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Barack Obama's presidency

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Spanish Judge Probes Bush Torture

By David Swanson
March 29, 2009

Editor’s Note: Spain’s renowned investigative judge Baltasar Garzon has taken the first steps in a criminal investigation of six senior Bush administration lawyers who were involved in creating the legal framework for the torture of “war on terror” suspects.

This stunning news made it onto page 6 of the New York Times as a prominent story, but the Washington Post noted it only as an “Around the World” brief on page 11, as much of the big U.S. media and Official Washington continue to avert their eyes from the deepening torture scandal, as David Swanson notes in this guest essay:

Spain has begun a criminal investigation into six of Bush and Cheney's torture lawyers, and our own Justice Department has got some 'splaining to do.

You see, it's actually required by our laws and by international law and treaties that we prosecute our own torturers. It's not optional.

It doesn't matter whether our television stations can handle more than one news story at a time, or whether our President wants to avoid anything that might limit presidential power, or whether Eric Holder thinks this is a good year for torture prosecutions. It's not optional.

Spain is enforcing the law because we are illegally failing to. Spain is child services come to tell us we're not running our household legally, and Spain is obviously right.

Of course Americans want prosecutions, but we have failed to compel our government to do what we want. In the absence of anyone to thank in Washington, we should thank Spain. We should send thank you notes to their courts and newspapers.

Those of us who can vacation abroad should do so in Spain. We should buy products from Spain, eat Spanish food, and learn to speak Spanish, because our basic values are not spoken in English anymore. Well, American English anyway (the language of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and "looking forward, rather than backward").

Britain, too, has begun a criminal investigation.

Here are the people likely to soon be indicted in Spain, as listed in the criminal complaint, people now at serious risk of arrest if they leave the United States:

• David Addington, 103 W Maple Street, Alexandria, VA 22301-2605, USA [This is a few blocks from the King Street Metro Stop and yet shamefully not a regular location for protests or citizen's arrests.]

• Jay S. Bybee, United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit, The James R. Browning Courthouse, 95 7th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA [This is a giant marble building in the center of the city represented in Congress by the Speaker of the House, and yet this man is neither impeached nor protested.]

• Douglas Feith, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, 1015 15th Street, N.W., 6th Floor, Washington, DC 20005, USA [This is three blocks from the White House and one block from the Washington Post, and yet this man is left in peace.]

• William J Haynes, Chief Corporate Counsel, Chevron Headquarters, 6001 Bollinger Canyon Road, San Ramon, CA 94583, USA [OK, This is on the outskirts of the same Bay Area that can't be bothered about Bybee overturning the decisions of decent judges in the middle of downtown, so Haynes' domestic immunity is understandable. Unless you read about what he did.]

• John Yoo, UC Berkeley School of Law, 215 Boalt Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-7200, USA. [This is the one guy American society seems to have found a modicum of the appropriate distaste for, to the extent that he is no longer tolerated in Berkeley, but can be found and protested in Orange County, Calif.]

• Alberto R. Gonzáles, P.O. Box 9932 - McLean, VA, 22102-0932, USA. [Reportedly he can't find a job, he was forced out of office under threat of impeachment, and a pretense was made of investigating him. But he would live happily ever after if it were up to Washington, D.C.]

Now, it seems highly likely to me that Spain left Bush and Cheney out of this list due to simple fear of power. They didn't have the nerve, although the chief judge involved has written in the past about Bush's criminality. Baltasar Garzón wrote last year that Bush should face war crimes charges.

But he apparently believes that he can get there in steps more easily than he can start at the top. [For more on this logic, see’s “First, Jail All Bush’s Lawyers.”]

So where did Spain come up with all the evidence in its lengthy complaint against the six lawyers, and how has all of that evidence been kept secret from the U.S. media?

Well, as it happens, it's all been publicly available for quite some time. It would be very difficult to argue that there is not probable cause to begin a criminal investigation, so nobody does argue it. The U.S. media simply avoids it.

The trick will be in maintaining the silence. What if Eric Holder were to hold a press conference and let an actual reporter in the room? When the Senate Armed Services Committee releases its full report on torture, will it be possible to avoid the realization that everything that we and Spain had before PLUS the new stuff justifies and requires the appointment of a special prosecutor?

When the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility releases its long buried report, will it be possible to maintain that night is still day and up is still down? When the Justice Department releases more memos on April 2nd that were used to sanction torture, will anyone in power in Washington finally be moved to speak?

When each newly released prisoner tells his story, will it be possible each time to completely avoid the question of prosecuting the criminals?

Maybe it will. But if Spain indicts, it will be worth remembering -- and reminding Spain -- that President Obama considers rendition to be a "legal" activity.

David Swanson is the author of the upcoming book Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union. He is co-founder of

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