Safe or Free

The United States treaty and criminal prohibition against torture contains no exceptions. There is no ticking-time-bomb exception. There is no “High Value Detainee” exception. There is no urgent-information exception. Of course, such exceptions can be made part of the law if Congress amends the anti-torture law or the president revokes the torture treaty. But neither was done during the Bush administration.

The United States prosecuted “waterboarding,” i.e., simulated drowning, as torture during World War II when practiced by the Japanese against American captives. The United States law prohibiting torture defines it as creating an imminent fear of death that causes prolonged mental pain or suffering. Republican Department of Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge declared that waterboarding constitutes torture under United States laws. Yet neither the Bush nor Obama administrations have done anything to criminally investigate waterboarding as torture.

Current and former White House officials were instructed by President Bush to defy congressional subpoenas for testimony on the theory that presidential aides are constitutionally shielded from congressional oversight or scrutiny. A federal court judge appointed by President Bush held the defiance flagrantly unconstitutional.

In the process of seeking to make the United States absolutely safe, the Constitution and rule of law have been crippled.


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