Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another admission

Scott Horton on what the admission by Bush official Susan Crawford that a Guantanamo detainee, Mohammed al Qahtani, was tortured means:
This admission is important for several reasons. First, it is an acknowledgement of criminal conduct by the administration by one of its own team. Second, Crawford very properly abandons the absurd legalisms of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel which essentially boil down to “if the president authorizes it, that means it’s legal.” Third, she has apparently evaluated “torture” on the basis of the totality of the treatment meted out by interrogators and jailers to the prisoner, not by segmenting and evaluating each individual technique applied. That is what the law requires, and what the Justice Department studiously ignores, fully aware of the inevitable conclusion to which it would lead. It adds up to another admission of high crimes. The case for criminal accountability continues to build.
Five other opinions solicited by the NY Times that are worth a look, here. Here's part of Professor David Cole's view, one of those who does opine on what should be done in respect of the torturers:
It is not enough to drop criminal charges against the torture victims, as Ms. Crawford did. Indeed, if wrongdoers can be prosecuted without reliance on coerced evidence, they should be. Rather, we must hold the torturers accountable. To date, not a single high-level military or administration official has been deemed responsible for the torture policy – even though it was specifically authorized by Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and many others in the highest levels of the Bush Cabinet and executive branch.

The Convention Against Torture not only prohibits torture under all circumstances, but obligates signatory nations – including the United States – to refer cases of torture for investigation for potential prosecution. Criminal prosecution of the top wrongdoers seems highly unlikely at this point, but the latest admission calls for, at a minimum, appointment of an independent counsel or the convening of a commission to fully investigate the facts and identify those responsible for the crimes that can no longer be denied.
It's hard to see at this point how they're going to be able to look the other way on this issue and the latter suggestion sounds like a reasonable place to start.