Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Prosecution Rests Indefinitely.

President Obama acknowledged yesterday that lawyers from the Bush Administration who drafted memos authorising the use of harsh interrogation methods on terror suspects could potentially face prosecution.
They won't, for three reasons:

  • Obama is smart enough to realise that prosecuting people for causing discomfort to terrorists who have murdered thousands of US citizens would not be a popular move outside of his base. This is doubly true if the interrogation methods actually worked.
  • The whole point about the memos is that they were trying to clarify what was legal and what was not, there is no fixed definition of 'torture' and it is not obvious that the likes of water boarding come into that category*. No court is going to convict someone for making a judgment call on the issue.
  • The precedent it would create would be damaging for any US administration, as future White House advisers would be preoccupied with avoiding any possibility to the exclusion of giving the best advice possible.
* I realise that might be controversial, but water boarding causes no serious physical harm and the subject recovers within a few minutes of the process ending, so the argument for it being torture comes down to the fact it induces panic. If that is sufficient to classify something as torture then a lot of other methods of scaring interview subjects would then be classified as torture. It may well be torture and thus illegal but it is not so clear that someone who came to a different conclusion could be prosecuted in any legal system predicated upon the idea of that people can only be punished for breaking rules that are known in advance.

1 comment:

alison said...

Waterboarding is only torture in the parallel eunuchverse.