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Why America's top liberal lawyer wants to legalise torture
The Scottsman ^ | May 22, 2004 | James Silver

Posted on 05/23/2004 11:22:32 AM PDT by nmh

Why America's top liberal lawyer wants to legalise torture

JAMES SILVER

http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=404&id=582662004

THE grisly revelations of torture and human rights abuses by American forces in Iraq have come as no surprise to Alan Dershowitz, the most famous civil liberties and criminal defence attorney in the United States.

A year ago, he said American personnel were torturing suspected terrorists in Guantánamo Bay, Bagram air base in Afghanistan and the US itself.

Now, he says: "Of course it would be best if we didn’t use torture at all, but if the United States is going to continue to torture people, we need to make the process legal and accountable."

Although he has never been one to shy away from an intellectual punch-up, Mr Dershowitz’s proposal that torture should be "legalised" in the ongoing war on terrorism has earned him opprobrium from critics on both sides of the Atlantic. What, they ask, is one of America’s most high-profile liberals doing effectively advocating the use of torture?

"I’m personally opposed to torture because I think the slippery slope is too steep and too dangerous," says the Harvard law professor.

"But I’m also a realist. Torture is occurring as we speak in the United States of America and abroad. We are not torturing people to death. We are not torturing them promiscuously. But we are torturing. And it’s happening because we think we can save lives by doing it."

He continues: "If you accept that premise, the debate becomes a very different one. Is it worse to do it secretly with deniability as we’re doing it today, or to create a legal system where you have to go to a judge ... where you have to make a judge get down into the dirt and sign a warrant authorising torture with accountability? My own belief is that in a democracy, accountability is always better."

What form might the torture he proposes take? His bespectacled, owlish face stiffens into a frown. "Torture is a continuum and the two extremes are on the one hand torturing someone to death - that is torturing an enemy to death so that others will know that if you are caught, you will be caused excruciating pain - that’s torture as a deterrent," he says without pausing for breath.

"At the other extreme, there’s non-lethal torture which leaves only psychological scars. The perfect example of this is a sterilised needle inserted under the fingernail, causing unbearable pain but no possible long-term damage. These are very different phenomena. What they have in common of course is that they allow the government physically to come into contact with you in order to produce pain. And that’s a barrier we should not go over lightly."

Mr Dershowitz, whose clients as a criminal defence attorney have included OJ Simpson and Louise Woodward, argues that torture is justified in the case of a "ticking-bomb terrorist", namely, to force a captured terrorist who is withholding critical information to disclose the location of a bomb that would otherwise kill or maim many people.

"If you had a situation where a thousand lives were at stake and we could prevent those lives being lost by causing pain to a clear, admitted terrorist, is that morally wrong? I’m saying that decision has to be made by a judge, by the attorney general or by the president himself. In other words, by someone with visibility and accountability, not some murky, low-level secret service or CIA agent without a name."

Mr Dershowitz cites a recent kidnapping case in Germany in which the son of a distinguished financier was kidnapped and the police were given the authority to torture the kidnapper in order to coerce him to disclose the whereabouts of the boy. Once the kidnapper found out that torture had been authorised, he immediately came clean. Tragically, the police arrived to find that the boy had died.

"If you present most people around the world with a case like that, whether they are civil libertarians or not, they will say go ahead and torture," Mr Dershowitz claims. "But if you then move it to the next level, and for example, the terrorist is resisting torture, do you then do what [the authorities in] Jordan did in a case in the 1980s, namely call in his mother and child? Do you then begin to torture other people in the family - innocent people? Most Americans, when asked that question, draw the line at torturing the innocent relative."

Mr Dershowitz says he came across the idea for "torture warrants" while reading about 16th and 17th century England and France. While the French were torturing "virtually everybody", the English Privy Council instituted on warrants. This led to about 100 people being tortured over the course of a century.

He describes the English system as "under centralised control … more visible and thus more subject to public accountability" than the French, which meant that "the English were able to eliminate torture much more quickly".

He attempts to make a distinction between so-called "torture-lite" and "genuine" torture. "Some of the techniques we are using in Guantánamo and Iraq, as we’ve seen, I think are torture. But the United States supreme court has said that you can lie to suspects - you can make them think you are going to do things you would never do - and that’s not torture. Torture is a very powerful, emotive word. We should probably reserve it for the most extreme forms rather than these other more marginal forms of conduct."

However, the UN Convention against Torture makes no such distinction. Article One defines the term as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession." Similarly, international law affirms the right of every person not to be subjected to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment".

The adoption of Mr Dershowitz’s "torture warrants" would necessitate the US opting out of the treaties to which it is a signatory.

"Many of the countries who are signatories to the various conventions routinely torture," he declares. "Egypt, Jordan and the Philippines are signatories - we know those countries torture.

"How do we know? Because the United States sends our detainees to those countries to have them tortured. Hypocrisy is prevailing today. My suggestion is that if the United States were to authorise torture, we would have to write a letter to the various signatory organisations saying we reserve the right under the convention to exclude the following from the definition of torture … and then we’d list our exceptions.

"People say ‘Oh my God, that will open the floodgates’. I say the reverse is true. I believe that would close the floodgates. My view is that accountability - with records of each warrant granted - will reduce the amount of torture rather than increase it."

• Alan Dershowitz, born in Brooklyn in 1938, went to Yale Law School and was appointed to the Harvard Law faculty at 25. He became the youngest professor in the school’s history three years later.

He defended Claus von Bulow, convicted in 1982 of attempting to murder multi-millionaire wife, Sunny, by injecting her with insulin. Helped by Harvard law students, Mr Dershowitz got the conviction overturned and von Bulow was acquitted in a retrial. The story was made into a Hollywood film, Reversal of Fortune. His latest book, The Case for Israel, is published by John Wiley & Sons.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Extended News; Miscellaneous; Politics/Elections; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: alandershowitz; liberals; lies; torture
Liberals are boldly showing their true colors. Not only do they support abortion, homosexuality but now torture!
1 posted on 05/23/2004 11:22:34 AM PDT by nmh
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To: nmh
Alan Dershowitz, the most famous civil liberties and criminal defence attorney in the United States.

Johnnie Cochrane???

2 posted on 05/23/2004 11:29:05 AM PDT by Old Sarge (It's not Bush's fault - It's THE MEDIA'S fault!)
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To: nmh

Why does the Dersh support torture?

That's simple. Job security. More torture subjects=more clients.


3 posted on 05/23/2004 11:29:45 AM PDT by RichInOC ("If you gave Alan Dershowitz a dose of Viagra, his posture would improve...."--Jonah Goldberg)
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To: RichInOC

I believe YOU are right!

"That's simple. Job security. More torture subjects=more clients."

Geesh! Didn't even cross my mind - $$$$$$!


4 posted on 05/23/2004 11:40:55 AM PDT by nmh (Intelligent people recognize Intelligent Design (God).)
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To: nmh

If torture is not legalized, it will take place in dangerous back alleys. It should be safe, legal, and rare.


5 posted on 05/23/2004 11:41:02 AM PDT by Arthur McGowan
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To: RichInOC

>That's simple. Job security. More torture subjects=more clients.

You are probably mistaken. Dersh saw the light on 9/11/2001. He's still a liberal, but he's for the War on Terror.


6 posted on 05/23/2004 11:42:38 AM PDT by Darnright
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To: Darnright

Perhaps...but we'll see.


7 posted on 05/23/2004 11:46:08 AM PDT by RichInOC ("...he'd get a ruddy complexion, and he'd grow a few inches taller.")
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To: nmh

Dershowitz is probably correct on this one. There's an old and largely forgotten principle in Anglo-American law that says that the safety of the community is the greatest good and that there may be times that the executive branch HAS to act outside of the law to protect the people. There are long periods of time when the legislature isn't even in session, much less able to act quickly in an emergency. The rule was that the executive should go ahead and do what was necessary even if it meant breaking the law, but THEN, afterwards and at the first opportunity, the executive has an obligation to lay an account of its conduct and the circumstances before the legislative authority. The legislature would then either pass a resolution retroactively justfying the executive's illegal action (if they agreed it was justified) OR would proceed to impeach the executive for violating the law.

This happened in 1779 (I think) when Thomas Jefferson was governor of Virginia. There was (or may have been) a plot by Loyalists to seize and destroy the lead mines in SE Virginia on which Washington's army depended. The county militia officers, mainly Colonel Crockett (not the Alamo guy) and Colonel Lynch (yes, that one), acted swiftly to arrest suspected loyalist conspirators, many of whom were whipped etc., although no one was hanged. AFTER the conspiracy was crushed -- if there was a conspiracy -- they wrote Governor Jefferson an official report describing everything they had done. Jefferson laid it before the legislature, which passed a law indemnifying the militia officers and their men. What the law said was that if anyone brought criminal or civil action against Crockett or Lynch or their men, they could plead the act of indemnification and the judge was to consider the case against them null and void.


8 posted on 05/23/2004 11:51:21 AM PDT by docmcb
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To: Arthur McGowan

"...and I vow to you that I will fight with every breath in my body for a military intelligence officer's right to choose."


9 posted on 05/23/2004 11:52:29 AM PDT by RichInOC ("You hear me, hillbilly boy? I ain't through with you by a damn sight! I'm'a get medieval...!")
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To: nmh

Doesn't he come from a Stalinist family political heritage? The Constituition forbids cruel and unusual punsihment but nobody seems to take it seriously any more. Yeah just excise it from the Constituition and allow the Government to treat all its "subjects" as they like.


10 posted on 05/23/2004 11:54:16 AM PDT by Eternal_Bear
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To: nmh
"THE grisly revelations of torture and human rights abuses by American forces in Iraq"

Grisly? While the dictionary definition of grisly includes the word ghastly, which in turn has one definition as extremely unpleasant, I would say that the pictures released fall short of something "grisly". Shocking, cruel, unacceptable, but not "grisly".

The Berg murder was grisly, the prisoner abuse was not, imho.
11 posted on 05/23/2004 11:54:18 AM PDT by SoCal Pubbie
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To: nmh

Alan Dershowitz brings no credit to himself or the legal profession. He is a joke without the laughs.


12 posted on 05/23/2004 11:58:29 AM PDT by hgro
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To: nmh

I saw him the other night on Fox. He actually made a lot of sense.

I'm not into the torture thing, but he talked a lot about how people were too involved in protecting the civil rights of those that would kill us. For a change, I actually listened to him.


13 posted on 05/23/2004 12:03:04 PM PDT by I still care
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To: nmh
Of course Dirtbagowitz is for "legal" torture here in America.

When Hillary and her gang (which includes, ta-da,... Dershowitz!) take power, they'll need torture as another means to control the general American "terrorist" unrest and revolt they likely will face.

Until then, they think it is OK to start polishing up such techniques and getting legal acceptance against terrorists in general by using it now on Muslim terrorists, while they slide their own noses under the edge of that tent in anticipation of future events.

14 posted on 05/23/2004 12:17:39 PM PDT by Gritty ("a 'gun-free' zone is most assuredly not a 'safe' zone!)
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To: Eternal_Bear

I suspect Dershowitz has information dangerous to the Constitution. I think we should get it from him.


15 posted on 05/23/2004 12:18:27 PM PDT by Peter vE (Ceterum censeo: delenda est Carthago.)
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To: I still care
I saw him the other night on Fox. He actually made a lot of sense.

I'm not into the torture thing, but he talked a lot about how people were too involved in protecting the civil rights of those that would kill us. For a change, I actually listened to him.

Dershowitz may be a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, but when it comes to the WOT in general and Israel specifically he turns into a rabid hawk. He's stood up against pro-Palestinian terrorist groups on the Harvard campus and firmly believes in Israel's right to exist and defend herself.

I think he's serious about legalizing torture as a weapon in the WOT, not as a future source of victims/clients.

16 posted on 05/23/2004 12:19:06 PM PDT by randog (Everything works great 'til the current flows.)
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To: Darnright; RichInOC
>That's simple. Job security. More torture subjects=more clients. You are probably mistaken. Dersh saw the light on 9/11/2001. He's still a liberal, but he's for the War on Terror.

I wonder which of you is right. I, personally, trust liberals, socialists, and lawyers less than conservatives, hawks and libertarians.

One constant occurance with libRats is that they propose some policy "for the children" or some such lofty reason, and their real purpose is power and access to other people's money. That's why, when their policies fail to accomplish stated goals, they always need more power and more money to make it work, so we get more of the same instead of a change in POLICY.

I believe Dershowitz wants torture because he believes he can control it to his own advantage with lib help. Ethical and moral conservative judges probably would not issue ANY torture warrants, but activist liberal judges would, but only for conservative or rightist subjects. It would be a dream come true for the commies, to have a legal system operate like Hitler's or Stalin's. Think of all the confessions they'd get.

17 posted on 05/23/2004 12:19:18 PM PDT by Navy Patriot
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To: nmh

I agree with Dershowitz. Sometimes torture is necessary to save lives. Why should our soldiers have to decide whether to put their own careers on the line in order to do it. Set up a process.


18 posted on 05/23/2004 12:44:29 PM PDT by Piranha
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To: nmh

The Italians did it. Let's legalize it ourselves.


19 posted on 05/23/2004 12:46:42 PM PDT by Vision (Always Faithful)
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To: SoCal Pubbie

Don't forget "humiliating!"


20 posted on 05/23/2004 1:20:39 PM PDT by lancer (If you are not with us, you are against us!)
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To: nmh

We won't ride PC to victory over terrorists. Pay them in their own currency.


21 posted on 05/23/2004 3:34:27 PM PDT by gcruse (http://gcruse.typepad.com/)
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To: Arthur McGowan
If torture is not legalized, it will take place in dangerous back alleys. It should be safe, legal, and rare.

ROTFL!

22 posted on 05/23/2004 4:00:00 PM PDT by mrustow
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To: RichInOC; nmh; Darnright

You guys don't sound like you are familiar with Dershowitz's views on this subject (or any other subject?). He's a lawyer and he's an obnoxious man, but he also has very powerful arguments on this and many other subjects.


23 posted on 05/23/2004 4:05:46 PM PDT by mrustow
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To: Arthur McGowan

that IS kinda how it reads.


24 posted on 05/23/2004 7:57:23 PM PDT by King Prout (the difference between "trained intellect" and "indoctrinated intellectual" is an Abyssal gulf)
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