They’re Not All Venal. But…

Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish offers his “Email of the Year,” a missive from an unnamed Department of Justice attorney about Fouad al-Rabiah, one of those purported terrorists rounded up after 9/11.  The problem is that the DOJ knew al-Rabiah to be innocent of any wrong, yet tortured him anyway.  You know, you can never be too sure.

The email stated:

The conclusion drawn by each of my colleagues – some of whom are liberal Democrats, some of whom are conservative, law-and-order Republicans – is, to a person, that the detention and interrogation programs the United States implemented in the months and years following 9/11 is not only a complete abrogation and violation of international law and, in many cases, federal law – it is also fundamentally immoral.  We also agree that the al-Rabiah case is by far the most egregious yet to come to light. 
The email goes on:

That said, I am surprised you did not highlight what me and my colleagues agreed was the single most horrifying passage from the Court’s decision.  It was the Court’s quotation of something an interrogator said to al-Rabiah during his interrogation.  The interrogator told al-Rabiah:


“There is nothing against you. But there is no innocent person here. So, you should confess to something so you can be charged and sentenced and serve your sentence and then go back to your family and country, because you will not leave this place innocent.”

Court Memorandum and Order, p. 41 (emphasis mine). 

The immediate reaction to this expose is that there are good, true, honest people in the Department of Justice, who believe in the Constitution and the precepts that make America great.  The feeling didn’t last very long.

Of course, it’s better to know that there are men and women of every political stripe within our government who know the difference between right and wrong.  But knowing the difference isn’t enough.  It’s a start, a necessary precursor, but not enough.  It takes another step, acting upon the difference, that matters.  Where are these good DOJ lawyers when it comes time to tell their superior, a judge, a congressional committee, the American public, that something very wrong is happening? 

In a strange way, it would almost seem better if the DOJ lawyers failed to be capable of distinguishing right from wrong.  Then, we could chalk their actions up to ignorance.  But knowing that they were well aware of what was happening to an innocent man, we are left with only cowardice.  Of the two states, cowardice is far worse.  Any DOJ lawyer who knows of the government torturing, prosecuting, an innocent man and does nothing is a coward.

I’ve had the honor of knowing a government attorney who was brave.  I’ve known an AUSA who refused to prosecute defendants who were innocent, or the victims of government impropriety.  This was a lawyer who told me, and the court, the truth, and then walked out of the courtroom, refusing to do the government’s dirty work.  I stood in awe of this lawyer, for I knew the risk she took.

I also knew the AUSA who jumped into the void, took up the cause even after the truth came out, to please her masters and gain a reward by being such good little servant to the government.  There was a first class seat awaiting her on the next plane to Washington, where she would get a plum job with a big title.  The government appreciates loyalty.

Sullivan may be quite impressed with the email he received.  I’m less impressed.  The author knew better and did nothing about it.  I wish I knew what became of the brave AUSA who knew the truth and acted on it. 

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