Torture, In Good Faith

By Patrick Appel
Yesterday the ACLU released three new documents on the government's torture program. Here are some key quotes:

...If a defendant acts with good faith belief that his actions will not cause such suffering, he has not acted with specific intent. A defendant acts in good faith when he has an honest belief that his actions will not result in severe pain or suffering...Although an honest belief need not be reasonable, such a belief is easier to establish where there is reasonable basis for it...Prolonged mental harm is substantial mental harm of sustained duration, e.g. harm lasting months or even years after the acts were inflicted upon the prisoner.

So torture doesn't count if you think happy thoughts when you are doing it? TPM gets this quote in response:

"It read like an attorney preparing a mob client for a confrontation with the police," said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. "Why on earth would you instruct interrogators on the meaning of 'specific intent' unless you wanted to coach them as to what to say when confronted?"

The memo also reveals that there are records of the torture sessions referred to, meaning the next DOJ is going to have to decide whether to make those records public. It's hard for me to understand how someone such as Stuart Taylor could argue that we should pardon those guilty of torture. Not only, as Andrew has written, are "war criminals, because of the very gravity of their crimes, unlikely to confess to anything, even granted immunity," but we have records of these crimes. Most of the files are still confidential, but the truth has been recorded: it simply has to be brought to light.

If the Bush administration hasn't broken the law, it is only because they have re-defined legality, perverting the intent of laws until torture is narrowly defined as a specific intent crime. Other acts of violence don't fall under that category. Assault is usually a general intent crime. Why should torture be any different?