Monday, August 24, 2009

Torture in the news

Today is the feast of St. Bartholomew who, according to legend, was flayed alive. Of course we don't really know what happened to St. Bartholomew, one of Jesus' apostles. But it seems appropriate that on his feast day we do learn a bit more about what our country has done in the name of self-defense. Whether you call the methods Enhanced Interrogation Techniques or torture, two items have emerged today related to our treatment of prisoners over the past number of years:

The first is that a 2004 report from the Inspector General of the CIA has been released.

And the second is that the Attorney General "has named a veteran federal prosecutor to examine nearly a dozen prisoner abuse cases in which detainees were held by the Central Intelligence Agency."

Marcy Wheeler at EmptyWheel is examining the documents in a first run-through and thinks the prosecution is a whitewash, saying the prosecutor selected, John Durham, "doesn't necessarily have the stature to go after--say--Jim Haynes and John Rizzo for setting up the torture regime."

Regarding the prosecutions/prosecutor, I don't know enough to say, but I do think this is a step or two in the right direction. That and the Obama Administration announcing that "all U.S. interrogators will follow the rules for detainees laid out by the Army Field Manual." Imagine! Following our own laws! I am, however, unhappy to see we will continue to use Extraordinary Rendition as long as those other countries promise--really, truly promise--not to torture people.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture has an online letter-writing campaign asking the AG to "undertake a comprehensive investigation that will prove that no one in this nation is above the law." I suspect that horse has left the barn, but there you are.

Regarding the documents, I'll be interested to see what the fallout and analysis is over the next couple of days. I'll keep you posted if I find anything I think is particularly interesting or insightful.

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