I know there are those who are tired of the subject of torture and the prosecution of those who either committed, authorized, or provided legal justification for these acts, but to my mind there is no more important topic.
It gets to the heart of what the United States of America stands for. Are we a country that abides by our own laws and international treaties which we signed and pledged to uphold, or do adherence to the law and treaty obligations cease in the aftermath of a terrorist attack and in the name of political expediency?
If we are the former and not the latter, then this should be unacceptable:
“An internal Justice Department inquiry has concluded that Bush administration lawyers committed serious lapses of judgment in writing secret memorandums authorizing brutal interrogations but that they should not be prosecuted, according to government officials briefed on its findings.
The findings, growing out of an inquiry that started in 2004, would represent a stinging rebuke of the lawyers and their legal arguments.
But they would stop short of the criminal referral sought by some human rights advocates, who have suggested that the lawyers could be prosecuted as part of a criminal conspiracy to violate the anti-torture statute.”
U.S. Code, Title 18,2340A says:
(a) Offense.— Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
b) Jurisdiction.— There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if—
(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.
(c) Conspiracy.— A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.
Article 4 of the U.N, Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment signed by President Reagan in 1988 clearly states:
“Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.”
Article 2 of the same document:
“No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
So I’ll ask again, are we a country where the rule of law prevails or not? Is the United States a country that can be trusted to keep it’s word or not? To me the answer is clear.