"America will not torture"

Among the things U.S. Vice President said at the Munich security conference is this: “America will not torture”.

The Politico blog reported that Biden said in Munich: “We will uphold the rights of those we bring to justice. And we will close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay” … In return for closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, as the administration has promised to do within a year, he said, the United States will ask other countries to accept the transfer of prisoners now held in the facility. While some European government have promised to consider the ideas, none has yet committed itself to accepting transfers of prisoners now at Guantanamo”. This can be read in full here.

One year is way too long — the special detention facilities at Guantanamo should be closed down now.

The most unforgivable actions of George W. Bush’s recently-departed administration were the introduction of “legalized” torture and the opening of special detention facilitiies to hold those unfortunate enough to have been put in the new and indeterminate category of “illegal combattants” — including at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba — as well as the vile and evil policy of secret rendition that allowed the movement of suspected “illegal combattants” into and out of secret facilities around the world, as well as into Guantanamo.

UPDATE: A BIG DISAPPOINTMENT — The New York Times wrote scathingly in an editorial on 10 February that “The Obama administration failed — miserably — the first test of its commitment to ditching the extravagant legal claims used by the Bush administration to try to impose blanket secrecy on anti-terrorism policies and avoid accountability for serial abuses of the law. On Monday, a Justice Department lawyer dispatched by the new attorney general, Eric Holder, appeared before a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. The case before them involves serious allegations of torture by five victims of President Bush’s extraordinary rendition program. The five were seized and transported to American facilities abroad or to countries known for torturing prisoners. Incredibly, the federal lawyer advanced the same expansive state-secrets argument that was pressed by Mr. Bush’s lawyers to get a trial court to dismiss the case without any evidence being presented. It was as if last month’s inauguration had never occurred. Voters have good reason to feel betrayed if they took Mr. Obama seriously on the campaign trail when he criticized the Bush administration’s tactic of stretching the state-secrets privilege to get lawsuits tossed out of court. Even judges on the panel seemed surprised by the administration’s decision to go forward instead of requesting a delay to reconsider the government’s position and, perhaps, file new briefs.  The argument is that the very subject matter of the suit is a state secret so sensitive that it cannot be discussed in court, and it is no more persuasive now than it was when the Bush team pioneered it. For one thing, there is ample public information available about the C.I.A.’s rendition, detention and coercive interrogation programs. The fact that some of the evidence might be legitimately excluded on national security grounds need not preclude the case from being tried, and allowing the judge to make that determination. More fundamentally, the Obama administration should not be invoking state secrets to cover up charges of rendition and torture. President Obama has taken some important steps to repair Mr. Bush’s damaging legacy — issuing executive orders to prohibit torture, shut secret prisons overseas and direct closure of the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. It would have been good if he and Mr. Holder had shown the same determination in that federal court, rather than defending the indefensible”.   This NYTimes editorial is posted on the web here.

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