Thursday, March 17, 2005

Not "Excruiating" Enough

Marty Lederman of Balkinization links to an NPR broadcast on torture. It quotes Harvard Law Professor (and noted civil rights zealot) Alan Dershowitz as saying
"When you torture somebody to death--that is, when you kill somebody and use grave pain to aggravate the killing of that person--everybody would acknowledge that’s torture. But placing a sterilized needle under somebody’s fingernails for fifteen minutes, causing excruciating pain but no permanent physical damage--is that torture?"

As Lederman notes, yes, it is torture, you dolt.
"Just for the record: Even under the constricted definition of "torture" in current U.S. law, intentionally causing "excruiating" (i.e., severe) pain to a person in one's custody is, unequivocally, torture, and is a felony under all circumstances. Perhaps it's open to argument whether that law should be changed. But I don't really see how there's any ambiguity about whether that technique is, in fact, "torture" as things now stand."

I'm very disappointed in Prof. Dershowitz. It is sad to see such a zealous defender of American Civil Liberties seeking to whitewash such practices by questioning whether they even rise to the level of "torture." To be fair, Lederman points out that Dershowitz wants to allow torture "because as an empirical matter the U.S. does and will continue to use torture as a technique, the law should expressly indicate when and under what circumstances it is to be permitted, rather than purporting to categorically proscribe it." Whether or not pervasive lawbreaking by our government means we should just change the laws that restrain them remains to be justified.

Judging a debate tournament this weekend. Be back Saturday night.

1 comment:

jack said...

Funny story and a good reason to listen to NPR more often. I quoted Dershowitz over the weekend. A bad idea in front of a well informed policy judge.