As I'll be turning 88 in June, I'd begun to lose hope for at last witnessing in my lifetime some legal accountability for the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney-Barack Obama-CIA-national security torture policy instituted after 9/11, which continues today.
That was until I saw this April 16 New York Times front-page headline: "U.S. Practiced Torture After 9/11, Nonpartisan Review Concludes."
It was referring to the Washington, D.C.-based Constitution Project, a bipartisan legal research organization that has long been one of my primary sources for keeping the Constitution intact. It recently released a deeply researched, footnoted and documented 577-page report entitled "Detainee Treatment," characterized in an April 17 Times editorial as "Indisputable Torture."
The most stubborn of those who still refuse to use the word "torture" to describe our treatment of detainees is President Obama, who has yet to issue any response to the Constitution Project's "Detainee Treatment" report. He remains unyielding in his determination that "nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."
Ronald Reagan insistently pressed for American ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which he signed on April 18, 1988. He declared it "will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today."
As I have often reported, and as Reagan emphasized when signing it, the convention establishes a "universal jurisdiction" under which each signer must "prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or ... extradite them to other countries for prosecution."
The Constitution Project reviews both our Republican and Democratic administrations' licenses to commit torture:
"The (U.S.) Uniform Code of Military Justice also retains its clear prohibitions on mistreating prisoners, but the track record of prosecutions in the military is mixed at best, with many serious cases leading to no jail time or no convictions at all."
Almost daily, the Obama administration is getting more secretive in its contempt for constitutional restrictions on its power.
Starkly, what we have learned from the Constitution Project is unprecedented in American history. But if the citizenry is not shaken hard out of its apathy, our present and future governments will dissolve more of our fundamental constitutional precedents and continue to develop more cruel treatment of detainees.
How many 2016 presidential candidates from either party will likely refer to the Constitution Project's report? How many of you will know enough of it to remember it before you cast your vote?
More importantly, how many of your school children are aware of it now?
Nat Hentoff is an authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights.