One of the little reported details from the latest batch of Wikileaks material are cables showing that the Obama Administration worked hard behind the scenes not only to prevent any investigation of torture in the United States but shutdown efforts abroad to enforce the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. This includes threatening the Spanish that, if they did not derail a judicial investigation, it would have serious consequences in bilateral relations. I discussed these cables on Countdown.
For two years, President Obama has worked to block the investigation of torture under the Bush Administration — even as both Dick Cheney and George Bush publicly admit to ordering waterboarding of suspects.
David Corn in Mother Jones has an interesting posting today on the issue.
A “confidential” April 17, 2009, cable sent from the US embassy in Madrid to the State Department discloses how the Administration discarded any respect for the independence of the judiciary in Spain and pressured the government to derail the prosecution of Bush officials. Human rights groups around the world had called for such enforcement in light of Obama promise that no torturers would be prosecuted and Holder’s blocking of any investigation into war crimes.
The Association for the Dignity of Spanish Prisoners had filed a demand for prosecution with Spain’s National Court to indict former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; David Addington, former chief of staff and legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney; William Haynes, the Pentagon’s former general counsel; Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy; Jay Bybee, former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and John Yoo, a former official in the Office of Legal Counsel. It had a compelled factual basis that these men ordered or facilitated war crimes — a record that has only become stronger since this confrontation.
American officials pressured government officials, including prosecutors and judges, not to enforce international law and that this was “a very serious matter for the USG.” It was Obama’s own effort at creating a “Coalition of the Unwilling” — nations unwilling to enforce treaties on torture and war crimes when the alleged culprits are American officials.
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) joined the embassy’s charge d’affaires in the secret campaign to block the prosection of Judge Baltasar Garzón.
Corn notes that, during an April 14, 2009 White House briefing, he asked press secretary Robert Gibbs if the Obama administration would cooperate with any request from Spain on the investigation and prosecution. Gibbs insisted that this was nothing but “hypotheticals” and did not disclose that in fact the Obama Administration was working diligently to block the Spanish case.
Just as many conservatives abandoned their principles in following George Bush blindly, many liberals have chosen to ignore Obama’s concerted efforts to protect individuals accused of war crimes. Under our treaty obligations, the United States has the primary responsibility to prosecute torture by U.S. citizens. That responsibility rests with the Executive Branch – the prosecuting authority of the United States. What is particularly disgraceful is that Obama would refuse to fulfill this responsibility under our treaties and international law and then demand the same hypocrisy from our allies.
FLOG THE BLOG: Have you voted yet for the top legal opinion blog? WE NEED YOUR VOTE! You can vote at HERE by clicking on the “opinion” category. Voting ends December 31, 2011.