[News] U.S. torture on trial

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Feb 22 11:54:44 EST 2007

U.S. torture on trial


By <mailto:feedback at bangordailynews.net>BDN Staff
Thursday, February 22, 2007 - Bangor Daily News

European authorities are proving more determined than the Bush 
administration in cracking down on torture as a wartime intelligence 
device. While the U.S. Justice Department has mostly prosecuted 
enlisted men and women for torturing prisoners, European judges have 
now indicted several dozen CIA operatives on charges of kidnapping 
suspected terrorists and flying them to secret prisons for 
interrogation said often to involve torture.

An Italian judge indicted 26 Americans last Friday, most of them CIA 
officers, heading toward the first trial of what the Bush 
administration calls "extraordinary rendition" and critics call 
outsourcing torture. Last month, German prosecutors issued arrest 
warrants for 13 suspected CIA agents in connection with the alleged 
abduction and torture of a Lebanese-born German citizen.

A parliamentary committee of the European Union has reported at least 
1,245 CIA flights in Europe, some of them carrying kidnapped 
suspects. The committee suggested either active collusion or tacit 
approval of the flights by several European governments.

Several hurdles must be crossed before the cases come to trial. The 
accused Americans, indicted under fictitious names, have left the 
countries, so Italy and Germany would have to approve the indictments 
and request extradition. The United States would have to agree.

The indictments and arrest warrants focus world scrutiny not only on 
the rendition program but, more broadly, on the U.S. use of such 
interrogation aids as "waterboarding," in which a suspect is made to 
feel that he or she is drowning.

President Bush has said repeatedly that this country does not engage 
in torture, but he has declared the right to interpret a statute 
prohibiting torture.

The United Nations Convention Against Torture, which the Senate 
accepted as U.S. law in 1994, says that "no exceptional circumstances 
whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal 
political instability or any other public emergency may be invoked as 
a justification for torture." Leading U.S. military officers deny 
that torture is effective in extracting useful information, since the 
victims typically will say anything to end their ordeal.

Nonetheless, the idea persists, in some official thinking and among 
the American public, that torture is sometimes justified.

An article in the current New Yorker reports that leading 
administration figures are fans of "24," a popular current Fox 
channel counterterrorism thriller that routinely presents torture as 
justified and practical as a last resort when a fictional city is 
about to be destroyed or a high official assassinated.

Meanwhile, the real U.S. government continues to find ways to get 
around the legal prohibitions and their own pledges to eschew torture.

European outrage and prosecution, with the disclosure of details of 
the secret kidnappings and torture camps, may help persuade the 
American government and its people to turn their backs on torture 
once and for all.

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