ACLU calls on Att’y General to investigate Bush for Torturing

The American Civil Liberties Union is calling upon the Attorney General to look into prosecuting George W. Bush now that the latter has admitted to authorizing torture (i.e. waterboarding) at Guantanamo.

British officials have have denied Bush’s allegation that torture techniques yielded information that foiled terror plots in the UK.

Aljazeera English has a video report, which in part blames Alan Dershowitz for helping create an atmosphere in which the Bush administration could pursue this path:

Waterboarding is torture both in the US federal code and as recognized by decades of customary practice in the US.

Here is the US law on torture:

‘ (1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;

(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—

(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;

(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;

(C) the threat of imminent death; or

(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality…’

The framers of the law on torture clearly could just not imagine that US politicians would order it while they are still in this country:

‘ (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. ‘

If I were Bush, I wouldn’t vacation in Barcelona.

12 Responses

  1. “The framers of the law on torture clearly could just not imagine that US politicians would order it while they are still in this country”

    That’s a very charitable view. The other interpretation is that the framers of the law intended it only to apply to foreigners and that US nationals committing torture were protected.

  2. If I were Bush, I would probably have no difficulty in getting a promise of full protection and immunity from President Nicolas Sarkozy during a vacation on the Côte d’Azur.

  3. “If I were Bush, I wouldn’t vacation in Barcelona.”

    Shame on US (and us) that he can vacation in the US…. we have nobody else to blame

  4. Thanks for posting the statute. Makes it a smidge harder for USA to ignore the ACLU’s call. (BTW, is ACLU sponsoring a petition for this?).

    Doing torture is a “perk” for some government employees (or contract mercenaries). Most government “servants” are satisfied (as to “perks”) to make tons of money (as contractors or via the revolving door, usually) from mis-directing the USA, but some need the heady rush of adrenaline that comes from torturing others, the heady rush that many rapist seek. Human rights? USA is as unconcerned with H/R as anyone else, as any dictator, and merely mouths platitudes occasionally as a form of politesse or ‘political correctness’. Preventing terrorism? Come on! The USA practices terrorism and supports many regimes that do. And the USA’s military-industrial-Congressional-academia complex NEEDS terrorism (in the absence of any other “enemies’). Our wars and war-fighting techniques and practices are manufacturing enemies and terrorists on an industrial scale. IT IS FALSE that the USA seeks to reduce terrorism. The torture was for “kicks”, not part of a coordinated plan to protect Americans.

  5. Ah….. but in presenting “torture” as something objective, you’re forgeting the role of good lawyering, amongst other things:

    As Dubya said in big Matt’s intrepid interview, the lawyers were asked, and they said it was OK (that would be John Woo, mainly). Posed to a top lawyer, any such question can be rationalized by the application of sufficient intellectual footwork. Wish I could get the same sort of help before stealing your property, like Dubya and his buddies did to take the property to build the Texas Rangers stadium through eminent domain.

    Then there is the case where, paraphrasing Nixon (I suppose, it was in the film Frost/Nixon: maybe he didn’t say it): “when the President does it, it is by definition legal.”

    And then there are the matters of perception and the reality this is all political and quite beyond the normal standards you or I would ever be subject to. I’ll never forget Lindsey Graham, arguably one of the saner Republicans, “there we were on 9/12, a nation on its Knees!” So, it becomes OK because the nation was on the brink of oblivion fighting for its life. Reality TV nation. Or that was the mood that made it excusable.

    Or the ticking bomb scenario, where anything goes! We see it on TV all the time, so America, we know its true! Of course, in its history, the FBI has said it has never had such a scenario, nor has it ever encountered a case where gaining information through winning-over their target’s cooperation one way or the other wasn’t the better tact.

    No, Bush/our actions (all Americans are at some level complicit if they do not prosecute), are a reflection of a simple primal need to beat-up, hurt, and otherwise take our frustrations out on whomever we could get our hands on. Thing about those CIA tapes, if they still existed, would be that the answers I doubt were even listened to: I suspect much of what was going on was simply getting satisfaction. Just think of those guys you KNOW were sitting behind the one-way glass and running the cameras, with their creepy thin smiles and shallow rapid breathing.

    I’ve always wondered, and perhaps someone can tell me why, absent a preemptive pardon, the normal course of a citizens/state’s complaint shouldn’t set the wheels of justice rolling to determine culpability and establish we do indeed live by the rule of law? Politics shouldn’t be able to intrude until later, so why has this not happened?

  6. Bush can still be prosecuted even though he was in the United States when he authorised acts of torture. The acts of torture were committed in Guantánamo Bay, which is outside the United States for the purposes of the statute even if a US military base. As Bush planned with others for the torture outside the United States to occur and caused concrete steps to occur toward the commission of such torture, he participated in the criminal conspiracy and did, therefore, commit a felony.

    Of course, if the United States does not prosecute Bush, then Bush’s crimes become a matter for the International Criminal Court. Although the United States is not a party to the Rome Statute, the ICC is capable of indicting US citizens who commit crimes against humanity such as torture. In the event that Bush is indicted and he enters the jurisdiction of any nation that is a party to the Rome Statute, then that nation would be obligated to arrest him upon the issuance of an arrest warrant by the ICC. For this reason, Bush may well find himself protected from indictment in the US only by a statute of limitations and from trial overseas only by virtue of being a fugitive from justice.

  7. James Whitney: why would Bush seek refuge in France, the only country that actively tried to stop him and his ilk to commit mass murder?

    • Good question Al Louarn! I am sure that Bush has no love for France for the reasons you state, and I would say (as a citizen of France as well as of the U.S.), bravo to the French government for opposing Bush’s intent to start a war of agression against Iraq. But I am less sure that Chirac and Villepin (and even Juan Cole – Juan, can you clarify this?) were just as opposed to the invasion of Afghanistan, which I consider also an act of agression, unfortunately now escalated by the current laureate of the Nobel peace prize.

      My intention was to condemn Sarkozy’s support of everything Bush. Fortunately Sarko has reached a level of popularity equivalent to that of Bush in his most unpopular moments, as a result of Sarkozy’s domestic program. On the other hand, there has been essentially no debate in France (under the French constitution foreign and defense policy is the exlusive reserve of the executive branch – de facto it is now the same in the U.S. ?) of its current support of American military adventures in the Muslim world.

  8. I thought George Bush could not leave the country because of Spain. I know there was a flurry of protest in Canada about it when he went there. Can he travel out of the U.S. without threat of being arrested for war crimes?

  9. To get truth without torture isn’t all that difficult, but to force someone to substantiate lies, it becomes necessary.

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