Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spanish Court Attacking American Officials?

The New York Times reports that a "high-level" Spanish Court is planning to investigate and possibly indicte former Bush administration officials for "providing a legalistic framework to justify the use of torture of American prisoners at Guantánamo Bay." The officials under consideration do not include former President Bush or former Vice President Cheney. 

The fact that such an idiotic action is even contemplated demonstrates an amazing lack of logic, especially for supposedly trained legal minds. Rather than attack those in charge who bear the primary responsibility, this Spanish court is focused on the lawyers, who did exactly what they were supposed to do, provide legal guidelines for the administration. Gonzalo Boye, the lawyer who filed the complaint tried to justify it by saying,

“This is a case from lawyers against lawyers,” he said. “Our profession does not allow us to misuse our legal knowledge to create a pseudo-legal frame to justify, stimulate and cover up torture.”

What a pile of garbage. That's exactly what lawyers do. They protect their clients. If their client wants to undertake a certain course of action, they attempt to find a legal method -- something that often involves seeking loopholes and coming up with creative interpretations of the law. Just because some might disagree with their interpretations, doesn't mean they should be subjected to criminal prosecution. Any attempt to prosecute Bush administration lawyers, whether from Spain or here in the U.S.,  is an attempt to criminalize legal advice & legal interpretations because of political differences -- plain and simple.

I doubt whether it would do so, but the Obama administration should make it clear to Spain that it would regard any such indictments as an unfriendly act harmful to U.S.-Spanish relations. Should such actions go forward, the U.S. should examine and consider possible retaliatory measures. It is also worth noting that according to Amnesty International, police torture is a"pervasive" problem in Spain. Instead of worrying about the actions of Bush administration lawyers, Spanish courts would be well-served to put their own house in order.


  1. One thing to note is that former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey supported the extra-jurisdictional application of domestic anti-torture laws to foreign defendants:

    The United States for the first time this year used a law that allows for the prosecution in the United States of torture in other countries. On Jan. 10, a Miami court sentenced Charles Taylor, the former Liberian leader, to 97 years in a federal prison for torture, even though the crimes were committed in Liberia.

    Last October, when the Miami court handed down the conviction, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey applauded the ruling and said: "This is the first case in the United States to charge an individual with criminal torture. I hope this case will serve as a model to future prosecutions of this type."

  2. "General Michael Mukasey supported the extra-jurisdictional application of domestic anti-torture laws to foreign defendants"

    According to CNN, Charles Taylor was born in Boston and is therefore a U.S. citizen. It's a much different situation.