How High Up?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Philippe Sands, international lawyer, professor of law at University College London and author of Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values, discusses his Vanity Fair article on the Bush Administration and torture and whether any individuals might be in legal jeopardy.


Philippe Sands

Comments [29]

Eric from Jersey City NJ

Why are Yoo and Feith allowed to hold posts at prestigious universities? One may well ask.

Should we be surprised when even the American Psychological Association can't bring itself to call on psychologists to boycott the torture complex?

When I was in Berlin, I visited the Wannsee Villa where the Nazis decided on the Final Solution. On the walls of the room where they met were pictures of each participant and an account of his fate. Of those who survived the war (Heydrich, who presided, was assassinated in 1942), many served little or no prison time and went on to become prominent West German officials and businessmen. Think about it.

Apr. 03 2008 01:37 AM
guy catelli from downtown manhattan

ref: #18 & #19

Paolo, i certainly would prefer that such things NOT be done in my name as an American.

but, i believe the context of the segment (i'm listening to it again as i type) is that top members of the Bush Admin may be subject to war crimes trials for this in jurisdictions outside the US.

doesn't trying to make a "freak show" (as you put it) a war crime discredit the very notion of a "war crime"?

Apr. 03 2008 01:08 AM

Re: the issue of the lawyer and former Bush admin official who is now working for Chevron and who may possibly be arrested if he enters particular countries due to his complicity in these war crimes
Can you imagine being the secretary who has to arrange his travel so that he can travel abroad for work (but only within particular countries, and avoiding specific stopovers where he might be arrested...)
Can't believe Chevron hired this guy. Sick world.

Apr. 02 2008 05:59 PM
ileen from upper west side

Brian & staff,
Congratulations on your Peabody Award! It is very well deserved. I know that I'm old now since I really enjoy shows that win Peabody Awards - your show, Colbert Report, 30 Rock, Mad Men - good company indeed.

Apr. 02 2008 02:26 PM

As a tax-paying American citizen, I absolutely hold these United States to a higher standard than anywhere in the Middle East, including Israel, BECAUSE I AM PAYING FOR THOSE STANDARDS WITH MY TAXES!!! It is called being a responsible citizen.
And I disagree with your premise of "low expectations". (Isn't the administration's line, "the soft bigotry of low expectations"?)
The soft bigotry of low expectations appears to be aimed at the Bush administration. We don't expect or demand that they behave ethically, responsibly, or even freaking competently, and so they do not.

Apr. 02 2008 01:28 PM
megan from Park Slope

When you hold America to different standard and give Arab/Islamic countries a pass - the low expectations will lead to more of the same -- far greater murder & torture than Abu Graib by Muslim/Arab countries - but then, what can we expect? We only demand perfection from the hated America.

Apr. 02 2008 12:02 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Is there really any possibility that the Military Commissions Act is constitutional? I hope a case is being prepared to be brought.

Apr. 02 2008 10:55 AM
Mike Treder from Brooklyn, NY

Brian, I have two complaints about your statements during this interview.

Early in the conversation, you asserted that the notorious activities at Abu Ghraib likely would not have been approved by Rumsfeld or the Bush administration -- I think that's wrong; it's already been shown, by Seymour Hersh and others, that the techniques of degradation and humiliation at Abu Ghraib were at least tactily endorsed all the way from the top.

Second, near the end of the conversation, you said that "John McCain has been outspoken" in his opposition to torture. But actions speak louder than words -- McCain voted AGAINST the bill that Bush vetoed which would have allowed the military ban on torture to apply to the CIA.

Would you be willing to correct those misstatements on a later program? Please?

Apr. 02 2008 10:44 AM
Marco from Manhattan

For better or worse the United States is held to a higher standard vis a vis human rights than other countries. I suspect that Europeans mindful of their own dreadful history of governmental human rights abuses are deflecting their guilt onto the United States. The sad fact is that most NATO governments colluded with the US on renditions and a host of other actions that are now being called into question.

Apr. 02 2008 10:43 AM
BR from manhattan

My coffee was burned this morning and my bagel stale.

Damn you George Bush! It's clearly Cheney and yourself's fault that my life isn't perfect.

Oh yea, also, Mr. Bush what have you to say for yourself about how Pedro Martinez got injured last night??? That was clearly your fault as well and I feel you should have to appear before a jury to explain...

Apr. 02 2008 10:42 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

I mean, I guess the question you have to ask yourself is: Do you want government agencies looking like some kind of freak show of rape, violence and twisted mind/sex games filled with nudity, piles of naked men and lots of dry humping? If yes, then take the Republican stance.

Apr. 02 2008 10:38 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

Well, on the other hand, why would they do it if it wasn't intended to be extremely unpleasant for them? Granted, it's probably the least shocking of the things done, but if one were to be captured in a foreign country, thrown into a room for days, weeks, without any idea of the passage of time, and then a naked MAN comes in and starts fondling you and straddling you, I bet it would be pretty unpleasant if you're straight.

Apr. 02 2008 10:35 AM
Robert from NYC

Ask Al why Limbaugh and his ilk don't report when Bush does evil things. Huh Al, let's turn it around.

Apr. 02 2008 10:34 AM
guy catelli from downtown manhattan

dear Brian,

re: panty torture

i can't imagine anything that shocks the conscience more than men being forced to endure being touched by scantily-clad women.

your fan,


Apr. 02 2008 10:30 AM
Chad Harris from Ridgewood

Now they need to explain why they did it. To use false information to keep the war going and win elections.

Apr. 02 2008 10:30 AM
Chris O from New York

We need to put the people of the United States on trial. All this was plain before the election of 2004, but even then Bush came close enough to either win or steal an election and thus his torture policies were sanctioned by the public. (I say steal the '04 election b/c there is compelling data showing this - see click on pdf link for full article)

Apr. 02 2008 10:28 AM
Steve from Manhattan

Why hasn't John Yoo been fired from his professorship? Why was he hired in the first place?

Apr. 02 2008 10:28 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

The alarming thing about the military commissions is that it gives the illusion of legitimacy without actually providing it. The American people have been dooped into believing that red tape is the same thing as the law.

What the government has essentially done is this: They have a goal to hold someone for the rest of their lives without the possibility of them being released either by being found not guilty of the crimes they're accused of or for any other reason. So they create a new legal system in order to facilitate that goal. How is this any different from arbitrary rule? Instead of the government creating policy to apply to the law, the government now creates law to apply to a desired policy completely circumventing the legal system.

So the only thing the government has to comfort us with is the idea that this is an isolated case that won't be repeated. But we were also told that the Patriot Act would only be used to investigate terrorists, and we know that already to be untrue. Spitzer, for example, was caught due in part to the Patriot Act.

Sure, it's not just taking the person out back and putting the bullet in the back of their head. But instead its being sure to file the paperwork to take the person out back and put the bullet in their head before you do so.

Apr. 02 2008 10:27 AM
Jack Garrbuz from Queens, NY

Can someone point me precisely to those specific articles in the Geneva Conventions, or any other international treaty, that bans the use of torture, or even summary execution of illegal combatants? I'd be most appreciative.

Apr. 02 2008 10:27 AM
Eric from B'klyn

And this is why the question of War Powers is so important; I've been suggesting this on the You Produce page for some time. We've had 'constitution creep' since Korea. Accoring to Article I, section 8, The COngress shall have the power to Declare War [not the President]. And since there has been no declaration of law, the President CAN NOT claim war power.

Apr. 02 2008 10:24 AM
Chris O from New York

Re: the techniques. It seems to me the techniques are designed to have the effect of the good old-fashioned torture (you know like pulling out finger nails, pounding with fists or other objects, etc.) without leaving any marks. So extreme heat and cold, loud unending music, sleep deprivation, waterboarding, nudity, etc. are used. Things that will make people suffer greatly without leaving marks.

Apr. 02 2008 10:23 AM
Norman from NYC

I'm sure President Obama will comply with a legal European order for extradition of anyone who has violated international law.

Apr. 02 2008 10:21 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

I mean this is like a person on trial who defends themselves by saying: "I didn't do it, but if I had, I was crazy at the time!"

Apr. 02 2008 10:19 AM
Chris O from New York

It is pretty obvious that responsibility goes all the way to the top. It is pretty obvious that the conditions and treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was ultimately designed at the top. The Admin was taken aback by the insurgency in mid to late 2003 and they sent the Guantanomo guy to Iraq to get intel on the insurgency. They rounded up masses of men, abused and tortured them to try to stop the insurgency. What fools - look what that tactic led to over the next 4+ years.

These clowns running the government not only lack basic ethics, they are completely inept.

Apr. 02 2008 10:17 AM
Chad Harris from Ridgewood

Where have you been Brian? I'm so ashamed that WNYC has to rely on an article for a story been around for a long time. This is not even an investigation this is a story that has been reported in the mainstream media around the world only not here in the USA.


Apr. 02 2008 10:14 AM
DP from Brooklyn

Paulo on target! A rule which you only follow when convenient is no rule.

Apr. 02 2008 10:14 AM
Robert from NYC

John Hu ought to go to jail with the rest of them. They should go to jail here never mind overseas.

Apr. 02 2008 10:13 AM
michael winslow from INWOOD

It would be so great if the following people went on trial for torture and crimes against humanity:

George W. Bush
Dick Cheney
Donald Rumsfeld
Collin Powel
Condi Rice
George J. Tenet

Apr. 02 2008 10:13 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

Saying that the government is exempt from torture laws when at war is like saying the freedom of speech doesn't apply when the person happens to have said something the government doesn't like. The point of these guarantees is because they have to apply when it's INconvenient... not when it's convenient. Otherwise it's not a guarantee at all.

The point of anti-torture laws is not to block torture when it's convenient and you have nobody to torture. If they want to argue that what was ordered wasn't torture or that it was justifiable torture... fine. We can have that debate.

But torture being legal when you have enemies to torture and it being illegal when you don't have enemies to torture renders the laws themselves completely pointless.

Apr. 02 2008 10:12 AM

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