On Tuesday, the Senate voted to ban the use of torture by the United States military and intelligence agencies. Many of us were befuddled by this development. After all, wasn't the argument for holding Bush administration officials accountable for authorizing torture based on the premise it was illegal at the time?
The answer is yes: It was illegal, but apparently a majority of senators believed that there were loopholes that the Bush White House employed to justify the use of torture. The new bill attempts to eliminate any ambiguity by only allowing interrogation techniques detailed in the Army Field Manual.
...extraditing "detainees" to other nations who employ torture, who then share their interrogations with the CIA, means that torture still remains effectively legal. Furthermore, it's appropriate to be cynical about the idea that a law can prevent torture from occurring in the "shadows" of the vast US military and intelligence covert-ops network, where there is little or no accountability.
A detailed and lengthy article in The New York Times on June 11 revealed how Seal Team 6 operates with only the oversight of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and the CIA. Both JSOC and the CIA are, on paper, accountable to the executive branch, but they likely engage in what is called "plausible deniability" by not fully informing the White House of "off the books" activities.
Whether JSOC will permit the continuation of torture with a wink and a nod - and a shredder to destroy any evidence of torture - may never be known. However, we do know this alarming fact: The senate anti-torture bill does not prohibit ongoing assassinations and targeted killings of "terrorist suspects" by covert forces such as Seal Team 6. People are often assassinated in groups for fitting the "profile" of terrorists.