Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Congress Should NOT Pass Another Law On Torture

I'm calling foul on a new effort to make another law which details which techniques may or may not be used by American interrogators.

This new effort is being represented as some sort of torture litmus test for the Congress. Will they or won't they pass a law specifically labeling waterboarding as torture? If they do will the President veto that law, and if he does can the Congress override the veto. Will they or won't they pass a law which, in effect, makes Mukasey's massive hedge on waterboarding moot. The fact is that when all is said and done, all of this is at best academic, and at worst a platform that may allow the legal foundation for American interrogators to torture at will, depending on what torturous techniques have not been specifically outlawed by Congress.

Waterboarding is already torture. One of the definitions of torture which the United States has legally accepted, by treaty and domestic law, are feigned executions. Waterboarding terrifies the victim by leading them to believe they will die by drowning. It is an extreme form of feigned execution, and thereby is already defined as torture by international treaty, and domestic law.

There is no need to pass a law explicitly delineating the various techniques which are or are not torture. Especially when the technique in question so obviously fits the definition of torture. In fact it is dangerous to take this approach because it gives the people who want to be able to torture detainees the right to try to legislatively defeat calling torturous techniques precisely what they are, and/or to cite precedent which allows techniques commonly accepted as torture to be used until such a point as Congress specifically outlaws the technique.

Congress is giving too much credence to the administration and torture apologists by even debating this. It would be positively catastrophic if political machinations somehow led to the defeat of the effort and a legal footing for the view that waterboarding is somehow not torture.

Besides exactly what was the purpose of the law which McCain caved on which the President signed with a signing statement declaring his belief that he need not abide by the law.

It's already illegal to torture detainees, and by even allowing the matter to be debated the Congress is needlessly giving the signal that some forms of torture may not be torture after all, depending on how this or that Congress critter votes, and then if they can over ride a Presidential veto... unless the President decides to sign the bill with a signing statement that affirms his right to torture detainees anyway.

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