Has President Bush Admitted Another Impeachable Offense?
"WASHINGTON -- President Bush, calling on Congress to quickly authorize trials of suspected terrorists by military tribunals, acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that the Central Intelligence Agency has subjected dozens of detainees to "tough" interrogation at secret prisons abroad and said the remaining 14 have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to await trial."Tougher interrogation?
When does that become torture?
The story continues:
"To bolster his case, Bush offered unusually explicit details about how the interrogation of Zubaydah gave the CIA invaluable information about Al Qaeda, and how the tougher interrogation led to the capture of Mohammed and other operatives.So if you call torture "an alternative set of procedutres" is it not torture anymore?
"Were it not for this program," Bush said, "our intelligence community believes that Al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland."
Bush, calling the tactics "an alternative set of procedures" for interrogations, said the Justice Department had deemed them lawful. But the vast majority of information gleaned from detainees that he cited Wednesday appears to have come during a 29-month period in which Justice Department lawyers relied on a now-repudiated definition of "torture.""
Last year Jennifer Van Bergen wrote about secret detentions. She stated:
"Common Article 3 (CA3) of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which has been described as "'a convention within a convention' to provide a general formula covering respect for intrinsic human values that would always be in force, without regard to the characterization the parties to a conflict might give it," protects any detainee under any circumstances. The denial of its protections is therefore a grave breach of Geneva and a war crime under the United States' War Crimes Act of 1996.But how is this enforced in America?
CA3 prohibits taking hostages, and it prohibits outrages upon personal dignity, including humiliating and degrading treatment. It also prohibits the passing of sentences and carrying out of executions without a previous judgment by a regularly constituted court affording all judicial guarantees.
Additionally, transfer of any person who is not a prisoner of war out of occupied territory is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, as well as a war crime. Deportation is also a crime against humanity under the Nuremberg Charter.
Enforced disappearances are also barred by international law, as are arbitrary detentions. According to Article 7 of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1992, "no circumstances whatsoever" may justify enforced disappearances.
A U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared that U.S. detentions without status determinations constitute arbitrary detentions in violation of the Third Geneva Convention. The Parliamentary Assembly of the European Council resolved in 2003 that the detentions in Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and elsewhere were unlawful.
Column continues below ↓ International law also bars incommunicado detention, even when it does not constitute "disappearance." The Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations Law states that both disappearances and prolonged arbitrary detentions violate international law.
The Geneva Conventions provide that prisoners' whereabouts must be documented and made available to their family and governments, and that the International Committee of the Red Cross must have access to all detainees and places of detention -- except where prevented by military necessity, but even then, only under exceptional and temporary circumstances.
The Geneva Convention also prohibits holding prisoners in "close confinement." Holding detainees "in dark, sometimes underground cells," according to the Post, is clearly prohibited."
Here is the punchline:
"The 1996 War Crimes Act provides for severe criminal penalties for grave breaches of the Geneva and Hague Conventions, including Common Article 3."It is a federal crime to violate the War Crimes Act.:
"(a) Offense.— Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death."As has been noted elsewhere, in 2002, then Counselor Alberto Gonzales warned the President in a memo about the War Crimes Act:
"In a memo to President Bush dated January 25, 2002, then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales suggested that Bush find a way to avoid the rules of the Geneva Conventions as they relate to prisoners of war because that "substantially reduces the likelihood of prosecution under the War Crimes Act." A week later, Attorney General John Ashcroft sent a memo to the president also stressing that opting out of the Geneva treaty "would provide the highest assurance that no court would subsequently entertain charges that American military officers, intelligence officials, or law enforcement officials violated Geneva Convention rules relating to field conduct, detention conduct or interrogation of detainees." Ashcroft reminded Bush, "The War Crimes Act of 1996 makes violation of parts of the Geneva Convention a crime in the United States.""But the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the Geneva Conventions do apply to "enemy combatants."
As this news report relates:
"Since 2002, the administration has contended that the Geneva Conventions would be respected as a matter of policy but that they did not apply by law to terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or in U.S. military custody elsewhere. Administration officials have voiced concern that the conventions are too vague and could expose the military to second-guessing about appropriate treatment.So there is only one way out for this President and his Administration who have already twisted and bent the law on so many issues of civil liberties and Constitutional protections: to bend and change the law retroactively. As reported:
But the Supreme Court rejected that view in a 5 to 3 decision last month, ruling that a Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo Bay could not be tried by a special military commission established by the Bush administration. The court held that the commissions violate U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions."
"The Bush administration has drafted amendments to a war crimes law that would eliminate the risk of prosecution for political appointees, CIA officers and former military personnel for humiliating or degrading war prisoners, according to U.S. officials and a copy of the amendments.Have we had enough of this in America?
Officials say the amendments would alter a U.S. law passed in the mid-1990s that criminalized violations of the Geneva Conventions, a set of international treaties governing military conduct in wartime. The conventions generally bar the cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment of wartime prisoners without spelling out what all those terms mean.
The draft U.S. amendments to the War Crimes Act would narrow the scope of potential criminal prosecutions to 10 specific categories of illegal acts against detainees during a war, including torture, murder, rape and hostage-taking.
Left off the list would be what the Geneva Conventions refer to as "outrages upon [the] personal dignity" of a prisoner and deliberately humiliating acts -- such as the forced nakedness, use of dog leashes and wearing of women's underwear seen at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq -- that fall short of torture."
It is time for a new direction in this country.