Thursday, May 07, 2009

Torture Round-Up 4

US interrogators may have killed dozens, human rights researcher and rights group say.

United States interrogators killed nearly four dozen detainees during or after their interrogations, according a report published by a human rights researcher based on a Human Rights First report and followup investigations.

In all, 98 detainees have died while in US hands. Thirty-four homicides have been identified, with at least eight detainees — and as many as 12 — having been tortured to death, according to a 2006 Human Rights First report that underwrites the researcher’s posting. The causes of 48 more deaths remain uncertain.

Torture Memo Author Advocated Presidential Pardons, Jury Nullification

A Bush administration attorney who approved harsh interrogation techniques of terror suspects advocated in 2006 that President Bush set aside recommendations by his own Justice Department to bring prosecutions for such practices, that the President should consider pardoning anyone convicted of such offenses, and even that jurors hearing criminal cases about such matters engage in jury nullification.

That advice came from John Yoo, a former attorney with the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel and author of memos that served as a legal rationale for the Bush administration's interrogation techniques. Yoo's recommendations constitute one of the most compelling pieces of a body of evidence that Yoo and other government attorneys improperly skewed legal advice to allow such practices, according to sources familiar with a still-confidential Justice Department report.

A Justice Department internal watchdog agency, the Office of Professional Responsibility, has concluded that Yoo and a second former Justice Department attorney, Jay Bybee, breached their professional legal ethics by skewing their legal advisory opinion to provide a legal rationale for allowing the harsh interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, according to a senior Department attorney who has reviewed a draft of the report. President Obama has said that the use of some of the interrogation techniques constituted torture.

Senate to hear testimony on Bush detainee interrogations

A key Senate critic of Bush-era interrogations has announced that a subcommittee he chairs will hold hearings on the Bush administration’s detainee interrogation program.

The public hearings would be the first on the matter since President Barack Obama released legal memos greenlighting techniques that some have argued are tantamount to torture.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) says the Senate panel will hear testimony focusing on “the legal analysis used to authorize harsh interrogation techniques, the ineffectiveness of those techniques, and the standards governing lawyers’ professional conduct applicable to those who authorized the procedures,” writes The Boston Globe’s Foon Rhee at the Political Intelligence blog.

Whitehouse has previously called for a full probe of the interrogation techniques, which President Obama presently opposes.

In March, the Rhode Island Democrat said at a Senate hearing that it was “distinctly in the public interest” for information on Bush-era interrogations to emerge, and that some conduct of Bush appointees could merit criminal investigations.

Witnesses set to appear at the hearing are former FBI special agent Ali Soufan and ex-State Department attorney Philip Zelikow.

Dodd: Torture investigations may need to go as high as Cheney’s office.

In a new interview with Connecticut bloggers, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) unequivocally states that he believes waterboarding is torture and comes out in support of Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) Commission of Inquiry into a “comprehensive, nonpartisan, independent review of what happened.” He also compares today’s situation to the Nuremberg Trials — for which his father was a prosecutor — and criticizes the Obama administration for releasing the documents and then resisting calls for investigations... When someone then pointed out that “a lot of this stuff seems to point toward Cheney’s office,” Dodd replied, “You gotta go where you gotta go.”

Spanish judge asks US if it will probe torture

MADRID (AP) — A Spanish judge said Tuesday he will ask the United States if it plans a probe of six senior Bush administration officials accused of creating a legal framework for torture of terror suspects, before deciding whether to open his own investigation.

Judge Eloy Velasco said Spain can act only if the United States has not conducted a torture investigation of its own and does not plan one.

Velasco is handling a complaint filed by human rights lawyers under Spain's principle of universal justice, which holds that grave crimes like terrorism, genocide or torture can be prosecuted here even if alleged to have been committed abroad.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was briefed in 2002 on Bush admin. torture techniques, despite her denials. It's not clear how much actual detail she received on torture specifics.

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