Forget false “compromise”: block torture altogether

Glenn Greenwald, writing at Salon, notes why all the talk of a Republican compromise over the detainee interrogation bill that Bush wants passed is bunk (“The president’s power to imprison people forever“). The fact that the government is actively trying to legalize torture is amazing to me, and proves that the country is off the rails.

Bilal Hussein is an Associated Press photographer and Iraqi citizen who has been imprisoned by the U.S. military in Iraq for more than five months, with no charges of any kind. Prior to that, he was repeatedly accused by right-wing blogs of being in cahoots with Iraqi insurgents based on the content of his photojournalism — accusations often based on allegations that proved to be completely fabricated and fictitious. The U.S. military now claims that Hussein has been lending “support” to the Iraqi insurgents, whereas Hussein maintains that his only association with them is to report on their activities as a journalist. But Hussein has no ability to contest the accusations against him or prove his innocence because the military is simply detaining him indefinitely and refusing even to charge him.

Under the military commission legislation blessed by our Guardians of Liberty in the Senate — such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham — the U.S. military could move Hussein to Guantánamo tomorrow and keep him there for the rest of his life, and he would have absolutely no recourse of any kind. It does not need to bring him before a military commission (the military only has to do that if it wants to execute someone) and as long as it doesn’t, he is blocked from seeking an order from a U.S. federal court to release him on the ground that he is completely innocent. As part of his permanent imprisonment, the military could even subject him to torture and he would have no legal recourse whatsoever to contest his detention or his treatment. As Johns Hopkins professor Hilary Bok points out, even the use of the most extreme torture techniques that are criminalized will be immune from any real challenge, since only the government (rather than detainees) will be able to enforce such prohibitions.

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