The film might serve as an opportunity for narrowing the partisan divide on the issue of torture and promoting a more thoughtful debate on the moral and strategic issues involved.
Latest in torture
On Friday, Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted government motions to dismiss and for summary judgment in Al Shimari v. CACI, a case brought by plaintiffs who were detained in Abu Ghraib. The full opinion is available here and below.
On Feb. 12, Germany’s investigative police force arrested two former high-ranking members of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate (GID) allegedly involved in crimes against humanity. The German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof, BGH) had issued arrest warrants for 56-year-old Anwar R. and 42-year-old Eyad A. on Feb.
Given President Trump’s enthusiasm, as a presidential candidate, for enhanced interrogation, waterboarding, torture, and “worse,” as well as his eagerness to contrast himself at every opportunity with President Obama, one might have expected to see the use of such methods reinstated after he became President. At the one year mark, however, the issue seems conspicuously absent.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. military received custody of an as-yet unnamed American citizen who had been captured in Syria by a Syrian Defense Force (SDF) fighter. The Pentagon soon confirmed that the person is being held in military detention as an enemy combatant, somewhere in theater, on the basis that he was a fighter for the Islamic State. Many days had gone by without further information, until today.
Editor's Note: A Trump presidency is disturbing on so many levels. One of the worst is his campaign's embrace of some of America's biggest mistakes, such as the use of torture to fight terrorism. Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault, my colleague at Georgetown, looks at Trump’s campaign rhetoric on this issue and the disturbing possibilities for his administration.
Earlier this year, former National Security Agency (NSA) Director and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director General (Retired) Michael Hayden was asked what American armed forces would do if ordered to commit torture, such as waterboarding a terrorist, by a new Presidential administration. General Hayden posited that United States military members would simply refuse to act, as there is no obligation to follow an unlawful order.
In my view, at least, Justice Scalia's public statements on national security issues and his one majority(-ish) opinion in a "canonical" national security case (in Ashcroft v. al-Kidd) could lead folks reasonably to question just how faithful Justice Scalia was to his first principles where national security was involved. That doesn’t in any way diminish the late Justice’s track record (or Adam’s elegant reflection upon it); it just suggests that, as is so often the case, adding national security-specific considerations to the mix tends to complicate matters.
The idea of European prosecutors investigating military activity in other parts of the world scares the pants off of many US and Israeli policymakers. But right now, anyway, one person who should be watching European universal jurisdiction cases particularly closely is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
A little over a week ago, the law firm Sidley Austin LLP submitted its "Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations, and Torture" to the APA Board of Directors. Today, the report was released to the public along with a story in the New York Times summarizing its contents.