Laws Broken but Obama Administration Refuses to ProsecuteToo divisive, but what about the laws? Dec 22 2014
The Senate Intelligence Committee's investigative report on the CIA during the Bush administration has brought forward the question of prosecution that the Obama administration has resolutely avoided. There is no question that the abuse of detainees as described was torture, and the artifice of legality concocted by the government was a sham.
The America Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch in particular say the failure to prosecute is an abrogation of American law. The ACLU's Senior Legislative Counsel, Chris Anders, says "This president is focused on running out the clock" and as for the report, "It is 500 pages of crime after crime after crime. Horrific crimes. Crimes where one male is literally tortured to death by being chained to a wall and left to die in freezing weather. These are crimes under the [international] anti-torture laws but these are also crimes under just federal law generally".
Colleague Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU says the Justice Department cannot ignore the detail of the report and should prosecute. "We put people in these tiny confinement boxes where they couldn't stand, couldn’t sit up straight, for many hours at a time, they were in stress positions, hanging from the ceiling…deprived of sleep for days at a time, and at the end of this process human beings just literally go crazy, they are broken people both physically and mentally, and if you're not going to describe this as torture, I don't know what could possibly rise to the level of torture".
The High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations said the report shows clear violations of international law. The United States is a signatory to the UN convention on torture signed in 1988 by Ronald Reagan whose signing statement said, "Ratification by the United States will clearly express the United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice still prevalent in the world today". The Torture Convention requires that a government not only refrain from torture but requires that it prosecute those committing torture. Obama has flouted the Convention.
Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, is 100% for prosecution. He had watched Bret Baier's Fox News interview of Cheney the day after the report's release in which Baier asked, "Did the ends justify the means?" "Absolutely", replied Cheney. Roth said the former Vice President has "the morals of terrorists".
As to who to prosecute, Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, suggests where the guilt lies:
"If somebody was told that the Attorney General of the United States had said that this was legal and that their boss had said that this was essential to the national security of the United States and they did not know better, that's a very different set of facts than somebody who was involved in trying to cover up the fact that the Office of Legal Counsel opinions were bogus and trying to suppress and order the destruction of other memos that countered them."
Aware that the Obama administration will do nothing, nor certainly will a Republican administration, the ACLU's Executive Director, Anthony Romero, made the unusual proposal that all participants from Cheney on down be preemptively pardoned in the manner of Richard Nixon. Thus would the United States of America at least be on record saying what they did was a crime. "Emblazon this big letter 'C' on their chests".
Roth says Obama told him early in his presidency that prosecution would be too divisive with representatives in Congress whose cooperation he sought to back his programs. Thus did politics and Obama's vaulting ambition trump the law.
We constantly calls ourselves "a nation of laws". We're not.
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