How the Susan Crawford interview changes everything we know about torture. - By Dahlia Lithwick and Phillipe Sands - Slate Magazine
Dahlia Lithwick and Philippe Sands:
How the Susan Crawford interview changes everything we know about torture: When Vice President Dick Cheney told the Weekly Standard last week, "I think on the left wing of the Democratic Party there are some people who believe that we really tortured," he probably wasn't thinking about Susan J. Crawford, convening authority of the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay.... And that's why everything changed this morning when the Washington Post published a front-page interview by Bob Woodward, in which Crawford stated without equivocation that the treatment of alleged 20th Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed al-Qahtani at Guantanamo Bay was "torture."
[T]he Senate armed services committee issued a report just last month pointing the finger of responsibility for the military interrogations at then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his general counsel Jim Haynes. The committee did not use the T-word, however.... Alberto J. Mora, former general counsel of the U.S. Navy, wrote in a letter to the Navy's inspector general: "The interrogation techniques approved by the Secretary [of Defense] should not have been authorized because some (but not all) of them, whether applied singly or in combination, could produce effects reaching the level of torture." The 84-page log of al-Qahtani's interrogation has long been a matter of public record, and there is now little dispute that the treatment it describes rose to the level of torture....
What changes as a result of Crawford expressly using the word torture? First, the administration can no longer hide behind parsing the language of the Geneva Conventions and the torture statute.... Crawford has... repudiated the formalistic (and perennially shifting) definitions of torture as whatever-it-is-we-don't-do. She has admitted that there is a medical and legal definition for torture and also that we have crossed the line into it.
The consequences go further. Crawford also told Woodward that the charges against al-Qahtani were dropped because he was tortured. This has devastating consequences for the Bush administration's entire rationale for the new techniques of interrogation: that they would make the United States safer by producing intelligence and keeping dangerous individuals off the streets. We now know they do neither....
Whether torture occurred and who was responsible will no longer be issues behind which senior members of the administration and their lawyers and policymakers can hide. The only real issue now is: What happens next? The answer to that question takes you to a very different place when the act is torture.... Under the 1984 Torture Convention, its 146 state parties (including the United States) are under an obligation to "ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law." These states must take any person alleged to have committed torture (or been complicit or participated in an act of torture) who is present in their territories into custody. The convention allows no exceptions, as Sen. Pinochet discovered in 1998. The state party to the Torture Convention must then submit the case to its competent authorities for prosecution or extradition for prosecution in another country.
The former chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and general counsel for the Department of the Army has spoken. Her clear words have been picked up around the world. And that takes the prospects of accountability and criminal investigation onto another level. For the Obama administration, the door to the do-nothing option is now closed. That is why today may come to be seen as the turning point.