In what the front-page headline in the New York Times calls “A Victory for Obama,” a closely-divided Ninth Circuit has decided that the State Secrets Privilege prevents torture victims from suing corporate accomplices to their torture.
The plaintiff in the case had his personal torture partly outsourced to the Moroccan secret police, who abused him in ways that the RBC’s “family-friendly” policy forbids me from relating. He was then shipped back to Afghanistan, where officials of the United States Government spent your money and mine on less imaginative, but not less vicious, forms of torment. He was then released, suggesting he was something far short of “the worst of the worst.”
Of course, that’s from the complaint. We’re not to be allowed to know how much of it is true.
I’m told by someone in a position to know and who wouldn’t lie to me that we’re no longer practicing torture, even torture-by-proxy. (And his definition of “torture” comes from the English language and not the Yoo and Bybee memos.) So the “victory” for Obama consists in the continuing capacity to cover up the war crimes, crimes against humanity, and felony (perhaps capital) violations of domestic U.S. law by the collection of thugs hired by his predecessor.
I can imagine three forms of damage to the national security that might come from a trial: aiding terrorist recruiting and damaging the American image abroad as the facts came out (think of Abu Ghraib, squared); subjecting current and former U.S. officials and contract personnel to obloquy and perhaps criminal prosecution; and blowing the cover of the Moroccan and other contract torturers, who no doubt were promised anonymity. None of that is the sort of order-of-battle information – stuff that would help an enemy plan strategy and tactics – that the “State Secrets” doctrine was invented to protect (by the courts, as recently as the 1950s).
And of course all the torture voters are voting straight Tea Party this year, and people like Dick Cheney – who in a just world might well have wound up in the gas chamber, if it could have been shown that someone died as a result of the torture he ordered – will feel free to continue to abuse the President as soft on terror.
Not, all in all, such a good day to be an American.