US okays evidence gained through torture
Last week US military panels reviewing the detention of prisoners at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay were given the green light to use evidence gained by torture to keep them imprisoned. The announcement was made by Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle during a hearing of a US District Court into lawsuits brought by 550 prisoners who have been held without charge on Guantanamo for up to three years. Answering allegations that some foreigners were being held solely on the basis of evidence obtained under torture, Boyle argued that the detainees "have no constitutional rights enforceable in this court." Boyle also insisted that there is nothing in the US Constitution to prevent the military's Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) from relying on evidence of "questionable provenance" if those in authority were to deem it reliable. Answering questions from US District Judge Richard J Leon, Boyle said that the US would never adopt policies on evidence that could have prevented attacks like that September 11. However, as Harvard Law Professor and former deputy US Attorney General Philip B Heyman has pointed out: "About 70 years ago, the Supreme Court stopped the use of evidence produced by third-degree tactics largely on the theory that it was totally unreliable". Other High Court rulings were based on revulsion at "the unfairness and brutality of it and later on the idea that confessions ought to be free and uncompelled", the professor added. Torture is illegal in the US and violates its much-vaunted standards of due process. Boyle insists, though, that evidence gained under torture would necessarily come from foreign sources and refuses to concede (despite mounting evidence) that the US military engages in torture. He maintains that allegations of mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo would be passed through the chain of command and be dealt with. Boyle noted that some US soldiers had been disciplined for misconduct at the base, including a female interrogator who removed her top during questioning. However, the International Committee of the Red Cross takes a dimmer view. It handed a confidential report to the Bush Administration that insists that even the regular treatment of detainees on Guantanamo is tantamount to torture. Boyle would have it that the existence and operation of the CSRT argues against claims of mistreatment of detainees. The panels — made up of three military officers — were set up in June when the Supreme Court ruled that detainees could ask US courts to challenge their detention. They have just finished reviewing 440 cases and released just one detainee. Detainees cannot have a lawyer at CSRT proceedings and are not able to see secret evidence against them. At the military's annual administrative review, the authorities determine whether the detainee still presents a danger to the US but there is no review of the "enemy combatant" status. So far there have been only 161 such administrative reviews.