Monday, August 27, 2007

How confirmation become denial?

This may be a little old, but....
Top military lawyers have told senators that President Bush's new rules for CIA interrogations of suspected terrorists could allow abuses that violate the Geneva Conventions, according to Senate and military officials.

The Judge Advocates General of all branches of the military told the senators that a July 20 executive order establishing rules for the treatment of CIA prisoners appeared to be carefully worded to allow humiliating or degrading interrogation techniques when the interrogators' objective is to protect national security rather than to satisfy sadistic impulses.


...[T]he JAGs told the senators that a key part of the order opens the door to violations of the section of the Geneva Conventions that outlaws "cruel treatment and torture" and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment," officials familiar with the discussion said.

The JAGs cited language in the executive order in which Bush said CIA interrogators may not use "willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual." As an example, it lists "sexual or sexually indecent acts undertaken for the purpose of humiliation."

Among lawyers, "for the purpose" language is often used to mean that a person must specifically intend to do something, such as causing humiliation, in order to violate a statute. The JAGs said Bush's wording appears to make it legal for interrogators to undertake that same abusive action if they had some other motive, such as gaining information.

Other law-of-war specialists agreed that this part of Bush's executive order creates an escape clause allowing abusive treatment.

Two former Reagan administration officials, Robert S. Turner and P.X. Kelley, wrote an op-ed page piece in The Washington Post on July 26 criticizing Bush's order as a violation of the Geneva Conventions that could endanger captured US soldiers by eroding respect for the treaty. Among their criticisms, they also singled out the "for the purpose" wording.

"As long as the intent of the abuse is to gather intelligence or to prevent future attacks, and the abuse is not 'done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual' -- even if that is an inevitable consequence -- the president has given the CIA carte blanche to engage in 'willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse,' " the two wrote.

And the White House's response?
Erik Ablin, a Justice Department spokesman, yesterday rejected that interpretation of the order. In an e-mail, he said the order "simply requires AN intent to humiliate and degrade the individual" -- for any reason -- before an interrogator's conduct would be considered a war crime. He said this standard was consistent with how international war crimes tribunals have interpreted the treaty.

Um, how is that a rejection of that interpretation? He seems to be confirming exactly what they feared--that there needs to be an intent to humiliate and degrade before torture can be considered a war crime. Which leaves an out for people to claim that wasn't their intention, they just wanted information, or whatever.

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