OxBlog

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

# Posted 11:47 AM by Patrick Porter  

TORTURE BETWEEN CLINTON AND BUSH: Readers may have noticed that I took down an earlier post on torture on Sunday, a post which condemned torture.

I haven't changed my mind on the issue! But on reflection, it seems that other commentators such as Andrew Sullivan have already articulted the 'wrongness' of torture. Rather than simply echoing others condemnation of torture, I got thinking about the fact that practices such as 'rendition', ie handing over suspects to other states to interrogate, predate the Bush administration.

In the nineties, suspected terrorists or their accomplices were allegedly handed over to governments like Egypt and Syria, whose interrogation methods were medieval in their severity.

My question is, how much was this issue highlighted in American public life at the time, beyond human rights organisations?
(10) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
Mr. Porter - From the article it appears that the cases from the 90s, at least on paper, involved people who were actually wanted by the Egyptians/Syrians for crimes against Egypt/Syria. They were ostensibly torturing on their own behalf, not ours. Not that this makes any of it OK.

More generally, I hope you're not trying to make the old argument "you can't complain about us doing X now if anyone previously got away with doing X".
 
Hey eeyn524,

No, I'm most certainly not making that argument!

If anything, I'm suggesting that the practice and policy of torture and rendition (or collusion in it) is even more disturbing given that it has been going on for a while, and across several administrations.
 
Mr. Porter - From the article it appears that the cases from the 90s, at least on paper, involved people who were actually wanted by the Egyptians/Syrians for crimes against Egypt/Syria.

On paper, yes. Pretty thin paper, though, I think:

A more elaborate operation was staged in Tirana, Albania, in the summer of 1998. According to the Wall Street Journal, the C.I.A. provided the Albanian intelligence service with equipment to wiretap the phones of suspected Muslim militants. Tapes of the conversations were translated into English, and U.S. agents discovered that they contained lengthy discussions with Zawahiri, bin Laden’s deputy. The U.S. pressured Egypt for assistance; in June, Egypt issued an arrest warrant for Shawki Salama Attiya, one of the militants. [and then they were tortured]

Yes, technically that was an Egyptian warrant there, I guess. The author's implication (whether it is fair, or just another journalistic insinuation, I do not know) is clearly that Egypt only issued the warrant because we leaned on them.

No difference from the 00's.

Not that this makes any of it OK.

Of course.
 
There was at least one case in the US court system in the 90s where the defendent argued his testimony was obtained while being tortured by the Egyptians. I belive the courts ruled not on the torture but that US law did not forbid the admission of the evidence.
 
one more small point: though you are right to say that Egypt/Syria were ostensibly torturing on their own behalf, in at least one case they were doing so under US pressure, and at US behest.

P
 
I belive the courts ruled not on the torture but that US law did not forbid the admission of the evidence.

Do you have a case cite?

Any reading of the Convention Against Torture which became US law upon the signing of the Torture Statute would clearly show Article 15 which reads as follows:

Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.
 
Balfegor:

You're completely right that the distinction is very, very narrow. Nevertheless, like the distinction in the FISA case between a rubber stamp search warrant based on no real evidence, and a claim that no warrant is needed at all, I think it's worth making, because the cumulative effect of crossing many of these thin boundaries has been anything but thin.

Mr. Porter-

Thanks for the clarification.
 
"My question is, how much was this issue highlighted in American public life at the time, beyond human rights organisations?"

Are you sure you arn't comparing apples and oranges?
How much evidence was there known at the time? How clear was the evidence? How often did it happen? How much torture had gone on while people were in U.S. custody at the time? How many times did Clinton like Bush publicly state that the U.S. neither engaged in torture or sent people to countries that did torture? How many memos were there in the Clinton administration outling the position that the President could ignore federal laws and international treaties on torture under an expansive theory of Article 2? How many detainees were held incognito during the Clinton administration or in secret prisions or in military prisons outside US jurisdiction? During the Clinton administration is was apparently only the Presidents decision, during the Bush administration it was apparently delegated.

Could it be that not much was said because not much was known and that its use now is systemic and reflects broader pervasive problems with torture and abuse of prisoner both in and out of US custody?
 
What do you propose to do with these people if they're known terrorists and we're not allow to render them back to their home countries? We're not supposed to keep them at Gitmo indefinitely. Maybe put them on the Senate's new track to citizenship?

I object to torture mostly because it isn't likely to elicit valid information. However, I think that being frightened or humiliated isn't torture.
 
The reason for asking, "Why are you concerned now when you weren't then?" about any of a number of things isn't to say two wrongs make a right.

The implication ought to be clear, but the Deliberately Obtuse pretend to miss it, so I'll have to say it:

The reason for the question is to demonstrate that the person didn't care about--in this case torture--when it might have reflected badly on Clinton but now that Bush is in charge, torture is a useful tool to use against Bush. In other words, the claimed concern about torture as torture is bogus and the pose is partisan hackery.

Clear, now?
 
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