DOJ Announces It’s Still Tough on Torture — When Other Countries Do It
The Department of Justice announced today that Roy Belfast Jr., aka Chuckie Taylor, son of the former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, has been sentenced to 97 years in prison for crimes related to the torture of prisoners in Liberia.
“This sentence sends a resounding message that torture will not be tolerated here at home or by U.S. nationals abroad,” said Executive Assistant Director Arthur M. Cummings II, of the FBI National Security Division. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to investigate such acts wherever they occur.”
Curiously, Cummings doesn’t mention that Attorney General Michael Mukasey has repeatedly said that he will not investigate whether U.S. officials broke the law when they authorized the torture, abuse and humiliation of suspected terrorists in American custody.
That’s because, as Mukasey has insisted, Justice Department lawyers assured the president and his advisers that they weren’t doing anything wrong. Never mind that Vice President Dick Cheney recently publicly admitted to authorizing waterboarding, which the United States itself has long considered torture, and prosecuted as such.
The opinions of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department informed the president that he wasn’t subject to anti-torture laws, and even if he was, it’s only torture if it causes pain “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” However, that probably wouldn’t include burning people with cigarettes or candle wax, which is among the tortures that Taylor authorized and was prosecuted for right here in the United States.
In short, we can rest easy that the FBI and Department of Justice stand ready to go after torturers in other countries; investigating and prosecuting those right here at home is another matter.