Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Now They're Getting It: Andrew Sullivan Discovers Earlier Torture Timeline

Bloggers everywhere are getting everything they can squeeze out of Vice President Dick Cheney's interview with ABC television the other day. It's full of gems like the following from the America's own dark prince:
And I think those who allege that we've been involved in torture, or that somehow we violated the Constitution or laws with the terrorist surveillance program, simply don't know what they're talking about.
It's clear to even the often obtuse mainstream media that Cheney has essentially admitted in the interview to ordering torture.
"I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared," Cheney said...
You just want to spit in the man's face, throw a shoe at his head, or bring him up on several felony charges.

Andrew Sullivan's latest blog entry at The Atlantic, notes the legal vulnerability of the Bush/Cheney team in words this writer finds strangely familiar. Referencing the Senate report on detainee treatment, the declassified version of which was released last week, Sullivan writes:
The decision to torture individuals was made by Bush and Cheney before the CIA ever asked for legal cover for the torture they had been ordered to commit. The torture and abuse was planned before even the January 2002 presidential memo that authorized torture:
In December 2001, more than a month before the President signed his memorandum, the Department of Defense (DoD) General Counsel’s Office had already solicited information on detainee “exploitation” from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), an agency whose expertise was in training American personnel to withstand interrogation techniques considered illegal under the Geneva Conventions.
It is important and gratifying to see the bigger names in the blogosphere pick up the import of the earlier torture timeline, and the legal exposure it brings to the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/CIA band of outlaw brothers. Gratifying in part because I noticed this last summer, and needled the Senate committee and the press in general about it:
Now something is very strange here, as Levin's own staff appear to have documents indicating DoD was asking about SERE techniques in December 2001, eight months before the July 2002 request everyone else is concentrating on. Why this gap? My guess is that it would take us even closer to the Oval Office than Levin or anyone else wants to go at this point. Where are these documents on the December 2001 request? Why did no one on the committee question Baumgartner about this issue during the hearings?
With the publicity coming from the likes of Andrew Sullivan, and the announced campaign by the ACLU to call for an independent prosecutor to look into this earlier timeline issue, along with the other crimes of the administration on torture and interrogation, can it be too much to hope that this revelation is building to a tipping point, compelling action by the incoming Obama team, or by the supine Congress? While other mainstream liberal bloggers, like Glenn Greenwald in his latest post, have failed to notice the earlier timeline and its significance, some of his main commenters at Salon.com have added the Dec. 2001 JPRA approach to their official timeline webpages.

So far, Sullivan's adherence to the earlier timeline narrative, and the illegal plot it describes, is the best news yet that this scandal will grow only bigger, and with it the calls for prosecution of officials at the highest level of government.

Here's how we could start: DoD's approach to JPRA in December 2001, seeking information on reverse-engineering abusive "exploitation" interrogation techniques is prosecutable at least, one would think, under the Conspiracy section of 18 USC 2430:
(a) Offense.— Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
(b) Jurisdiction.— There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if—
(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.
(c) Conspiracy.— A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.
The Senate report gives us the evidence. We've got them cold now. The approach to JPRA was conspriacy to commit torture, and a clear violation of the torture statute. Why can't we begin the prosecutions based on this? Why can't we start now?

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