Lederman on Rice on Torture

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If you're interested in the topic of US Interrogation polcy, then Marty Lederman's post on the topic is required reading. Nut graf:
this confusing? You bet it is. But the confusion is not inadvertent -- it's intentional. The whole object is to hide the ball and constantly shift and recalibrate the (literal) terms of the debate. As the New York Times reported today, "'[i]t's clear that the text of the [Rice] speech was drafted by lawyers with the intention of misleading an audience,'" Andrew Tyrie, a Conservative member of Parliament, said in an interview. . . . Parsing through the speech, Mr. Tyrie pointed out example after example where, he said, Ms. Rice was using surgically precise language to obfuscate and distract."

As long as the public discussion is focused on abstract labels and vague, general standards the meaning of which is known only to a small cabal within the Administration, it will be impossible to have a meaningful debate about what's permitted and what is not. In order to have any legitimate public debate on these questions, we will first need to see the Administration's legal analysis that explains how the Administration understands the application of the standards as a practical matter. What -- as a practical matter -- does "torture" mean? "Humane" treatment? "Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment"? "Prolonged mental harm"? "A likelihood of being tortured"? "Policy"? "Subject to its jurisdiction"? "Shocks the conscience"? Etc. There are, of course, slews of court decisions, international adjudications, articles, blogs, etc., that have addressed these questions. But when waterboarding and cold cell are part of our repetoire of interrogation techniques, and yet it's our "policy" not to torture, and to treat all detainees humanely, and to refrain from CIDT, then obviously that's a sign that the law as it's being applied by our government is a far cry from any ordinary, intuitive, or lay understanding of what the law means. (Tom Toles's cartoon today nails it.) The idea of a secret body of law in a democratic society is very disconcerting -- but that's what it's come to here.


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So let's just make torture illegal, right?

Seriously, Al Queda is not a signatory of any of these instruments, and they all carry out clauses in this case. Even if they were, their behavior would trigger other out clauses.

It is a serious error to conflate military procedure with civilian procedure. Treating anti-terrorist operations as a civilian issue is probably the biggest single factor leading up to 9/11.

Is Col. West a hero or goat? Hero by any appropriate standard. Goat by the standard applied.

European free-riding is really starting to tick me off.

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