Civil Liberties

Torture May Not Be So Bad When You're Using the Bamboo Splinters, Obama Administration Decides


Marathon Man

Like so many other things Barack Obama thought were so terrible about his predecessor in office—war in Iraq, executive orders, lack of transparency—he may have decided that torture isn't so bad when you're on the delivering end. Having inherited the collector's edition bamboo splinter set (with user's manual!), the administration, reports the New York Times, sees no reason to let it gather dust. So it's considering airing out the old regime's legal justifications for extracting information under duress.

Writes Charlie Savage for the Times:

WASHINGTON — When the Bush administration revealed in 2005 that it was secretly interpreting a treaty ban on "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" as not applying to C.I.A. and military prisons overseas, Barack Obama, then a newly elected Democratic senator from Illinois, joined in a bipartisan protest.

Mr. Obama supported legislation to make it clear that American officials were legally barred from using cruelty anywhere in the world. And in a Senate speech, he said enacting such a statute "acknowledges and confirms existing obligations" under the treaty, the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

But the Obama administration has never officially declared its position on the treaty, and now, President Obama's legal team is debating whether to back away from his earlier view. It is considering reaffirming the Bush administration's position that the treaty imposes no legal obligation on the United States to bar cruelty outside its borders, according to officials who discussed the deliberations on the condition of anonymity.

Well, at least they'll have the good grace to fly you across the border to the cooperative folks of Shitholeistan before breaking out the electrodes and water buckets. Now that's legal niceties!

Note that the president issued an executive order in 2009 formally banning the use of torture. Then, in August, he shrugged his shoulders and admitted, "we tortured some folks" in what was taken as a suggestion that this nasty stuff was no more on his watch.

But after the State Department proposed at this half-way point through the second term of an administration nominally opposed to torture to formally repudiate the Bush administration's legal rationale for the practice, it apparently occurred to administration officials that doing so would mean they'd really have to stop.

Which is awfully commitment-y for a White House that has settled so comfortably into many policies it once opposed.