Monday, August 20, 2007

A Question for the Lawyers

Here's what puzzles me. As I've argued in an earlier post, the use of "enhanced interrogation" techniques, although approved by President Bush, violates international law, US constitutional law, and civil law. Yet the nation's legal beagles seem not to have noticed--or, if they have noticed, seem not to care very much. So torturers get impunity, and the law is ignored.

But just today, charges were dropped against Lt. Col. Stephen Jordan, commander of the Joint Interrogation Briefing Center at Abu Ghraib, who lied on at least two counts when he denied knowing what was going on at the prison. The charges were dropped on a legal technicality: nobody read Jordan his rights prior to the testimony in which he lied. In this case, the law is scrupulously followed--as it should be, by the way--and in being followed, it lets a torturer off the hook.
That's what I find puzzling. When it comes to international and constitutional law forbidding torture, we don't seem to give a damn. When it comes to a criminal suspect's Miranda rights, we follow the straight and narrow as if the entire legal system depended on it. What's the difference? Why the one, but not the other?