If there is a downside to the recently released executive summary of the U.S. Senate Torture Report [PDF], it can be found in the extraordinary lengths to which it goes to demonstrate a long-established fact: Torture is ineffective as a means for extracting actionable intelligence.
Emboldened by that focus, U.C. Berkeley Law Prof. John Yoo authored a response to the Senate Torture Report by way of a recent, Los Angeles Times op-ed. In 2002, while serving as the Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General, Yoo authored a memo that green-lighted CIA torture following the 9/11 attacks. The memo, according to UC-Irvine's renowned constitutional law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, should now serve as the basis for the prosecution of Yoo for war crimes. Shielded by the Obama/Holder Dept. of Justice's refusal to prosecute, Yoo shamelessly argued in his Los Angeles Times editorial that the newly released Senate Torture Report had shifted [emphasis added] "the debate beyond legality to effectiveness."
The issue of torture's "effectiveness" is not and never has been an appropriate subject for "debate." Robert Colville, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights makes that clear in referencing the U.N. Convention against Torture, an international human rights treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory. "Torture is prohibited absolutely, in all circumstances, at any time," he explains in regard to the treaty signed by President Ronald Reagan. "It cannot be practiced in war, in peace, during emergencies, during internal instability, any circumstances whatsoever."
Those legal proscriptions apply not only to those who carry out torture but also, under the principle of "command responsibility," to high level officials who facilitate or fail to prevent torture by their subordinates.
As I revealed in my five-part series on the History of CIA Torture: Unraveling the Web of Deceit back in 2009, for me, torture is exceedingly personal. In late 1942 my father, James R. Canning, was waterboarded at Shanghai's Bridge House, an infamous torture chamber --- something that entailed a frightening, traumatic and "exquisitely painful," six-hour ordeal. He eventually signed a "false confession" stating that he was a British agent, even though he knew it wasn't true and even though he believed at that moment he was signing his own death warrant.
This Partial Trial Transcript [PDF] includes my father's testimony at the 1948 Hong Kong War Crimes Trials. It exposes the hypocrisy in the Obama/Holder DoJ's failure to apply the same ("command responsibility") legal standard to Yoo, former Vice President Dick Cheney --- who now proudly declares "I'd do it again in a minute!" --- and other high-level, Bush administration officials.
In 1948, that "command responsibility" standard was used to convict Lt. General Eiichi Kinoshida, who received a life sentence even though there was no evidence he personally participated in torture.
If we are indeed, as proclaimed by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) in her Forward to the Senate Torture Report, a "nation of laws," President Obama will heed the calls now being made by the ACLU, Human Rights Watch and even by The New York Times to appoint a special prosecutor who would investigate the crimes the CIA allegedly committed at the behest of Cheney et al --- crimes that appear as heinous and more so than those that were inflicted upon my father and his fellow civilian inmates during World War II...