Thursday, November 20, 2008

Going After Torturers

The AP reports The Associated Press: Obama advisers: No charges likely vs interrogators.

"Barack Obama's incoming administration is unlikely to bring criminal charges against government officials who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists during the George W. Bush presidency. Obama, who has criticized the use of torture, is being urged by some constitutional scholars and human rights groups to investigate possible war crimes by the Bush administration."

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said Bush administration officials would not face war crime charges.

I agree with an Andrew Sullivan reader that "What Obama needs to do is have a panel fully study and document what occurred--give it subpoena power, appoint eminently respected and nonpartisan figures to it, and issue strict orders to the intelligence community, the State Department, the Department of Defense to cooperate."

I also agree with this from the AP article:

"But Michael Ratner, a professor at Columbia Law School and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said prosecuting Bush officials is necessary to set future anti-torture policy. 'The only way to prevent this from happening again is to make sure that those who were responsible for the torture program pay the price for it,' Ratner said. 'I don't see how we regain our moral stature by allowing those who were intimately involved in the torture programs to simply walk off the stage and lead lives where they are not held accountable.'"

Jenny Egan has more at the ACLU blog, How Will the Imperial Presidency End?. "Which is why investigations are critical both to ferreting out wrongdoing and preventing such abuses in the future. This becomes trickier, however, if Bush issues a blanket pardon as he’s rumored to be contemplating. The pardon wouldn’t grant immunity to a specific class of people — like Carter’s blanket pardon to Vietnam draft-dodgers — but would be programmatic and would apply to a broad swath of people who participated in any activity related to the Bush administration’s torture and interrogation programs."

Suzanne Ito posted on the ACLU blog, “We Won’t Torture.” Trust us. about related torture issues, whether we deport people to places where they are likely to be tortured. "You may recall the plight of Sameh Khouzam: he fled Egypt in 1998 to avoid torture for being a Christian. Last summer, the U.S. government was ready to deport him back to Egypt, after assuring Khouzam that it received a "diplomatic assurance" from the Egyptian government that it would not torture him upon his return. So despite a federal court’s finding that he would likely be tortured back in Egypt, a deportation date was set. The ACLU stepped in on Khouzam’s behalf, and secured a stay of his deportation."

"The [Convention Against Torture] prohibits the U.S. from transferring a person "to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture." The United States signed CAT in 1988 and ratified the treaty in 1994. Despite this and our own domestic laws against torture, the U.S. has deported people based on diplomatic assurances from Syria, India, Egypt, Romania and Mexico. And those are just the ones we know about."

SCOTUSBlog writes in its Primer on Boumediene’s week of reckoning that not everything will wait for the Obama administration to start.

"Judges and lawyers, however, have schedules to meet, and cannot wait to see what President-elect Barack Obama will do once in the White House. So, starting Thursday, and in sequence, a Circuit Court panel will hold a crucial hearing on civilian courts’ powers in reviewing military detention decisions; a District judge will decide the first of the contested Guantanamo habeas cases — a reprise of the very same Boumediene case that went to the Supreme Court and returned; a Circuit Court panel will hear government pleas to keep any detainees from being transferred to the U.S.; a District judge will try to sort out the links and conflicts between habeas, claims of torture and war crimes evidence, and the Supreme Court will get its first look at the first major sequel to Boumediene — a test of the President’s power to detain an individual who was lawfully in the U.S., was seized inside this country, and is now being held indefinitely and without charges in a military jail in South Carolina."

They go into detail of the above in the article making them each understandable to a layman.


Karl said...

While I agree that the long term implications of simply ignoring the Bush administration's possible illeagal acts are not good, in the short term I doubt the country has the stomach for it. The democratic congress took no action when it came to power, why expect anything from a new president. There is something to be said for moving on. Certainly this will be better for the market and the economy than dwelling on skeltons from the past.

Howard said...

I think half the country would have the stomach for it :) I'm not happy the democratic congress ignored it, but with the administration still in power and stonewalling and the courts not backing them up, with a slim majority in the senate I assume they figured they didn't have the ability to actually succeed. I think they were wrong in that but whatever. Now they would have a much better chance.

I"m not sure I'm quite prepared to accept the South African solution (immunity if you admit the truth) but "moving on" at this point means they won and we did nothing.

I"m not sure if there any connection to the market, but I think our standing with the rest of the world would increase with admitting our mistakes of the last 8 years and that would improve our exports.