In recent weeks, the Bush administration has tried to justify its requests for Congressional authorization to torture prisoners by saying that the language of the treaties by which we are already bound is overly vague. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley went on TV and said, “I’m saying that nobody knows what humiliating treatment is. What does it mean?”
In a press conference, President Bush said, “And that Common Article III says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It’s very vague. What does that mean, “outrages upon human dignity”? That’s a statement that is wide open to interpretation.”
These guys must really hate our legal system, which must also be too vague for their tastes. Here’s a bit of the jury instruction in US criminal cases:
So the presumption of innocence alone is sufficient to acquit the defendant, unless the jurors are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt after careful and impartial consideration of all the evidence in the case.
In fact, reading the entire burden of proof article in Wikipedia is instructive. How do we manage to run a legal system built upon language so vague and open to interpretation?
In other news, Marty Lederman says the Senate compromise on the torture, war crimes, and military tribunals legislation is an utter capitulation. Discouraging, but not surprising.