Thursday, February 12, 2009

Is the Obama Administration Undermining Equal Justice Under the Law?

A recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds that 65% of Americans are in favor of investigating allegations that the Bush administration used torture to interrogate terrorism suspects and its program of wiretapping U.S. citizens without getting warrants. In writing for The Nation magazine, David Cole challenges the Obama administration to hear the will of the people:
"President Barack Obama came to office promising change and, to his credit, has already issued orders to close Guantánamo and the CIA's secret prisons and to stop the CIA's use of cruel and inhuman interrogation tactics. But in a pair of recent cases, Obama has shown a troubling unwillingness even to acknowledge the wrongs that the Bush administration committed. Both cases involve Binyam Mohammed, a Guantánamo detainee who was allegedly a victim of rendition and torture at the hands of US captors. On February 4 an English court announced that it could not disclose how US officials had interrogated Mohammed, because Washington would not let it do so, declaring the information secret. And on February 9 a Justice Department lawyer told the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that a lawsuit challenging the legality of Mohammed's treatment had to be dismissed because it touched on 'state secrets.'

In both instances the 'secret' is that we tortured suspects in the 'war on terror'—a secret heard round the world, but one the Obama administration is apparently unwilling to have acknowledged in a court of law. As the British judges wrote, 'We did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials...relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be.' Accountability demands open acknowledgment that serious wrongs have been committed, not inflated claims of secrecy that allow the wrongs to go unremedied."
Simply saying that the Bush administration and its various security officials were shameless or were only following orders is not good enough. These officials violated international treaties to which the United States is a signatory. The ball is in your court Mr. President. Can you rise to the occasion? This is not 1865 in which racism and slavery were still issues. This is the 21st century and the nation is different and enforcement of human rights violations must be punished.


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