Sunday, September 17, 2006

Redefining torture, or "The Constitution is just a piece of paper"

One of the threads of abominations done by the Bush administration is the use of torture by the American Government. In pursuit of the War On Terror we've had this extraordinary rendition program where "terror suspects" would be flown to secret prisons around the world and tortured. The torture was often outsourced to other countries.

Currently there's a legislative move for a U.S. law that "clarifies" the Geneva conventions. Supposedly common article three of the convention is unclear, according to the Bush Administration. Here is a video showing G.W. Bush explaining it

Their argument seems to be ... the U.S. believes common article three of the Geneva Convention is unclear, and that the U.S. is going to interpret that law. The questioner in that press conference has an interesting point, doesn't that leave the door open to other countries interpreting that article differently? I see this as an attempt by the Bush administration to undermine the Geneva Convention, by fracturing the interpretation and enforcement. And this strikes me as being so much like the Signing Statements which this same Bush administration has been issuing with almost every law they sign into effect.

A signing statement is a document a President can issue when signing a law describing how the law will be put into practice. It has been rarely used by previous Presidents, but in the Bush administration it is widely and routinely used. In some cases the effect of the signing statements is that basically they feel free to completely ignore the law they're signing. So if they're going to ignore the law, then why are they signing it? Why not veto it instead? In fact, the Bush administration has not issued any vetos in 6 years of holding office.

This practice seems to me to make a statement that the Bush Administration holds its views as paramount over the laws that have been passed by Congress. That it knows better than Congress. Or in the case above, that the Bush Administration knows better than the Geneva convention what the law should be.

This MoveOn.org advertisement says it very well ... they have a quote of President Nixon saying "When a President does it, it's not illegal":

Congress, the Geneva Conventions & Torture: Bush vs. McCain: Is more coverage, including John McCain standing to protect the Geneva Conventions.

Powell opposes Bush plan for harsh interrogations: Covers a letter and actions by Colin Powell taking a stand against the torture.

Bush admits CIA has secret prisons: He finally admitted to what the rest of us already knew. But he gives a very slanted view of the torture prisons. He doesn't discuss the extraordinary rendition. He doesn't discuss all the people who were captured, taken through rendition to torture prisons, and later determined to have been an accidental or mistaken capture.

Countdown's report on Bush's Constitutional issues: Keith Olbermann's analysis of this situation, along with a constitutional law expert. The argument is that there is a rush to legislation to change the law, because the Administration knows that they have been violating the law and they want the Congress to retroactively approve those violations of the law. Part of the context is a transfer of 14 detainees from the secret prison system to the one at Guantanamo Bay Cuba (GITMO). Once these prisoners reach GITMO the Red Cross will have access to them, and in the Red Cross interviews it's expected that news of the torture practices like waterboarding will come to light in official records, and the U.S. will be accused of violations of human rights laws and committing torture.

"The Constitution is just a piece of paper" - G.W. Bush: Is Keith Olbermann again talking with Jonathan Turley about the Bush Administration fondness for hiring leaders who want to go to the edge of the law, and beyond. In particular the issue is General Hayden who had been the head of the NSA and is now the Director of the CIA. While heading the NSA he oversaw the illegal warrantless wiretaps system.

Lou Dobbs Slams Bush On 'Signing Statements': A discussion of the signing statements and an assertion that George W. Bush is routinely violating the Constitution. It's largely a "line item veto" but the Supreme Court had previously ruled line item veto's were unconstitutional.

Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the 'War on Terror': Is an interview of two detainees subjected to the extraordinary rendition system.

Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights: Is a discussion of how the extraordinary rendition system was exposed. The airplanes in question are run by private contractors working for the CIA. But even though they're CIA flights the planes have to file flight plans, and flight plans are public knowledge which can be tracked by the public.

Bush/Torture related blog posts