Sunday, May 16, 2004

An interesting question

Surely the CIA's use of "water boarding" violates the Federal anti-torture statute?

Presumably the agents and operatives are US nationals; the practice clearly falls under the definition of "torture" (making someone "believe he might drown" sounds like a threat of imminent death to me). The only quibbles would be either to argue that it wasn't intentional, wasn't severe, or was a lawful punishment - none of which pass the laugh test.

The same does not apply to members of the US military - they are subject to military justice - but there is the interesting possibility of executive accountability. Donald Rumsfeld approved the use of sensory and sleep deprivation at Guantanamo; according to Stephen Cambone, his under-secretary for intelligence, he "insisted on being asked for permission" each time these techniques were used. In addition to ordinary physical violence, the anti-torture statute also bars "procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality" - such as sensory and sleep deprivation. Does this open Rumsfeld to charges of conspiracy to commit torture?

An interesting question indeed...