Friday, March 14, 2014

The torture crimes aren't going away

They aren't. The implications are just too big. There has to be a real legal reckoning for them.

I continue to think President Obama's decision to give the torture perpetrators of the Cheney-Bush Administration a free pass on those crimes is the most fundamental failing of this Administration. And that was done in defiance of his own very serious obligations under the 1984 Convention against Torture, which the US signed and the Senate approved as an international treaty obligation. It includes these provisions:

(iv) Each State party shall, on certain conditions, take a person suspected of the offence of torture into custody and make a preliminary inquiry into the facts (article 6);
(v) Each State party shall either extradite a person suspected of the offence of torture or submit the case to its own authorities for prosecution (article 7);
(vi) Each State party shall ensure that its authorities make investigations when there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed (article 12)
Charlie Pierce writes today about one of the many continuing problems the torture crimes and Obama's shameful failure to prosecute them are creating (Obama, the CIA, and the Limits Conciliation Esquire Politics Blog 03/14/2014):

It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that, in one very important way, the president has lost control of his own government. The current constitutional crisis between the CIA and the Senate committee tasked with investigating its policies regarding torture during the previous administration has only one real solution that is consonant with the rule of law. Either CIA director John Brennan gets to the bottom of what his people were doing and publicly fires everyone involved, or John Brennan becomes the ex-director of the CIA. By the Constitution, this isn't even a hard call. The Senate has every legal right to investigate what was done in the name of the American people during the previous decade. It has every legal right to every scrap of information relating to its investigation, and the CIA has an affirmative legal obligation to cooperate. Period. The only way this is not true is if we come to accept the intelligence apparatus as an extra-legal, formal fourth branch of the government.
He may be right when he says, "The Senate investigation is really the last chance for even the ghost of a full accounting," if we put emphasis on the full.

But the torture crimes aren't going away. Both the practical and moral implications are just far too severe and wide-ranging for there not to be a real accounting, even if it's another decade or more in coming.

Obama is still President for nearly three years. And he's just as legally obligated to prosecute these crimes today as he was on the day he took the oath of office the first time. He still needs to do the right thing.

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