As Slate’s Convictions blog puts it:
If you want evidence of how the law was badly twisted and misused in the Bush Justice Department, you need look no further than here.
Much later, Dahlia Lithwick calls it like it is in Yoo Talkin’ to Me?
In his book The Terror Presidency, my friend Jack Goldsmith—who prescribes some fixes for the legal war on terror elsewhere in Slate today [Ed. note: including a perpetuation of the dangerous and nonsensical argument the President and his administration have been giving in favor of telecom immunity]—depicts the paralyzing effect of something called “lawfare.” Lawfare was described by Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Dunlap as “the strategy of using or misusing law as a substitute for traditional military means to achieve an operational objective.” Ordinary acts of foreign policy become bogged down in a maze of after-the-fact legal consequences. Donald Rumsfeld saw this form of warfare as a limit on American military authority. He was determined to find a solution to what he called “the judicialization of international politics.”
[...] But that choice also assumes lawyers engaged in sober reflection, and that may be assuming too much. Indeed, if anything, Goldsmith and others may have understated the dangers of “lawfare”—if the lawyers tasked with working around the web of international laws begin from the premise that laws are just obstacles. As we are beginning to learn, the growing tendency to conduct wars in the courtroom hasn’t actually constrained anyone at all over the past seven years. The expanded role of all these laws and lawyers in the war on terror has had the opposite effect: The Bush administration has proven time and again that the Rule of Law is only as definitive as its most inventive lawyers.
In short, the Bush solution to the paralysis of lawfare seems to be to hire lawyers who don’t believe in the law.
[...] A lot of folks are inclined to write off the news of the torture memo today because: (i) we already knew this; (ii) it’s no longer the law; and (iii) David Addington won’t be allowed to listen in on their phone calls in seven months. I respectfully dissent. We should be thinking long and hard about how this memo came to be our interrogation policy, even for a few months. Now is the time to question the wisdom of trusting the policing of the boundaries in the war on terror to a swarm of anonymous midlevel lawyers whose minds may just be too open for our own good. We need to get away from the wrongheaded notion that a war on terror is the same thing as a war against the law.
Some legal experts and advocates said Wednesday that the document, written the month that the United States invaded Iraq, adds to evidence that the abuse of prisoners in military custody may have involved signals from higher officials and not just irresponsible actions by low-level personnel.