Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Shadow of Torture

The Obama team has published the notorious "torture memos". The author of the memos, James Bybee, remains obscenely remains a federal judge. Jeffrey Toobin:
Bybee is generally the forgotten man in torture studies of the Bush era. The best known of the legal architects of the torture regime is John Yoo, who was a deputy to Bybee. For better or worse, Yoo has been a vocal defender of the various torture policies, and he remains outspoken on these issues. But whatever happened to his boss?

Today, Bybee is a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He was confirmed by the Senate on March 13, 2003—some time before any of the “torture memos” became public. He has never answered questions about them, has never had to defend his conduct, has never endured anywhere near the amount of public scrutiny (and abuse) as Yoo. It is an understatement to say that he has kept a low profile since becoming a judge.

It would be nice to see an impeachment, though his appointment would sadly be upheld.

It appears Obama has reversed the Bush course on what is euphemistically called "tough interrogations". The big question now is whether there will be accountability for the abuses. Obama has shut the door on prosecuting low-level interrogators who acted in "good faith", while leaving a the door a crack open on prosecuting the Bushies. To me, the good faith defense is suspiciously close to the Nuremberg Defense (I'm pretty sure acting in "good faith" is code for doing what you were told to). It's also unclear whether the interrogators did in fact act in good faith. The memos specify one can be waterboarded 60 times a month (6 times a session, 2 sessions a day, sessions 5 days per month), yet Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in one month, and Khalid Sheikh Muhammed was waterboarded a whopping 183 times in one month. It would also seem that Obama's offer of immunity is against our legal obligation to prosecute torture.
I can understand why we've let accountability fall by the way side, but it's sad, nevertheless.

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