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In one of the proudest moments in US History, the US Attorney has sent a letter to Russia, asking them to turn over Edward Snowden to the US.  In the letter, Attorney General Eric Holder reassures them that if they turn over whistleblower Edward Snowden to the US.

1) We will not kill him, and

2) We will not torture him.  

In fact, Holder goes so far as to explain why that can't happen by saying, "Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States.'

That sound you hear is the whole world snickering.

Some of those snickers are probably coming from America's own war criminals who to this day are proudly assertive of the fact that they tortured prisoners in the custody of the United States.  Dick Cheney, I am sure, is clutching his android transhuman heart while laughing.  And there must be some great belly laughs at the NSA, where some of the most important people that have been involved in the NSA's domestic spying program, people like Clapper and Brennan and Michael Hayden, were key to the design and implementation of America's first codified (i.e., structured by governmental laws and regulations) torture program.  Jon Yoo must be chuckling, the guy who argued for the Bush administration that it is perfectly legal for the president to order the crushing of a baby's testicles in order to extract information.  

"If the President deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?", to which Yoo replied "No treaty." Cassel followed up with "Also no law by Congress—that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo", to which Yoo replied "I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that."[42][43]
But that can't happen again, not here, not to Snowden, because, very simply, "Torture is unlawful" according to Eric Holder.

Now you tell us?

Sadly, we can't verify that by pointing to prosecutions for torture of past administration figures who DID torture, even though what was done was not just illegal by US law but also illegal according to multiple signed international treaties that REQUIRE us to prosecute such people.  No.  In fact, some of them still have cushy jobs.  At the NSA and CIA.  Many of the very same guys that Snowden has pissed off.

But the topic is a difficult one for Brennan. The 25-year CIA veteran pulled his name from consideration to head the agency four years ago after liberal groups complained he had not done enough to stop the practice. On Thursday, he said he could not weigh in on the legality of the practice or whether it was torture because he was not a legal scholar, though he maintained his opposition to the practice.

"I've read a lot of legal opinions. I read an Office of Legal Counsel opinion from the previous administration that said waterboarding could be used. So from the standpoint of that, I can't point to a single legal document on the issue. But as far as I'm concerned, waterboarding is something that never should have been employed, and as far as I'm concerned never will be if I have anything to do with it," Brennan said.

[...]

Carney did say that, overall, the White House was pleased with Brennan's performance in the hearing...

How low we have sunk.  We have to promise to, of all countries, RUSSIA, that WE won't torture OUR whistleblowers who have sought asylum in THEIR country.  

Every single word in that above sentence that is bolded is just wrong, wrong, wrong.  We saw this movie before, when it was called the Cold War, and in that film, it was Soviets seeking asylum in the US, and us granting it to them because we knew how Russians treated defectors and "traitors," and we took pride in giving them comfort and being at least marginably better as a country than them in that respect.  Whether or not you think the US sucks and sucked then, at least we didn't hand over people like Sozhenitsyn and Bukovsky the way we want them to hand over Snowden.  

And if they had promised us not to torture them, we would have been the ones rolling around, laughing so very darkly, because you never really know how prisoners are going to be treated in a government that keeps so many secrets and so zealously goes out of its way to punish people who piss off the power brokers.  You must be a fool to suspect anything but the worst.

http://www.dailykos.com/...

Bradley Manning: top US legal scholars voice outrage at 'torture'

More than 250 of America's most eminent legal scholars have signed a letter protesting against the treatment in military prison of the alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, contesting that his "degrading and inhumane conditions" are illegal, unconstitutional and could even amount to torture...

A creative authoritarian power can always think of new ways to fuck people over.  For instance, as Soviet defector (and "traitor") Bukovsky revealed to the world, one preferred way that the Soviets developed for torturing or punishing prisoners was force feeding by tubes up the nose.  

http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

Torture's Long Shadow
By Vladimir Bukovsky
Sunday, December 18, 2005

[...] As someone who has been on the receiving end of the "treatment" under discussion, let me tell you that trying to make a distinction between torture and CID [Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment] techniques is ridiculous. Long gone are the days when a torturer needed the nasty-looking tools displayed in the Tower of London. A simple prison bed is deadly if you remove the mattress and force a prisoner to sleep on the iron frame night after night after night. Or how about the "Chekist's handshake" so widely practiced under Stalin -- a firm squeeze of the victim's palm with a simple pencil inserted between his fingers? Very convenient, very simple. And how would you define leaving 2,000 inmates of a labor camp without dental service for months on end? Is it CID not to treat an excruciatingly painful toothache, or is it torture?

Now it appears that sleep deprivation is "only" CID and used on Guantanamo Bay captives. Well, congratulations, comrades! It was exactly this method that the NKVD used to produce those spectacular confessions in Stalin's "show trials" of the 1930s. The henchmen called it "conveyer," when a prisoner was interrogated nonstop for a week or 10 days without a wink of sleep. At the end, the victim would sign any confession without even understanding what he had signed.

[...]

So, to break me down, they started force-feeding me in a very unusual manner -- through my nostrils. About a dozen guards led me from my cell to the medical unit. There they straitjacketed me, tied me to a bed, and sat on my legs so that I would not jerk. The others held my shoulders and my head while a doctor was pushing the feeding tube into my nostril.

The feeding pipe was thick, thicker than my nostril, and would not go in. Blood came gushing out of my nose and tears down my cheeks, but they kept pushing until the cartilages cracked. I guess I would have screamed if I could, but I could not with the pipe in my throat. I could breathe neither in nor out at first; I wheezed like a drowning man -- my lungs felt ready to burst. The doctor also seemed ready to burst into tears, but she kept shoving the pipe farther and farther down. Only when it reached my stomach could I resume breathing, carefully. Then she poured some slop through a funnel into the pipe that would choke me if it came back up. They held me down for another half-hour so that the liquid was absorbed by my stomach and could not be vomited back, and then began to pull the pipe out bit by bit. . . . Grrrr. There had just been time for everything to start healing during the night when they came back in the morning and did it all over again, for 10 days, when the guards could stand it no longer. As it happened, it was a Sunday and no bosses were around. They surrounded the doctor: "Hey, listen, let him drink it straight from the bowl, let him sip it. It'll be quicker for you, too, you silly old fool." The doctor was in tears: "Do you think I want to go to jail because of you lot? No, I can't do that. . . . " And so they stood over my body, cursing each other, with bloody bubbles coming out of my nose.

Obviously, the definition of "torture" matters, if we're going to start making assurances to other countries that we don't do "THAT" anymore, whatever "THAT" ever really was.  However, actually defining it and embracing the definition at a country would be colossally embarrassing to many people in this country who should be in jail cells rather than getting paid to read our mail.  In fact, the definition of torture seems to be so unstable that it changes from administration to administration.  As Bukovsky points out in the same article: "Every Russian czar after Peter the Great solemnly abolished torture upon being enthroned, and every time his successor had to abolish it all over again."

A State Department spokesman [correct me if I'm wrong] recently stated that the Russians were "using" Snowden to "embarrass" the United States.  If that was their aim, to embarrass us, it's been a HUGE SUCCESS.  But this is a self-inflicted embarrassment.  

First, we make fools of ourselves on the international stage by casting ourselves in the role of the Cold War Soviet Union through hysterical and heavy-handed overreaction to Snowden's leaks.  Nobody forced our government to do that.  Even the Soviets, at the height of the Cold War, had the common sense and restraint to know when to shut up about their defectors.

Next, we make further fools of ourselves by reminding the world that we ARE torturers by DENYING it.  Sometimes it's better to just shut up.  I wonder if the DOJ can appreciate how everybody feels hearing it.  It makes me wince, because it reminds me, I don't trust the US government not to torture people anymore.  Especially someone that the veteran torturers (who still walk free and collect fat USG paychecks) hate so much.

You know, if Snowden were clever, he would offer to return to the United States voluntarily as soon as Holder proves that torture is unlawful in the US... by actually indicting somebody for it.

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