic improvement for Gitmo, it will slow the court processes for the inmates even more, the current location in Cuba is safer for both the inmates and American Security than any other territory in the United States, and the facilities at Gitmo are already the most technology advanced in the world. The torture and mistreatment that the inmates endure will not end with the closing for Guantanamo, but rather they will just be followed by the inmates to the next location. The further conclusion for this premise is that there is mistreatment at detention facilities everywhere; therefore, closing this facility will not be beneficial to this cause. Changing the geography of Gitmo, or rather moving the inmates somewhere else to a new facility, will not correct the issues that Obama recognizes. The process of going to court and getting a trial is already very difficult and some inmates don’t even get their trial heard. Moving the inmates with the closing of Gitmo would cause more extensive work to be done. In conclusion to this premise, the work that would have to be done to move the inmates would cause the future trials to be put back even longer, and this is extremely unfair to the inmates. Gitmo is currently located on the southeastern tip of Canada. Moving the inmates would make them more susceptible to terrorist attacks in the U.S. This would also put the lives of Americans at risk when the new facility is on American soil. Creating a new facility would require technological courts and facilities. Gitmo already has the most advanced of these in the world. Thus, the closing of Gitmo would be anything but beneficial for anyone.

Practice Recon #3

Student #1

Rights of Corporations The author’s conclusion in this article is that the Supreme Court should not grant corporations the same rights as human beings in matters of politics. He argues that corporations have not been allowed to contribute financially to political campaigns by Congress since 1907. Congress has upheld this ban repeatedly. Another argument is that a corporation’s influence in politics would be overwhelming if they had the same rights as humans. Americans are worried about the influence that corporations already have with elected officials. The author’s last argument is that even though some of the conservative justices are pro-corporation’s rights, the constitution and the framers did not intend for corporations to have too much power or rights near those of humans. All of these arguments validate the conclusion that corporations should not have the same rights as humans.

Student #2

The author of this article argues that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as individual people; they should remain quite limited and far less than those of people. The author’s main rationale for this claim is that corporations already have the privileged rights needed for them to succeed, and with any other additional rights they would have the ability to become too influential. The corporations are already given special legal status, putting them in a privileged position to produce and aggregate wealth. Expanding corporations’ rights could undermine the political system. Corporations should not be allowed to vote, run for office, or bear arms. Since 1907 corporations have not been allowed to contribute to federal political campaigns and that has been a ruling the Supreme Court has consistently upheld. As it is, people worry about the influence corporations have with elected officials. Their influence would be overwhelming in this country if given the full array of rights that people have. Corporations are not human beings rather large entities that should not be guaranteed the same constitutional rights as a human.

Graded Recon #1

Student #1

The author of this article argues that the lawyers of the Office of Legal Counseling distorted the law, allowing illegal interrogation tactics to be used by the CIA, and they should be held accountable. There are two main rationales that the author used to support his claim. The first is that the Office of Legal Counseling (OLC) wrote memo after memo, over a five year period, distorting the law, allowing the CIA to use illegal tactics of brutal physical coercion. Second, the author states that the Office of Legal Counseling had the chance and the responsibility to stand up and prevent the illegal interrogations entirely, but failed to do so, in turn failing to fulfill their job responsibilities. These two rationales back the author’s general claim.

From 2002 to 2007, the OLC wrote multiple memos, bending the law in ways that would allow the CIA to continue using their illegal tactics of interrogation. The author states that the OLC “treated the law against torture not as a universal moral prohibition, but as an inconvenient obstacle to be evaded be any means necessary.” The OLC distorted the law, allowing exactly what it was designed to forbid, rather than holding the CIA to the standard of law it should have been held to. The author states that the “original sin” was the August 2002 memos that were issued, approving every tactic the CIA proposed. In these memos the OLC backed the tactics by saying that “pain must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” This was how they justified the illegal physical tactics of coercion by saying such brutal tactics as “waterboarding” never got to that point. The author then shows that in a later December 2004 memo, the OLC contradicts themselves by saying, “pain is a subjective experience and there is no way to objectively quantify it.” The author also shows how the OLC tried to justify the CIA torture of foreigners because they were being held abroad when in reality it didn’t matter where they were being held; as long as they were in U.S. custody they were not to be tortured. He states that the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that any use of threat of force shocks the conscience. Yet the OLC in yet another memo claimed that the CIA’s techniques were not cruel, inhuman, or degrading in any way, because they did not “shock the conscience.” Again, the author states, “the case law is clear, however, that any intentional infliction of pain for interrogation purposes shocks the conscience.” All of these examples given by the author clearly show how the OLC distorted the law in order to approve all CIA interrogation tactics.

The Office of Legal Counseling is supposed to serve as the “constitutional conscience” of the Justice Department, preventing unlawful actions. The author states that the OLC lawyers were supposed to be the last line of defense for the detainees, who were cut off from the outside world, and any other legal assistance, but failed to fulfill their responsibility. The author makes it clear that the OLC lawyers had an obligation to adhere to standards and say no to the CIA’s illegal torture methods; they could have put an end to it. He states that in the hands of the lawyers, “law became not a constraint on power but the instrument of unconscionable abuse.” He says that the memos are evidence that accountability cannot stop at the CIA interrogators, but must climb the chain to those who approved the brutality.

Student #2

In The Torture Memos: The Case Against the Lawyers, the author David Cole argues that the CIA interrogators are not the only ones worthy of the blame, but the higher positioned people like the cabinet members, and especially the lawyers are also equally worthy of the blame for the torturing of the detainees. Throughout this article, the author presents three premises and also presents the opposing argument made by the representatives of the lawyers. The first rationale David Cole presents in the article is that the investigations only apply to CIA interrogators opposed to the lawyers who authorized the CIA to instill torture upon the detainees. In order to support this rationale, the author enlists the example of Abu Ghraib where the soldiers took the torturing of Iraqi prisoners way too far. The author mentions this example in order to emphasize the fact that only the lower ranking soldiers, who were ordered by the higher powers, were the ones who got in trouble. The higher-ups were not held accountable for the orders they commanded their troops to fulfill. Further, the author speaks about General Eric Holder who focused his investigations only on people who have performed the unauthorized conduct, rather than investigate the lawyers who actually gave the orders and definition of torture. Furthermore, the author mentions the Justice department lawyers who were also involved in the justification of torture for the CIA. Back then, the actions displayed were legal, but now the Justice department is investigating the CIA, and not the lawyers who actually justified and gave CIA the permission to perform the brutal tortures.

The second rationale that David Cole uses in the article is that the lawyers distorted the laws in order to implement the torture and brutality the CIA was allowed to inflict on the detainees. First off to support this, the author gives the definition of torture presented by the lawyers. The definition of torture is the cause of severe pain equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death, anything below that is not deemed torture. Thus something like water boarding causes no actual pain or have long term negative suffering. David Cole further adds that the Convention Against Torture states “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” To further support his rationale the author quotes the lawyers take on the above statement by quoting “the courts have nothing to do and can give no redress." This essentially means the CIA has the freedom to do as they please in order to get their point across.

The last premise is that it is the duty and responsibility of the lawyers to prevent the torture from occurring, and because they did not prevent it, the law in the hands of the lawyers became unconscionable abuse. David Cole supports this rationale first off by mentioning the lawyers’ conclusion that the decisions made during the Geneva Convention did not apply to Al Qaeda, therefore the rules of no torture upheld by the Convention Against Torture did not apply foreigners held under the custody of CIA. Lastly, the author states that the lawyers used their power to “facilitate brutality” rather than bring justice.

Finally, the author chooses to add in the opposing arguments to strengthen his own argument. The arguments presented were that the torture was out of good intentions, and that it is hard to determine what torture really means. David Cole then goes on to discuss how one tends to lose one’s inhumanity through the torturing of other humans, and because it is difficult to define torture does not justify the lawyers to allow the CIA to torture the detainees in the fashion that they did. By adding in the reasoning the lawyers’ representatives presented, the author is able to form an argument that the CIA is not the only ones worthy of the blame.

Student #3

The Torture Memos The general conclusion that I inferred from reading the article is that there is a problem in the way off shore interrogations, and “torture” happen, and the OLC lawyers are a direct cause of this. The author’s first argument to support this claim is that whenever an interrogation abuse or torture takes place, it is only the interrogator who gets in trouble, never the overseeing officials who ok the behavior. Attorney General Eric Holder specifically stated that he would only punish the interrogators, not the Lawyers or cabinet officials who authorized specific techniques used by the CIA. The authors point is that without accountability being held to the highest in rank, who runs the process, no change will ever happen to the process. It’s similar to killing a plant by clipping its leaves, it will still grow as long as it has roots. The authors second argument is that the “OLC lawyers contorted the law to authorize precisely what it was designed to forbid” (torture memos, part 1). He says specifically that the OLC twisted the laws to say that nothing is considered torture unless it can cause prolonged mental harm, or a pain associated with severe organ failure or death. The author states that it is almost impossible for any doctor to tell if an event will cause simply temporary or prolonged mental harm right on the spot. The author has a sub argument to go along with this corruption of laws. It states that the reference doctors and officials were using in order to see how “harmful” torture techniques are is the SERE test. SERE is the program that American soldiers and CIA agents willing subject themselves into, and there is a code word to get out at any time. This program, although may have some of the same torture techniques, makes for a completely different mental aspect of fear (controlled versus uncontrolled). The author’s third argument is that the OLC Lawyers were acting out of their duties in how they judged and assessed what is considered torture and terrorism. He specifically states that in order for the treaties made in the Geneva Convention to work, people with the power in the position of the OLC must be willing to say no, when asked if it is permissible to subject humans to the brutality that the CIA did. The author states that “They [OLC lawyers] treated the law against torture not as a universal moral prohibition, but as an inconvenient obstacle to be evaded by any means necessary.”(Torture Memos, part 2). His point is that the Office of Legal Counsel, the OLC, is supposed to act as a “constitutional conscience of the justice department” (Torture Memos, part 2), but instead they were acting as “hired guns”; they were acting as a private lawyer with a client would act, taking that clients side. His point is that they were treating the CIA as their client, when the duty of these Lawyers is to act as moderators to enforce anti-torture laws without giving special privilege to any one person or organization. The author has a sub argument to this saying how if the OLC did however say no to one of the CIA torture policies, they most likely would have received pressure from Dick Cheney’s office to “change their views”. The author states how if the OLC would have stayed firm, there would be nothing the president’s office could do, and that would have been the end to the “experiment in torture.” (Personally I believe that it would be hard for any counsel to stand strong and firm on an issue if the president’s office strongly suggested your viewpoint needed to change.)