Watchdog Blog

Gilbert Cranberg: Mr. Bush, Are You Planning Any Preemptive Pardons?

Posted at 11:53 am, October 24th, 2008
Gilbert Cranberg Mug

Remember President Gerald Ford’s 1974 pardon of Richard Nixon? The disgraced Nixon was pardoned although he faced no charges at the time. Ford said he acted because “serious allegations and accusations hang like a sword over our former president’s head.”

As George W. Bush prepares to exit the White House, are more preemptive pardons on the way? The press ought not wait to be presented with a fait accompli but should be asking hard questions now: “Mr. President are you planning to pardon any of the people responsible for carrying out your administration’s interrogation policies?”

“Enhanced interrogation techniques” — simulated drowning, prolonged stress positions, lengthy sleep deprivation — was the administration’s euphemism for torture. A lot of administration officials have their fingerprints on these policies, not least Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Cheney, his chief aide David Addington and a flock of other lawyers. A recent book, “Torture Team,” by international lawyer Philippe Sands, makes a forceful case that high-level lawyers had a big hand in fashioning the administration’s torture agenda and ought to be held especially to account.

At Bush’s urging, Congress made a stab at conferring immunity on U.S. interrogators in the Military Commissions Act of 2006, but may not have done it effectively. People like Addington, John Yoo and William J. Haynes, the former Pentagon general counsel, may well feel entitled to reassurance by the commander-in-chief.

Pardons, however, cannot put them beyond reach of foreign courts if they travel abroad. The concept of universal jurisdiction gives the judiciary all over the world the means to enforce international laws against torture. At this very moment, Charles (Chucky) Taylor of Liberia is being tried on war crimes and torture charges in a Florida court under the concept of universal jurisdiction although none of his alleged crimes was committed in this country.

It is going to look inconsistent, to say the least, for our courtroom doors to be open to prosecute Chucky Taylor and then to seal them shut when it comes to home-grown torture. Besides, until now this country consistently faulted foreign governments that put roadblocks in the way of punishing torture and other human-rights abuse. All the more reason for the press to question Bush aggressively about how he intends to wield his pardon power.

3 Responses to “Mr. Bush, Are You Planning Any Preemptive Pardons?”

  1. Thomas says:

    The press could ask Obama if he intends to pardon Mr. Rezko, the first donor to his political career and a convicted federal felon.

  2. Elroy says:

    Steady on, Tommy – Obama ain’t actually POTUS yet and if does get into the WH he won’t be leaving for a while, so your deflection is a little preemptive to say the least.

    Which brings us back to the actual, important and timely question posed by Mr Cranburg – who will Bush pardon?



  3. Gayle says:

    Pre-emptive war
    Pre-emptive Arrests (see Amy Goodman’s journalists)
    Pre-emptive pardons

    What fool actually believes there is still a “rule of law” being used in our country?

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