Sunday, December 16, 2007
First step toward banning waterboarding
Thursday, despite the threat of a presidential veto, the House of Representatives voted to prohibit waterboarding (pouring water over a prisoner's mouth and nose to simulate drowning) and other harsh interrogation methods used by the CIA. The Senate is less apparently likely to pass the measure, which would allow use of only those techniques authorized by the US Army Field Manual, which prohibits physical force. President Bush apparently thinks that not being able to torture terrorism suspects would inhibit his ability to protect Americans. He also seems to think it necessary to limit military lawyer independence, so has proposed that promotions within the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, the military legal force, be “coordinated” with politically appointed Pentagon lawyers. According to former JAG officers, subjecting JAG lawyer promotion to political supervision would remove the check on executive power provided by these lawyers. Oddly, turning a critic into a chief military commission judge may accomplish the same thing: Marine Col. Ralph H. Kohlmann wrote in his master’s thesis in 2002 that military commissions established pursuant to President Bush’s Military Order of Nov. 13, 2001 would suffer credibility problems, primarily due to the military judges’ “apparent lack of independence” and suggested that through past organized crime and terrorism cases, the US criminal justice system has proven itself perfectly capable of handling cases in which “potential defendants have scary friends”. Now chief judge of the military commissions at Guantánamo, Kohlmann says he was incorrect when he wrote that commission trials would not provide fundamental fairness. One wonders what techniques made him change his story.