Thursday, February 19, 2009

Clive Stafford Smith in Spiegel Online

Spiegel Online has a great interview with Binyam Mohamed's lawyer Clive Stafford Smith.

One of his most interesting comments relates to the letter he sent to President Obama. The letter was covered by Valtin at his blog here and here.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You have even sent a letter to President Obama containing
evidence that Mohamed has been tortured. The president, however, has not
received that letter.

Stafford Smith: Oh God, this letter story is just incredible. As a
defense team, we had access to intelligence papers, and we tried to provide the
president with the evidence of torture we obtained. We wanted him to know that.
But all the substantial parts of my letter were blacked out so the president
could not read them. Under the bizarre laws the Americans have, they are
preventing their commander-in-chief from knowing things that he should. I wrote
to him that he is being denied access to material that would help prove that
crimes have been committed by US personnel and that these decisions have been
made by the very people he commands.

I am not sure what the legal framework is for this kind of thing. What Stafford Smith is suggesting, I think, is that it is legal to censor such material from the President. Rather disturbing - and stupid. If someone (the DoD) is blacking out material in an attempt to shield President Obama from criminal liability - as The Guardian suggests (h/t Valtin) - well, that issue isn't going away anytime soon. Obama is going to be constantly confronted (or constantly shielded) by evidence of American wrongdoing. He can't simply spend the next 4-8 years in denial of that.

If covering up torture makes President Obama criminally liable, I have some advice for him - don't do it. It may not be the most noble motivation, but at least get the torture off your hands, and CYA.

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