The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Defining torture is not constitutional

“Is waterboarding constitutional?” asked one of the Senators to Michael Mukasey, President Bush’s nominee for attorney general, at his confirmation hearings last week. Mr. Mukasey replied with a well-rehearsed phrase, “If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional.”

Mr. Mukasey also declined to define torture or to specifically list what techniques the government can or cannot use because saying so would jeopardize “careers or freedom” of CIA operatives who are currently performing these techniques on suspected terrorists.

The truth is that the Bush administration’s current definition of torture is ambiguous and Congress hasn’t done much about it.

Congress, under the McCain Detainee Amendment, has banned the “use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by U.S. personnel” and limits the acceptable techniques to those listed in the U.S. Army’s Field Manual on interrogation.

The techniques in the U.S. Army’s Field Manual, which used to be available online in full, were revised for the first time in 13 years and a new classified set of interrogation methods was added.

The administration’s claim that interrogation methods should be classified because the enemy should not know what techniques we utilize was apparently not a problem during those 13 years when the entire report was open to the public online.

The administration justifies its stance on torture by claiming it is essential in the fight against “terror.” However, as the recent New York Times article titled “Secret U.S. Endorsements of Severe Interrogations” argues, the administration’s basis is flawed.

Questioning is moral but interrogation techniques that are just short of death are ridiculous and should not be used by a country with standards as high as the United States.

When we fight an enemy who has no value for human dignity, human rights and freedom, it is imperative that we display the qualities which we criticize other nations for lacking. Kidnapping individuals, flying them to secret prisons and using limitless means of torture are undermining the value of human dignity, rights and freedom.

Back at the confirmation hearings, the Senators asked Mukasey what techniques he would allow and what he would consider inhuman or cruel.

When Mr. Mukasey replied to the Senator that he doesn’t “know what’s involved in the technique” of waterboarding, the Senator asked, “Do you have an opinion on whether waterboarding, which is the practice of putting somebody in a reclining position, strapping them down, putting cloth over their face and pouring water over the cloth to simulate the feeling of drowning-is that constitutional?”

Mr. Mukasey replied with a well-rehearsed phrase: “If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional.”

We’re back to square one.

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