Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
As I have pointed out periodically since 2005:
The War Crimes Act of 1996, a federal statute set forth at 18 U.S.C. § 2441, makes it a federal crime for any U.S. national, whether military or civilian, to violate the Geneva Convention by engaging in murder, torture, or inhuman treatment.
The statute applies not only to those who carry out the acts, but also to those who order it, know about it, or fail to take steps to stop it. The statute applies to everyone, no matter how high and mighty.
Cheney pronounced himself “a big supporter of waterboarding,” a near-drowning technique that has been regarded as torture back to the Spanish Inquisition and that has long been treated by U.S. authorities as a serious war crime, such as when Japanese commanders were prosecuted for using it on American prisoners during World War II…
He answered with an emphatic “yes” when asked if he had opposed the Bush administration’s decision to suspend the use of waterboarding – after it was employed against three “high-value detainees” sometimes in repetitive sequences. He added that waterboarding should still be “on the table” today…
Speaking with a sense of impunity, he casually negated a key line of defense that senior Bush officials had hidden behind for years – that the brutal interrogations were approved by independent Justice Department legal experts who thus gave the administration a legitimate reason to believe the actions were within the law.
However, on Sunday, Cheney acknowledged that the White House had told the Justice Department lawyers what legal opinions to render. In other words, the opinions amounted to ordered-up lawyering to permit the administration to do whatever it wanted.
This is not entirely surprising. In 2005, e-mails revealed that Cheney pressured the U.S. Department of Justice to approve torture:
Dick Cheney and his lawyer, David Addington, pressured the Department of Justice in 2005 to quickly approve a torture memo that authorized CIA interrogators to use a combination of barbaric techniques during interrogations of “high-value” detainees, despite protests from former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, according to several of his e-mails released over the weekend.