As anyone paying attention knows, torture is nothing new to American security agencies. It was meticulously studied and practiced, and its techniques were then taught to our puppets and allies abroad. And never mind that, besides being a moral outrage and a crime against humanity, torture simply doesn’t work. Our nation has engaged in it. A brief glint of sunshine may have temporarily tempered its usage, but it’s never gone away.
That the Bush Administration engages in torture should come as no surprise. What it really means may be.
Hina Shamsi is a human rights observer at the U.S. military tribunal hearing of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, in Guantánamo Bay. Hamdan was supposedly Osama bin Laden’s driver and bodyguard. Shamsi writes, in Salon:
At issue in Hamdan’s hearing was whether under the Military Commissions Act the government had the authority to try Hamdan as an “unlawful enemy combatant.” Congress passed the law in October 2006, under pressure from the Bush administration, on the eve of the midterm elections. The law circumvents due process safeguards that are a hallmark of American justice, in both the military’s own court-martial system and in the federal courts. For the more than 300 men held in Guantánamo for over six years, the Military Commissions Act stripped their right to challenge detention without charge through the ancient writ mechanism of habeas corpus. (The prisoners’ challenge to this provision was before the Supreme Court last Wednesday.
Hamdan’s defense wants to call three witnesses who are considered “high-value” detainees, whom they claim can refute the charge that Hamdan was part of a conspiracy to murder civilians. The judge refused to allow the three to testify, because the request was not timely. This is where it gets fun.
Government lawyers argued that the three were part of a highly classified special access program — a situation of the government’s own making, of course — and that only those with top secret clearance had access to them, which took time.
In other words, there was only one catch.
Furthermore, even though Hamdan’s military defense attorney has top secret clearance, the government says treatment of the three witnesses is highly classified, and cannot be revealed, as it would undermine national security. All three, of course, have been reported by the media to have been abused, if not tortured. So, Hamdan cannot get a fair trial because the government doesn’t want it known that witnesses for his defense may have been tortured. This dynamic will play out again, in the trials of “high-value detainees.”
But this is where Bush administration policies will come back to haunt us with a vengeance: Unlike the majority of Guantánamo detainees who appear to be low-level players or even innocent, Khalid Sheik Mohammed and others did likely engage in serious and heinous crimes. If so, they should be prosecuted and sentenced — but based on lawfully obtained evidence in full and fair proceedings that comport with the best traditions of American justice.
But they won’t be. To Bush, they can’t be. People have been tortured, and for it, justice will continue to be tortured.