The downside of torture

Philippe Sands said on ‘Fresh Air’ that Judge Garzon attempted to prosecute a couple of people that the Bush administration had tortured and that the case collapsed because the evidence, being the product of torture, was not admissable in court. Sands said this is one reason Garzon has started a criminal investigation of some of Bush’s team: they (allegedly) not only violated international law, they also made it impossible for other courts to prosecute the objects of the torture.

He also discussed the irony of the fact that Chuckie Taylor was convicted in a US court for crimes he committed in Liberia; that was possible because the crimes he committed were violations of international law. States that have signed such laws have an obligation – not permission, but an obligation – to act on such violations when they have the ability to do so. He also said he was shocked that Jay Bybee still insists that waterboarding was legal; he says Bybee is a federal judge, and US federal courts are highly respected even outside the US, and the honourable thing for Bybee to do would be to admit that in the frantic atmosphere of the time he made a mistake.

In the frantic atmosphere of the time a lot of people neglected to ask necessary questions.

In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned. This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved – not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees – investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.

And the result is…they screwed up.

The top officials [Tenet] briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

Well that’s a distinguished legacy to be part of.

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