Tuesday, April 21, 2009

News Recap (4/21/09): Torturers and Smiling Pirates

Torture investigations- Obama said today that he is not ruling out investigations and possible prosecutions of Bush administration officials that legally authorized CIA enhanced interrogation techniques. While the lawyers that authorized the actions (notably Jay Bybee, Stephen Bradbury and John Yoo) will be vulnerable to prosecution President Obama said that CIA officials who carried out the interrogations based on the legal authorization from the lawyers will not be investigated. The decision on whether to prosecute or not will be left up to Attorney General Eric Holder.

As angry as it makes me that these lawyers did everything they could to reason their way around the laws against torture I don't know if they should be prosecuted. I wholeheartedly believe that the interrogators shouldn't be prosecuted because they believed they were acting legally. The lawyers that authorized their actions are a different story. These are some of the most well educated attorneys in the country. They knew that the legal opinions they were giving were not well founded, but they gave the opinions anyway and people were tortured. These people that were tortured are some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, but that shouldn't matter. Regardless, I think that prosecuting anyone in this situation could be a slippery slope and could lead to a great deal of intervention into sensitive government activity. The attorneys' actions are reprehensible, but they were facing a situation like this country has never seen. Dealing with the new terrorist threat was, and still is, a monumentally difficult situation in a lot of ways and one of the most difficult parts is determining the legal framework that we need to employ to effectively combat it. While condoning the CIA interrogation program violated already established international law I still think some slack should be cut to everyone involved. Although they may have been overzealous I believe that their ultimate goal was to protect the country.

Pirate to be tried in federal court- The fourth, and only surviving pirate, from the taking of the Maersk Alabama appeared before a federal magistrate judge in the Southern District of New York today to be arraigned. The court found that Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse could be tried as an adult (there is some dispute as to whether Muse is 16 or 18) for piracy, two conspiracy charges, and two firearms charges. As I said before, the piracy charge carries a mandatory life sentence. There are apparently some questions as to whether Muse came onto the U.S. Navy ship to seek medical attention or under a flag of truce. If either of those things are true then Muse cannot be tried for piracy, but it is unclear whether he can be tried for the other charges. Another jurisdictional question involves Somalia's status as a functioning nation, but I'm unclear as to what the inquiry here is. More on this story as it develops. Also, this related post is pretty funny.

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