US constitutional expert Jonathan Turley says only the United States president could have ordered the torture of al-Qaeda suspects.
Following a report that the Justice Department had opened an investigation into the destruction of CIA torture tapes, Turley observed that “the investigation will essentially be the Justice Department investigating itself”.
“Picking some guy in Connecticut or any other state doesn’t make any difference. His boss is Michael Mukasey. And Michael Mukasey’s boss is the president of the United States. If torture occurred, he was the guy who ordered it,” Turley told MSNBC’s Countdown.
When Keith Olberman, the Countdown’s host, asked if the investigation ‘could still lead to criminal culpability for the president’, Turley replied, “most certainly it can. That original crime could only have been ordered by the president and it leads directly to his office”.
The controversail dewtroyed tapes are said to be footage of the torture/interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, widely held to be the logistical mastermind behind the 9/11 terror bombings of New York and Washington.
During a year’s end press conference, President George W. Bush refrained from giving any comment on recent CIA tape revelations, saying that he would have no comment on the debate until an investigation is completed.
The issue of torture has roiled the Bush administration since revelations began trickling out with the unprecedented opening of the Guantanamo prison facility in Cuba and coining of the neologism “enemy combatants”, a supposed legal definition without precedent in legal lexicons and related to the Taliban, al-Qaeda and their supporters subsequently picked up primarily in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries.
Under that classification several hundred people were incarcerated at Guantanamo and Bagram airbase north of Kabul and subsequently hundreds are still being held there without charges, amid allegations and now dozens of recorded testimonies of torture of the men released from those facilities.
In May 2004, pictures leaked of US military prisoner sexual abuse and torture in what is now known as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq–a detention center that was formerly a detention killing field for Saddam Hussein’s regime. That sordid incident brought the question of US military abuse of detainees to world attention.
These incidents are known to have originated with orders from the US departments of defense and justice and ultimately with President Bush. Some law enforecement officials have expressed the opinion that if Bush and and Vice- President Dick Cheney are spared impeachment, there will still be a raft of lawsuits awaiting them once they leave office in January 2009, many of them relating to systematic prisoner abuse and torture they are widely held to have been the ultimate authors of.