International Law

Cheney Pushed 'Robust Interrogation'

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Fare more so than has been realized until now, Vice President Dick Cheney was a key architect of the Bush administration’s plan to evade the Geneva conventions and at least come close to torturing prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere.

That essentially is what the Washington Post reports in a page-one story today that portrays the vice president as a driven, skilled politician who steadily moved ahead on the administration’s behalf to eliminate traditional restrictions on what could be done to prisoners in the name of the so-called war on terrorism.

“No longer was the vice president focused on procedural rights, such as access to lawyers and courts. The subject now was more elemental: How much suffering could U.S. personnel inflict on an enemy to make him talk?” the article states. “Cheney’s lawyer feared that future prosecutors, with motives ‘difficult to predict,’ might bring criminal charges against interrogators or Bush administration officials.”

While perhaps falling short of actual torture, the program of “robust interrogation” that Cheney promoted clearly was not authorized by applicable treaties, according to the Post, and permitted techniques such as “waterboarding,” in which the subject is made to feel as if he is about to drown, that many would consider wrong.

Nonetheless, despite recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions upholding rights for prisoners, including so-called enemy combatants, Cheney still seems to have gained more ground than he has lost, the newspaper writes–and the vice president continues to push the envelope on the issue of executive power.

“According to participants in the debate, the vice president stands by the view that Bush need not honor any of the new judicial and legislative restrictions,” the Post article states. “His lawyer, they said, has recently restated Cheney’s argument that when courts and Congress ‘purport to’ limit the commander in chief’s warmaking authority, he has the constitutional prerogative to disregard them.”

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