Could Torture Bring Down Bush?


Well, it seems pretty unlikely to me, but James Bovard raises the possibility in his American Conservative feature on the Military Commissions Act. The heart of it:

Few, if any, Democratic candidates had enough confidence in themselves or the voters to highlight the Bush administration's worst abuse of power.

That doesn't mean, however, that they won't use the investigative powers their new majority affords. For though Bush rhetorically takes the high ground on the torture issue, it now appears that the president may personally have blood on his hands. On Nov. 14, the ACLU released a CIA letter confirming the existence of "a directive signed by President Bush granting the CIA the authority to set up detention facilities outside the United States and outlining interrogation methods that may be used against detainees." This confirms a May 2004 e-mail from the FBI's "On Scene Commander" in Baghdad stating that U.S. military officials in Iraq assured him that a secret presidential Executive Order permitted using extreme interrogation techniques considered illegal by the FBI including "sensory deprivation through the use of hoods," stress positions, and military dogs.

The Justice Department has so far blocked release of the actual document, but a federal judge may force the feds to cough it up. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is also demanding to see the document. If this Bush letter does hit the streets, it may be akin to a 1972 memo from Richard Nixon specifying the exact methods of lock-picking the Watergate burglars should use. Bush's involvement in the torture scandal may be far deeper than Nixon's involvement in Watergate.

I won't be holding my breath, but it's nice to dream. Bush's Justice Department will certainly insist that any torture done on his watch was a necessary and legitimate exercise of executive power–remember this incident, as retold by Bovard:

Steven Bradbury, head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, told a closed session of the Senate Intelligence Committee early this year that Bush could order killings of suspected terrorists within the United States. When Newsweek contacted the Justice Department to verify this novel legal doctrine, spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos stressed that Bradbury's comments occurred during an "off-the-record briefing." Any Bush-ordered killings within the United States would also presumably be off-the-record.

Bovard's full story here .