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April 20, 2009

A Light At The End Of The Torture Tunnel

By: John Caruso

Are you upset that Obama doesn't think he needs to prosecute torturers?  So is this guy:

President Barack Obama's decision not to prosecute CIA interrogators who used waterboarding on terrorism suspects amounts to a breach of international law, the U.N. rapporteur on torture said.

"The United States, like all other states that are part of the U.N. convention against torture, is committed to conducting criminal investigations of torture and to bringing all persons against whom there is sound evidence to court," U.N. special rapporteur Manfred Nowak told the Austrian daily Der Standard.

Yeah, well, every Joe Schmoe rapporteur on torture's got an opinion.  But we should all just relax, because some people may actually end up in jail as a result of their involvement with torture!

Torture case lawyers may face jail for letter

A former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who accused a Bay Area company of flying him to foreign torture chambers for the CIA is at the center of a bizarre new case, in which his lawyers face possible jail sentences for writing a letter that asked President Obama to disclose how brutally he was treated.

The government says the letter falsely accused a Pentagon review team of censoring details of the alleged torture of Binyam Mohamed from a document the attorneys wanted to send to Obama. The lawyers stand by their accusations but have been summoned to Washington, D.C., by a federal judge for a hearing next month on whether they should be held in contempt of court, punishable by up to six months in jail.

No word yet from Attorney General Eric "you should never put bananas in the refrigerator" Holder on whether or not the government would provide legal representation to Mohamed's lawyers, at no cost to them, in any state or federal judicial or administrative proceeding brought against them based on torture-related conduct and would take measures to respond to any proceeding initiated against them in any international or foreign tribunal, including appointing counsel to act on their behalf and asserting any available immunities and other defenses in the proceeding itself.  Nor whether, to the extent permissible under federal law, the government will also indemnify them for any monetary judgment or penalty ultimately imposed against them for such conduct and will provide representation in congressional investigations.  But I'm sure it's just a matter of time.

(More hijinks with Eric "any way you want to eat them, it's impossible to beat them" Holder here and here.)

— John Caruso

Posted at April 20, 2009 12:59 PM

The Kafkaesque persecution of Clive Stafford Smith and a Reprieve colleague has now been blogged twice on ATR, but it's worth repeating, as the link John provides is to my knowledge the first coverage in a U.S. newspaper.

Something that I didn't know when I wrote my post, but has come out since to reinforce the creepiness of the story: the members of the Pentagon review team are secret (H/t Scott Horton, who is seeking to discover the shadowy tribunal's members and determine what, if any, expertise and credentials they have).

Posted by: Nell at April 20, 2009 05:10 PM

Paybacks, ain't they a bitch? Think the torturers won't fight back?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 20, 2009 06:19 PM

I'm not worried about it. I just moved into a cabin in the woods, with no electricity. So no refrigerator. So bananas in the fridge is a non-issue. So I don't care.

Posted by: roy belmont at April 20, 2009 08:03 PM

Our Kampf is great: hold that line! From whichever string universe it emerges!

Posted by: Woodyeofalb at April 20, 2009 08:14 PM

”In 2003, an Organization of American States report showed that Chiquita's subsidiary in Colombia, Banadex, had helped divert weapons and ammunition, including thousands of AK-47s, from Nicaraguan government stocks to the AUC. The AUC – very often in collaboration with units of the U.S.-trained Armed Forces - is responsible for hundreds of massacres of primarily peasants throughout the Colombian countryside, including in the banana-growing region of Urabá, where it is believed that at least 4,000 people were killed. Their systematic use of violence resulted in the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of poor Colombians, a disproportionate amount of those people being black or indigenous. In 2004, Holder helped negotiate an agreement with the Justice Department for Chiquita that involved the fruit company's payment of "protection money" to the AUC, in direct violation of U.S. laws prohibiting this kind of transaction. In the agreement brokered by Holder, Chiquita officials pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a fine of $25 million, to be paid over a 5-year period. However, not one Chiquita official involved in the illegal transactions was forced to serve time for a crime that others have paid dearly for, mainly because they did not have the kind of legal backing that Holder's team provided. Holder continues to represent Chiquita in the civil action, which grew out of this criminal case.”

Posted by: Rob Payne at April 21, 2009 12:20 AM

Call Nancy (1-202-225-0100) Pelosi about it because that always works.

Posted by: AlanSmithee at April 21, 2009 02:18 PM

Pressure Grows to Investigate Interrogations

Advisers diverged, with some like Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. favoring the release of more information and others like Leon E. Panetta, the new C.I.A. director, urging that more be withheld. Aides said Mr. Obama worried about damaging morale at the C.I.A. and his own relationship with the agency.

So there's that, at least.

Posted by: SteveB at April 22, 2009 09:19 AM

Mr. Obama worried about damaging morale at the C.I.A.

Frankly, I'd like to see morale at CIA go a whole lot lower.

Posted by: NomadUK at April 22, 2009 09:57 AM

One idea completely unexplored in the NY Times story above is the possibility that there might have been people at the CIA who actually opposed torture. I know there was some strong resistance within the military to torture, both because at least some people within the military take the Geneva conventions seriously, and because some consider it a breach of their professional code of conduct. Isn't it possible that at least a few people in the CIA felt the same way? If so, the question is not "Should Obama support employees of the CIA?" but "Which employees of the CIA should Obama support?"

Posted by: SteveB at April 22, 2009 12:58 PM

The torturers tortured and the shit hit the fan, go figure. NOW everybody is Vinnie Barbarino, Sargent Schultz, or "it wuddn't me".

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 22, 2009 06:37 PM

The torturers tortured and the shit hit the fan, go figure. NOW everybody is Vinnie Barbarino, Sargent Schultz, or "it wuddn't me".

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 22, 2009 06:37 PM

Troll takes two minutes to type something stupid, our host takes two seconds to delete it.

I like them odds.

Posted by: SteveB at April 22, 2009 09:35 PM