13 May 2009

No more Abu Ghraib photos; Evidence of Torture Interrogations

I am in favor of transparency and truth finding, obviously. But I acknowledge that there is a danger of fomenting retaliation in revealing still more pictures of abuse that happened years ago, and also that nothing really is gained: the facts can and largely have been ascertained without more incendiary images. So, I think Obama called it correctly to order the additional photos from Abu Ghraib withheld.

I say this without consideration of the legal position of the government: it could be that they are obligated to produce them. I just don't know.

Related: I believe that the destruction of the 92 tapes of interrogations, deliberately committed by the CIA as intentional destruction of evidence, is a serious crime for which the perpetrators should be tried, and if convicted, jailed for a good long time. But that doesn't mean I think those tapes should've been made public. A judge could and I think probably would have ruled that they were a national security risk, and had to be held under seal. But there is no justification imaginable for deliberately destroying them. That simply isn't how a free and open republic operates, at all, no exceptions.

Under well-established evidence rules, if anyone is tried who was complicit in the tapes' destruction, and of whose alleged crimes the tapes themselves would have been material evidence (an unlikely combination of events, in truth), the evidence must be conclusively presumed to have been against him. No doubt they thought of that, and kept the actual interrogators out of the loop, so that it would only be the institution itself, and the destroyers of evidence, who would be criminally liable for the destruction of evidence; it will likely have no negative evidentiary consequences for anyone accused of actually carrying out torture, if that ever happens. At this point it seems it may not.

This is why the knowing destruction of evidence of a crime is so insidious. It really does sometimes make it so difficult to prosecute the crime that wrongdoers are not made to face the charge. I've already expressed, and explained, my view that those who carried out torture, orders or no orders, were criminals. Torture is a very serious crime. In some cases, it even carries the death penalty. How people can just say, "oh well, no big deal," is truly beyond me, and very, very disturbing.

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