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Appendix M and the Torture Quagmire

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January 9, 2009

A day doesn’t pass without some discussion of torture policy: if, when and how President-elect Obama will change it, what his new Office of Legal Counsel appointee might do about those legal memos authorizing torture, and if statements gained through it are admissible at the military commissions.

If you read one article about torture this week, make it Jeff Kaye’s article about the Army Field Manual (AFM) on Alternet. Jeff analyzes what changed (and what didn’t) in the revised manual issued in 2006. The 2006 AFM was intended to implement the military’s recognition that “[n]o good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices,” in the words of the Army’s then deputy chief of staff for intelligence, Lt. Gen. John F. Kimmons. Jeff, however, raises the concern that Appendix M to the AFM still allows torture. He quotes the ACLU’s Hina Shamsi, who points out that techniques permitted in Appendix M could violate the Geneva Conventions and open the door to criminal liability.

When he was a candidate, President-elect Obama swore to uphold the Geneva Conventions and reject torture. We’re looking to him to again make this country—in his own words—”a light of justice.”

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