What goes around comes around

Tom agrees with me:

But post-dating criminal behavior is wrong, and any attempts to do so will inevitably come back to haunt the Dems and Obama.

via Don’t criminalize after the fact Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog.

You can bet Republican lawyers are quietly building cases with intent to arraign Tim Geithner’s deputies for manipulation, in 3 or 7 years.

The consequences of Democratic attempts to increase the severity of sentences for white-collar criminals will be interesting to see as well.  As a consequence of successful liberal attempts to curtail the death penatly, there will be no negative consequences (and many positive ones) for convicts to shiv, maime, and rape Treasury officials.

I dislike how much Obama is willing to let Geithner get away with, but I hardly think that Obama’s indictment-baiting has the best interest of Treasury officials and bureaucrats in mind.

19 thoughts on “What goes around comes around”

  1. With the revelations about the links between torture deployment and the hunt for non-existent 9/11-Iraq-Al Qaeda ties, I wish there could at least be something official to look into what happened.

    Yet I don’t trust Nancy Pelosi or her ilk to do it though, so I don’t want to see anything happen on this front because you can’t trust the Dems to tell the truth about what they knew and what they approved of themselves.

    I am surprised no one is going after Paulson though, especially after the claims by the BOA CEO that he was coerced into buying Merril Lynch and to lie to his shareholders about it. I have little doubt Geithner and others in the Treasury have been doing the same thing and/or worse.

  2. I’m starting to believe that Obama has people advising him who don’t truly care for his best interests?

    Who exactly is telling him that its a good idea to go after (or piss off) the capitalist class, intelligence community, veterans, and right wing whites all at the same time?

    I don’t get it?

  3. Amnesty International sent me a request to join a mass-emailing effort to force torture prosecutions; I replaced the boilerplate with a request for a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation commission on the subject. If he goes through with it, it’ll be interesting to see what the next Republican President does in a few years.

    Unrelated subject: Have you been to bldgblog lately? You might like Just Add Water, and Sand/Stone is just begging for a Lovecraftian spin. Enjoy!

  4. If the Republicans were not as stupid as I know they are, they wouldn’t be just planning to go after people in the Treasury Department. They would be building a case against Rahm Emannuel and other competent Democrats.

    What would they charge them with? Who knows? Who cares? What charges did Ronny Earl bring against Kay Bailey Hutchenson? How much did it matter? The real crime was being effective in opposition to Democrats.

    These prosecutions are a really, really bad idea. One reasonably predictable result is that the CIA, FBI and most other intelligence gathering and law enforcement is going to go into extreme CYA mode which is going to greatly hamper their effectiveness. Combined with the deterioration of Pakistan and the likelyhood that one or more Paki nukes will go missing, we face the very real possibility of an American city or three vanishing in a flash and a radioactive cloud. In the aftermath, Democrats will be turned out in the next free election and having established the precedent of prosecuting political opponents, they will get to observe the process from the other side.

    Democracy and free elections work because people know that if they lose an election and hand over power peacefully, they will not be dragged through politicized show trials. Maybe the Obama folks think that they will not have to worry about that eventuality because they believe with enough ACORN activists in place they will never have to worry about losing any more elections. However, I think that it is far more likely that they are just full up to the nose holes with their own moral superiority and cannot imagine that anybody would ever view them as a pack of partisan political hacks.

  5. Eddie,

    I am surprised no one is going after Paulson though, especially after the claims by the BOA CEO that he was coerced into buying Merril Lynch and to lie to his shareholders about it. I have little doubt Geithner and others in the Treasury have been doing the same thing and/or worse.

    I imagine this will have to wait until we get a Treasury Secretary not from the investment banking / Manhattan cocktail party circuit.
    Obama’s shown little interest in going that direction.

    Seerov,

    Who exactly is telling him that its a good idea to go after (or piss off) the capitalist class, intelligence community, veterans, and right wing whites all at the same time?

    Why do you need the middle class, when you can subsidize (and control) the rich and the poor?

    As I wrote earlier: [1]

    As a progressive, Obama’s focus is on the control and improvement of American society. This naturally leads him to favor both the rich and the poor, as they are deeply in debt to the system and have lost the ability to thrive without.
    The middle class, however, is less accommodated.
    The poor can seize houses, and rich speculators get their sub-prime assets bailed out, but middle class people who consume the housing they can afford are squeezed from both sides.

    Michael,

    I’m sad that you support the politicalization of intelligence. I would have thought our humint is already week enough.
    That said bldgblog is great. 🙂

    Mark in Texas,

    Agreed. This is a very ‘banana republic’ sort of news, typical of unstable democracies such as Taiwan (which recently jailed its former President), but not of established ones.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2009/04/10/the-american-real-estate-market.html#comment-265333

  6. This is the original boilerplate I was referring to:

    “I want you to investigate and prosecute those responsible for torture.

    According to the recently released bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee report, the previous administration’s Office of Legal Counsel “distorted the meaning and intent of anti-torture laws” and “rationalized the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody.”

    Please help establish and support a non-partisan, independent commission of distinguished Americans to examine, and provide a comprehensive report on, policies and actions related to the detention, treatment, and transfer of detainees after 9/11 and the consequences of those actions, and to make recommendations for future policy in this area. Such a commission needs to be independent, backed by the full force of law, and adequately funded.

    The U.S. government has a legal obligation to prosecute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. I ask that you help establish this commission of inquiry to live up to obligations and to help hold perpetrators of abuse accountable. Moreover, I ask that you ask Attorney General Eric Holder to launch a criminal investigation into abuses and hold those responsible for violations accountable.

    Finally, I would like you to ensure that the Administration produces and publishes all remaining relevant policy memos that argued for, documented, and established the basis for coercive interrogation, detainee treatment and policy in the last administration. It is important that we expose the truth about the abuses that were committed in our name and hold the guilty responsible so that these abuses do not happen again. Please let me know of your actions to hold abusers accountable, and to uphold our obligations under law.”

    THIS is politicization of intelligence, and a variety of other government functions; a precedent would be set for every administration trying to try officials from its immediate predecessor.

    Is letting the truth stay buried any better though? Your feelings about torture and the intelligence service aside, the precedent would be that anything can be justified if its done ostensibly to alleviate a national emergency. Meaning, any criminal wrongdoing of Obama’s administration can also be left buried because it was theoretically done to combat the economic crisis. Throw in for good measure the increased friction between the people who think no crime occurred (or that it was justifiable) and those who think otherwise, and you do not have a recipe for a pleasant society to live in.

    Hence my compromise; this is Wikipedia’s description of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth_and_Reconciliation_Commission_(South_Africa)

    In return for the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth about what was being done and how it was covered up, the alleged torturers and bosses thereof get amnesty. There would still be hard feelings on both sides, but we would at least know what happened and why; no wishful thinking, few conspiracy theories. And Congress would be better equipped to push for reforms in the Executive branch to (hopefully) keep it from happening again.

  7. On the other hand, if Bush Admin officials broke federal laws, AG Holder should prosecute them. There are laws banning the use of the techniques they authorized (they are considered torture in multiple statutes and past case precedent) on the books and they were either willfully ignored or intentionally broken. That is disturbing, but I don’t see how you can successfully prosecute these guys unless McCain and a few other responsible Republicans come forward and support it because they don’t want to look the other way on lawbreaking.

    That said, I still prefer Obama just preemptively pardon Cheney and the others for their crimes, preventing any political prosecutions while giving history a head start on its damning indictment of most of them. As well as a formal declassification of everything related to this so the American people can know what really happened instead of getting the version favored by Cheney or Pelosi.

  8. Here’s an article about this sort of thing and some of its implications.

    http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20090429_chilling_effect_u_s_counterterrorism

    Counterterrorism is already not the path to career advancement in our intelligence gathering or law enforcement agencies. That means that the decisions will be made by people who advanced to higher levels by spending their careers in other areas where career advancement prospects are better. When you add in the reasonable concern that people working in counterterrorism might be prosecuted for actions that were considered legal at the time but not by a new administration, it seems unlikely that this field will attract the best and the brightest that we have.

    Consider also that so far the Obama administration has announced that Guantanimo will close on a fixed date but that has not announced where the prisoners held there will be sent, however the announced plans for the Uigers gives a pretty good hint on which way to guess.

  9. Michael,

    As I said, I find your support for criminalizing politics disturbing.

    Getting into a cycle where each President creates a Truth & Reconcilliation Commission to investigate the crimes of his predecessor is bad for politics. Normally we see it in only marginally democratic states, such as Taiwan, South Africa, and so on.

    Eddie,

    While a non-political cycle of the criminalizing of politics would be interesting (say, if Holder simultaneously indicted John Woo and Tim Geithner [1]), we have seen how good of an oversight branch the Justice Department is. [2]

    This is not Imperial or Republican China. We do not have a Control Yuan above our government. [3] Advocates of such an approach should be honest with themselves and others and suggest a constitutional amednments. Attempt to introduce such a reform by the back door is dangerous.

    Mark in Texas,

    This is a briliant piece. It is hard to understand how Obama can be so on-target when it comes to foreign policy generally [4], but so dedicated to destroying our counter-terrorism capacity.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2009/04/06/will-eric-holder-prosecute-tim-geithner-if-he-covers-up-stress-test-results.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2009/04/01/us-senator-stevens-is-innocent.html
    [3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control_Yuan
    [4] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2009/05/01/the-hundred-days.html

  10. You’re missing the point. What is the difference between charging Bush administration officials for violations of the laws against torture (which you find disturbing) and charging Obama administration officials for corrupt economic policies (which you’ve been in favor of)? How do you justify one, but not the other? Failing that, how do you do both in such a way that your concerns on both issues are dealt with?

  11. Michael,

    The purpose of this post was to point out that if Obama takes the reckless and disturbing step of criminalizing political differences, then he can expect his Secretaries and their deputies to become criminals.

    Obviously, we would live in a better world if Obama did not feel the need to openly discuss throwing those who carried out policies crafted opponents into prison. Walking down that road has serious consequences.

    I don’t want Democratic Party officials, and the bureaucrats who carry out their policy, to live in any more fear of arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, rape, etc.

    It is clear that Obama does not feel the same about Republican Party officials, and the bureaucrats who carry out their policies.

    When Obama announces that arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, and rape are appropriate tools to use against the Republican Party, he is normalizing that behavior, and it is rational to expect the Republican Party to defend itself with like tools when (in the course of events) it takes the executive branch.

  12. “The purpose of this post was to point out that if Obama takes the reckless and disturbing step of criminalizing political differences, then he can expect his Secretaries and their deputies to become criminals.”

    The problem is it seems from the evidence we have that some of them broke some rather serious federal laws. Should we just explain that away as in the past or? Even some of Nixon’s people eventually went to jail (and rightfully so) though Nixon was pardoned, and their crimes pale in comparison here.

  13. Eddie,

    The problem is it seems from the evidence we have that some of them broke some rather serious federal laws

    Which?

    their crimes pale in comparison here.

    How so?

  14. Torture is prohibited by federal law in Title 18 of the United States Code, Part I, Chapter 113C, § 2340A. Torture:

    (a) Offense.— Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life. (b) Jurisdiction.— There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if—
    (1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
    (2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.

    Torture is defined in Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113C, § 2340. Definitions:

    “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control….

    The experts on waterboarding (not lawyers with juvenile/poor legal reasoning which was dismissed by their more honest and capable colleagues) from Malcolm Nance to various SERE administrators consider waterboarding torture. The US government has prosecuted its own soldiers and citizens for waterboarding in the past.

  15. We don’t even need to get into the illegality of stress positions and other parts of the torture regimen that we have considered torture for decades and are a party to with regards to international treaties we ratified and our own laws prohibiting such torture.

  16. Eddie,

    Your citation of the USC is largely besdies the point, as every modern administration condemnds “torture” and prohibits those working under it from using “torture.”

    The problem is that “torture” as a legal term of art becomes conflatd with other concepts in popular usage.

    One might as well confuse the two legal meanings of “condiminium,” and conclude that joint sovereignty was widespread in high-density rental housing neighborhoods!

    I say your citing of USC is largely besides the point, because reading it clearly demonstrates the limitations of the arguments presented by the anti-“torture” crowd. The law is written to specifically legalize — or at least, emphatically does not criminalize — techniques that cause mental pain and suffering, that include the intentional or threatened of physical pain, the administration of drugs that disrupt the senses and personality, the threat of death, etc.

    Many of the anti-“torture” crowd act as if adjectives aren’t important.In their political zeal, they say “illegal!” when they simply mean “I am opposed to the political fortunes of some of those who use these techniques!”

  17. Waterboarding, stress positions, etc. have been considered torture for decades by the US, including this one under George Bush’s administration when we would routinely cite other countries for the use of these tactics as torture.

    Now, I concede your point that certain other tactics may be called torture by some but not actually fit the bill for what has been considered torture by law and society in the past century or two. Yet again, these tactics deployed were widely considered torture not only abroad but within America, not just in a social sense but in the realm of legal precedents.

    Just because someone comes along and says something is legal all of a sudden does not make them right or the crimes they committed acceptable.

    These people broke the law. They could have changed the law, but they did not. They chose to break federal laws willingly, lying repeatedly now and in the past to (a) cover their tracks and (now that it is out in the open) (b) to claim it worked better than anything else available, which we also know to be a falsity given the testimony of interrogators from the FBI, CIA and the military.

    So I will grant you that in some cases, torture can work. But… (a) it is illegal, regardless of what a poorly written and incompetently researched legal memo claims or what the VP wants, and (b) it does not work as well as other proven methods we have at our disposal. It also carries various nasty side effects that have been amply documented over the years.

  18. Eddie,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Waterboarding, stress positions, etc. have been considered torture for decades by the US,

    Citation?

    I am curious because I am wondering to what extent you know what you are talking about.

    ncluding this one under George Bush’s administration when we would routinely cite other countries for the use of these tactics as torture.

    I did not realize the State Department had the poewr to issue binding legal opinions.

    The entire judiciary, by this logic, is unecessary: just ask an Assistant Undersecretary to write a report, and there we have the correct interpretation of a law!

    I can’t believe you take that approach seriously, so I wonder what you really mean?

    Yet again, these tactics deployed were widely considered torture not only abroad but within America, not just in a social sense but in the realm of legal precedents.

    You seam to be using “considered” as a weasel word meaning “I want it to be.”

    Again, I will ask for a legal precedence, paying in mind that the US Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority in the land. (That is, the Supreme Court has ruled that a foreign or international court’s interpretation of a treaty is inferior to the Court’s, which itself does not have the power to force the Congress to write a law which would execute such an interpretation.)

    So I will grant you that in some cases, torture can work. But… (a) it is illegal

    Obviously. Everyone agrees with this.

    You are asserting something different, that IET are illegal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *