Why We Need to Indict on Torture

botero-woman-for-web-029I’m digging around in the Torture Memos and came across this Senate Armed Services Committee report from last December. Here’s  a quote from the introductory summation:

“The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of a ‘few bad apples’ acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strenthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.”—U.S. Senate Armed Services Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody (released December 11, 2008)

I’ve been going back and forth about whether it’s better to pursue criminal charges against government officials who were involved in the U.S. Torture Scandal.

On the one hand, you want to hold people accountable – especially when the results are so inhuman and heinous. On the other hand, the temptation toward political payback could undermine any legitimate pursuit for justice.

Then I remembered that the population roundups, concentration camps, and killing chambers were all perfectly legal in Germany in 1933-1945 and that one thing that came out of the trial of Secretary of Jewish Affairs Adolf Eichmann was that a psychiatrist examined him and found him perfectly sane (see A Devout Meditation in Memory of Adolf Eichmann by Thomas Merton).

In the end, I think U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder needs to appoint an independent prosecutor to pursue indictments against the following:

1. George W. Bush for requesting in writing legal determinations for evading the Geneva Conventions

2. Department of Defense Counsel William J. Haynes II for requesting in writing that abusive tactics “similar to those used by our enemies” should be considered for us against detainees in US custody.

3. Counsel to the President Alberto Gonzalez and Counsel to the Vice President David Addington for rendering legal interpetations to distort the meaning of existing anti-torture laws.

4. Major General Michael Dunlavey who authorized use of torture techniques at Guantanamo Bay.

5. Judge Advocate Colonel Diane Beaver for providing sub-par legal renderings to justify torture at Guantanamo.

6. Major General Geoffrey Miller, Dunlavey’s successor at Guantanamo, that ignored warnings from the DOD and FBI that the torture techniques he was endorsing were unlawful and counter-productive and who encouraged more aggressive interrogation techniques be used in Iraq.

7. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers and his legal counsel Jane Dalton for cutting short the legal and policy review process of interrogation procedures at Guantanamo.

8. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for the authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques at Guantanamo.

9. Department of Justice legal counsel John Yoo for rendering legal interpretations intentionally crafted to distort the meaning of existing anti-torture laws.

10. Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez for approving torture policies–including the use of dogs, stress positions, and environmental stimuli–at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

11. Department of Justice legal counsel Jay S. Bybee for providing sub-par legal rationale for using torture to extract information from al Qaeda operatives.

12. Acting Assistant Attorney General Steven Bradbury for providing sub-par legal rationale for using torture to extract information from al Qaeda operatives.

13. Number 13 is Vice President Richard Cheney.

When asked last December by Jonathan Karl on ABC news “Did you authorize the tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?”

Vice President Cheney answered: “I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn’t do. And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it.”

E-mail Attorney General Holder at [email protected] or here.

Waxing the Waterboard?

There’s an important conversation happening now at the tail end of the Bush-Cheney administration about whether or not to prosecute President Bush and Vice President Cheney on criminal charges for illegal acts they committed during their administration.

Abu Ghraib series by Fernando Botero
Abu Ghraib series by Fernando Botero

Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York has urged Attorney General Michael Mukasey to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and other senior Bush administration officials for violations of the law relating to the torture of prisoners in US custody. Nadler is the chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Read his letter to the Attorney General here.

Over at JosephRoss.net, my compatriot Joe is raising similar questions. He writes:

George W. Bush is a president who approved torture, allowed the CIA to fly prisoners to other countries for torture, who repeatedly stated that the U.S. does not torture and then it was proven that we do. We just didn’t call it that. As long as it’s called “enhanced interrogation techniques” and “stress positions” it’s alright and legal. This is also a president whose vice-president, just last week, admitted that he approved of “waterboarding” which is against the law. Recall that the U.S. has actually prosecuted other countries for “waterboarding.” Now we’re suddenly not sure it’s torture?

We have  all been looking on as our president romantically remembers all the good times he had as president. He is photographed looking reflectively out windows, goes on talk shows describing what he will miss, gives interviews like an entertainer whose concert tour has come to an end. This politeness ought to be more than Americans will tolerate.

I’m certain the last thing the Obama Administration wants is to investigate a former U.S. president and perhaps find him or others in the Bush Administration guilty of breaking both U.S. law and international law. Yet, what is to stop a future U.S. president from doing equally immoral and illegal acts if we do not hold the present one accountable?

Read the whole post here.

There’s always an argument made to “let by-gones be by-gones” at the end of a presidency. The incoming administration doesn’t want the next one to turn around and investigate them! Understandable, but WRONG when it comes to preserving the Constitution and now allowing laws to be broken with impunity.

“This shocking admission by Vice President [Cheney that he was aware of the waterboarding program and “helped get the process cleared”] demands at a minimum a federal investigation and,” Congressman Nadler says, “if necessary, the pursuit of criminal charges. No one is above the law and, if the Vice President admits he broke the law, then he must be held responsible.”

In one of the first acts of the 111th Congress, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers proposed legislation to create a blue-ribbon panel of outside experts – National Commission on Presidential War Powers and Civil Liberties- to probe the “broad range” of policies pursued by the Bush administration “under claims of unreviewable war powers,” including torture of detainees and warrantless wiretaps.

Lest any of think that “warrantless wiretaps” only happen to “other people,” I suggest reading the story Spying on Pacifists, Environmentalists, and Nuns (LA Times, December 7, 2008) about the Maryland State Police sending undercover agents to infiltrate the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance and Marylanders Against the Death Penalty. It’s a prime example of how “them” is now “us.”