Balkinization  

Sunday, June 13, 2004

A Few Bad Apples at the Top of the Barrel

JB

According to this report from the London Telegraph (link via Mark Kleiman), the recent torture scandals may well be due to the misguided efforts of a few individuals. Unfortunately, they appear to be top political appointees in the Bush Administration:

New evidence that the physical abuse of detainees in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay was authorised at the top of the Bush administration will emerge in Washington this week, adding further to pressure on the White House.

The Telegraph understands that four confidential Red Cross documents implicating senior Pentagon civilians in the Abu Ghraib scandal have been passed to an American television network, which is preparing to make them public shortly.

According to lawyers familiar with the Red Cross reports, they will contradict previous testimony by senior Pentagon officials who have claimed that the abuse in the Abu Ghraib prison was an isolated incident.

"There are some extremely damaging documents around, which link senior figures to the abuses," said Scott Horton, the former chairman of the New York Bar Association, who has been advising Pentagon lawyers unhappy at the administration's approach. "The biggest bombs in this case have yet to be dropped."

A string of leaked government memos over the past few days has revealed that President George W Bush was advised by Justice Department officials and the White House lawyer, Alberto Gonzalez, that Geneva Conventions on torture did not apply to "unlawful combatants", captured during the war on terror.

Members of Congress are now demanding access to all White House memos on interrogation techniques, a request so far refused by the United States attorney-general, John Ashcroft.

As the growing scandal threatens to undermine President Bush's re-election campaign, senior aides have acknowledged for the first time that the abuse of detainees can no longer be presented as the isolated acts of a handful of soldiers at the Abu Ghraib.

"It's now clear to everyone that there was a debate in the administration about how far interrogators could go," said a legal adviser to the Pentagon. "And the answer they came up with was 'pretty far'. Now that it's in the open, the administration is having to change that answer somewhat."


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