Will waterboarding by US government return?
Andrew Rosenthal has a good column in the NY Times:
Last September, Mitt Romney’s advisers were so determined to attack President Obama from every direction and to revive long-discredited neo-con theories about interrogation that they actually encouraged the candidate to come out strongly pro-torture in his presidential campaign.
In what The Times’ Charlie Savage describes as a “near-final draft” of a memo, Romney advisers denounced Mr. Obama’s executive order on interrogation (which instructed interrogators to hew to the Army Field Manual, i.e. to legal techniques). They also urged Mr. Romney to pledge that, upon taking office, he would rescind that order.
So far, Mr. Romney has had the good sense not to follow this recommendation–at least not to a T. But in December he said he supported “enhanced interrogation techniques which go beyond those that are in the military handbook right now.” And he has said more than once that he favors waterboarding, a so-called “enhanced interrogation technique” which the United States government considered torture until the Bush administration decided it was not.
In the memo, Mr. Romney’s advisers adopted the language of the Bush administration lawyers who first sanctioned torture. Perhaps that’s because Steven Bradbury, who ran the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in Mr. Bush’s second term, was on the committee that circulated the memo. Mr. Bradbury has claimed that C.I.A. techniques like waterboarding do not violate the anti-torture law, or the Geneva Conventions’ prohibition of “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.”
The campaign memo suggested that Mr. Romney should “commit his administration to authorizing (classified) enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees that are safe, legal and effective in generation intelligence to save American lives.”
Actually these techniques are unsafe, illegal and ineffective. . .
Of special note, from the Charlie Savage article mentioned above:
“Waterboarding is torture,” Mr. Obama said in November. “It’s contrary to America’s traditions. It’s contrary to our ideals. That’s not who we are. That’s not how we operate. We don’t need it in order to prosecute the war on terrorism. And we did the right thing by ending that practice. If we want to lead around the world, part of our leadership is setting a good example.”
This is quite strange to me: Obama states that waterboarding is torture, and the highest law of the land, the Convention Against Torture treaty, which the US signed by President Reagan on 18 April 1988 and ratified by the US Senate on 21 October 1994, The treaty includes:
Parties must promptly investigate any allegation of torture (Articles 12 and 13), and victims of torture must have an enforceable right to compensation (Article 14).
But Obama, in clear violation of the law, refuses to investigate and prosecute known instances of torture by the US. This is, to repeat, a violation of law. Yet nothing is done because the US is no longer a nation of law, in the strict sense. (Cf. Bradley Manning’s continued imprisonment without trial.)
Torture can readily be reinstituted because Obama has established that there are no penalties for torturing suspects, regardless of what the law states.