Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Ashcroft's non-denial of torture

Several legal memos from the Bush administration have surfaced recently with legal analysis saying that Bush and people acting under his authority are not bound by the Geneva Convention and other legal restrictions against torture. John Ashcroft in testimony before Congress said this:

"The president of the United States has not ordered any conduct that would violate the Constitution of the United States, that would violate not one of the laws enacted by the Congress, or that would violate any of the various treaties."

Despite the way this statement has been portrayed in the news, it is not denying official sanction of torture. Accepting the legal analysis that the President has the authority to override laws and treaties, then torture pursuant to such authority is legal, and not a violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties. In other words, Ashcroft is not answering the question, and he refused to answer a number of direct questions about the memos and their effect on American policy.

It's useful to remember this non-denial comes from the people who said the statement in the State of the Union that "British intelligence has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" was truthful because it referred to British intelligence's opinion, even though the Bush administration knew the uranium claim was false. This is the level of word analysis we have to use.

The questions that need to be answered are these:

Has the Bush Administration determined that the President can override domestic legal and/or treaty protections against torture? If so, have any actions been taken pursuant to this authority?

UPDATE: Looking at a different part of the CNN story, I see that Ashcroft denies any presidential order exists that immunizes Americans from prosecution for torturing Al Qaeda members. The memo report that I saw said that an order would be helpful, but I don't think it said that an order would be required. I think my questions still stand, but I would rephrase the first question this way: Does the Bush Administration agree that the the President cannot override domestic legal and/or treaty protections against torture?

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