Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

The US under G W Bush and 'torture'

There is a fascinating critical analysis here (by Philip Carter at Slate) of the policies relating to persons held under the control of the 'tender mercies' of the current President of the United States of Amercia, George W Bush. I think that in the years and decades following the departure of President Bush from office the American people will have a lot of soul-searching to do for the 'crimes' committed in their name by their President. Particularly facinating is the link to an Executive Order signed by President Bush on 20th July 2007; I quote it in full because I predict that this document will be of crucual importance in years to come when this period of America's history is being evaluated by future historians:



Executive Order: Interpretation of the Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 as Applied to a Program of Detention and Interrogation Operated by the Central Intelligence Agency

By the authority vested in me as President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107 40), the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (Public Law 109 366), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. General Determinations. (a) The United States is engaged in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces. Members of al Qaeda were responsible for the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, and for many other terrorist attacks, including against the United States, its personnel, and its allies throughout the world. These forces continue to fight the United States and its allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, and they continue to plan additional acts of terror throughout the world. On February 7, 2002, I determined for the United States that members of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces are unlawful enemy combatants who are not entitled to the protections that the Third Geneva Convention provides to prisoners of war. I hereby reaffirm that determination.

(b) The Military Commissions Act defines certain prohibitions of Common Article 3 for United States law, and it reaffirms and reinforces the authority of the President to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions.

Sec. 2. Definitions. As used in this order:

(a) "Common Article 3" means Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

(b) "Geneva Conventions" means:

(i) the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, done at Geneva August 12, 1949 (6 UST 3114);

(ii) the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea, done at Geneva August 12, 1949 (6 UST 3217);

(iii) the Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, done at Geneva August 12, 1949 (6 UST 3316); and

(iv) the Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, done at Geneva August 12, 1949 (6 UST 3516).

(c) "Cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" means the cruel, unusual, and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

Sec. 3. Compliance of a Central Intelligence Agency Detention and Interrogation Program with Common Article 3. (a) Pursuant to the authority of the President under the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including the Military Commissions Act of 2006, this order interprets the meaning and application of the text of Common Article 3 with respect to certain detentions and interrogations, and shall be treated as authoritative for all purposes as a matter of United States law, including satisfaction of the international obligations of the United States. I hereby determine that Common Article 3 shall apply to a program of detention and interrogation operated by the Central Intelligence Agency as set forth in this section. The requirements set forth in this section shall be applied with respect to detainees in such program without adverse distinction as to their race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth, or wealth.

(b) I hereby determine that a program of detention and interrogation approved by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency fully complies with the obligations of the United States under Common Article 3, provided that:

(i) the conditions of confinement and interrogation practices of the program do not include:

(A) torture, as defined in section 2340 of title 18, United States Code;

(B) any of the acts prohibited by section 2441(d) of title 18, United States Code, including murder, torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, mutilation or maiming, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, rape, sexual assault or abuse, taking of hostages, or performing of biological experiments;

(C) other acts of violence serious enough to be considered comparable to murder, torture, mutilation, and cruel or inhuman treatment, as defined in section 2441(d) of title 18, United States Code;

(D) any other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment prohibited by the Military Commissions Act (subsection 6(c) of Public Law 109 366) and the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (section 1003 of Public Law 109 148 and section 1403 of Public Law 109 163);

(E) willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual in a manner so serious that any reasonable person, considering the circumstances, would deem the acts to be beyond the bounds of human decency, such as sexual or sexually indecent acts undertaken for the purpose of humiliation, forcing the individual to perform sexual acts or to pose sexually, threatening the individual with sexual mutilation, or using the individual as a human shield; or

(F) acts intended to denigrate the religion, religious practices, or religious objects of the individual;

(ii) the conditions of confinement and interrogation practices are to be used with an alien detainee who is determined by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency:

(A) to be a member or part of or supporting al Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated organizations; and

(B) likely to be in possession of information that:

(1) could assist in detecting, mitigating, or preventing terrorist attacks, such as attacks within the United States or against its Armed Forces or other personnel, citizens, or facilities, or against allies or other countries cooperating in the war on terror with the United States, or their armed forces or other personnel, citizens, or facilities; or

(2) could assist in locating the senior leadership of al Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces;

(iii) the interrogation practices are determined by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, based upon professional advice, to be safe for use with each detainee with whom they are used; and

(iv) detainees in the program receive the basic necessities of life, including adequate food and water, shelter from the elements, necessary clothing, protection from extremes of heat and cold, and essential medical care.

(c) The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency shall issue written policies to govern the program, including guidelines for Central Intelligence Agency personnel that implement paragraphs (i)(C), (E), and (F) of subsection 3(b) of this order, and including requirements to ensure:

(i) safe and professional operation of the program;

(ii) the development of an approved plan of interrogation tailored for each detainee in the program to be interrogated, consistent with subsection 3(b)(iv) of this order;

(iii) appropriate training for interrogators and all personnel operating the program;

(iv) effective monitoring of the program, including with respect to medical matters, to ensure the safety of those in the program; and

(v) compliance with applicable law and this order.

Sec. 4. Assignment of Function. With respect to the program addressed in this order, the function of the President under section 6(c)(3) of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 is assigned to the Director of National Intelligence.

Sec. 5. General Provisions. (a) Subject to subsection (b) of this section, this order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity, against the United States, its departments, agencies, or other entities, its officers or employees, or any other person.

(b) Nothing in this order shall be construed to prevent or limit reliance upon this order in a civil, criminal, or administrative proceeding, or otherwise, by the Central Intelligence Agency or by any individual acting on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency in connection with the program addressed in this order.

GEORGE W. BUSH

THE WHITE HOUSE,

July 20, 2007.

It's also instructive to read the comments at the foot of the Slate article; a lot of people (the 'base', in the terminology used to describe those who support the present Administration), seem to see nothing wrong in the use of torture - I've been reading comments in various US media websites and blogs for the past three or four years which, I regret to say, bear this out.

As the Slate article observes, exactly how one defines 'torture' is critical to how the latest Executive Order is interpreted. As Andrew Sullivan might say (this is where I got this story from), the 'money quote' from the Slate article is here:



"The order does its damage by cleverly incorporating reasoning of the 2002 and 2003 torture memoranda. It defines "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment as treatment that violates the 5th, 8th, and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, mirroring the language of the United States diplomatic reservation to the Convention Against Torture. This sounds reasonable on its face. But it eviscerates Geneva's prohibitions by equating them with a permissive line of Supreme Court jurisprudence. In the context of domestic cases about police and prison guard misconduct, the court has ruled that only behavior that "shocks the conscience" is out of bounds. This frees field agents to implement techniques that sound innocuous, but aren't—like "fear up" and "futility"—in ways that stop just short of violating the law. And because it doesn't repudiate the administration's stance that interrogators torture only when they cause severe pain or suffering, the order will fuel suspicion around the world about our practices. Most of Europe and Asia think we use torture in our detention facilities, and they still will. "

I've written about 'torture' often in this blog, but my most explicit post on the matter was written way back in March 2005. I'll undoubtedly write about it again and make no apology for 'banging on' about this serious stain on what western democracies are supposed to stand for. I doubt that President Bush will ever be called upon to answer personally for his crimes before the International Court of Justice at the Hague, but he should be. His attempt in this Executive Order to add yet another layer of legal obfuscation to mask what his Administration has been up to these past six or so years will not stop people coming back to study his actions. Indeed the very fact of issuing this Executive Order will only fuel, quite justifiably, increased scepticism about his conduct of the Office he has been entrusted with over his two terms as President.

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