Tuesday, August 25, 2009

IG memos and prosecutions: analysis

It took about 30 minutes after I wrote that last post for me to rethink my position on the proposed prosecutions by the Attorney General. Or at least to have mixed feelings about it. The complaint many people have about these prosecutions is that going after low-level people will help the government wipe its hands of the issue without ever getting to the root of the matter and what started it in the first place. I can appreciate that.

On the other hand, it makes sense for the AG to prosecute people who went beyond the scope of what the Bush administration countenanced as legal interrogation techniques because that was plainly illegal even by those very relaxed standards. And that seems like an important step to me. Even that is getting complaints from people. At some point the law has to kick in, even for low-level people, surely. [addendum: Finally clearer in thoughts about this thanks to Andrew Sullivan who wrote, "If it is the end and not the beginning of accountability, it will be worse than nothing. But it need not be the end of the story." That's what I was trying to get at.]

Meanwhile, apparently I spoke too soon when I said I was happy the U.S. would be following the Army Field Manual. According to bmaz at EmptyWheel, "The Army Field Manual is not a panacea to solve the torture problems that were indoctrinated into the military and intelligence conduct of the United States by the Bush/Cheney Administration, it is a tool for continuing and codifying much of the worst conduct, especially via the egregious "Appendix M"."

What is Appendix M? The Center for Constitutional Rights reports that
Appendix M of the Army Field Manual - a new section introduced in 2006, applicable only to "unlawful combatants," the category applied to detainees in Guantanamo, at secret CIA prisons, and elsewhere - allows the use of techniques such as prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and inducing fear and humiliation of prisoners.

It goes on and on and on, doesn't it? What an awful tangled mess. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. God bless all those who are trying to clean it up.

(The link to the CCR, above, includes a spot for you to send an email asking President Obama to close the loopholes in the AFM, if you wish to send it.)

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