28 September 2006

Forget About Being Ashamed, Think of the Consequences: Torture is Soon to be the Law of the Land

Yesterday the US Senate voted 65 to 34 to enact legislation establishing military tribunals to try terror suspects, allowing "evidence" elicited by torture to be used against such prisoners, allowing prosecutors to withold evidence from defendants in such proceedings, and essentially suspending habeas corpus. (My understanding is that the legislation also essentially indemnifies those who carry out torture from prosecution under International Law.) This action followed by a day a vote in the US House of Representative that passed similar legislation 253 to 168. It is likely that the legislation will make it to the desk of the President before the end of the week. where he will sign it into law. Here are the reports from The New York Times [1] [2].

This is shameful - it is arguably unconstitutional and surely contrary to our obligations under International Law. However, let's put aside such inconvenient ethical and legal considerations. These votes come in the very same week as a supposedly vigorous debte over a leaked National Intelligence Estimate. That report made plain a consensus among the 16 US Government Intelligence Agencies that our behavior in Iraq has proven to be a boon to the recruiting efforts of terrorist groups. That is hardly shocking news. But let's make a plausible inference. What is the probability that those same terrorist groups will, in the very same way, now use the fact that the US has legalized torture and tossed out central elements of the rule of law to recruit young enthuiasts? What can the folks in Congress possibly be thinking? And let's be clear that the Democrats essentially did nothing to prevent this legislation from passing!

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