The declassification and leaking of the so-called “torture memos” only supplements much which was already publicly well-known, but has offered a fresh opportunity to frankly debate American values, in particular its commitment to the rule of law, its own constitution, and international human rights and humanitarian law obligations to which it has committed itself, and which the Supreme Court has confirmed are part of domestic law. It is a shame, therefore, that the debate has been so stunted, diverted by the red herring of Dick Cheney’s rantings, and the apparent willingness of a segment of the population to accept, first, without evidence, that torture and other illegal activities have actually generated valuable intelligence that has thwarted potential attacks, and, second, that the rule of law and our core values can simply be suspended when they appear to be inconvenient. This includes, apparently, not only international legal obligations, but obligations under the Constitution, and clear guidance formally embedded in military training through the documents such as the US Army Field Manual dealing with human intelligence gathering.

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