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Torture debate ripples across the pond

Was a crime committed by members of the Bush administration when they authorised interrogation techniques including waterboarding against terrorist suspects held in US custody?
That is the question Licence to Torture set out to answer and it has got people talking on US blogs. There the discussion has mainly focussed on whether the use of torture against terrorist suspects is justified and it is a question that bothered some Panorama viewers when they contacted us with their comments.

Alex Hartley emailed to say,"Do you think the terrorists believe in the Geneva convention? No. This is not a conventional war so extreme measures must be taken to protect our soldiers and country."

Others agreed with our reporter Hilary Andersson's assertion that the focus of the programme should not be on whether torture works but whether it is legal. As Guy put in his email:
"Journalists have a vitally important role to play when the first instinct of a government is to cover up. The more light that is shed on this episode in American history, the better for all of us who care about the rule of law."

Writing on Truthdig, William Pfaff thinks so too. He argues that by focusing on the legality of the methods used by the US, prosecutors could cut through any partisan politics which has led some to argue against prosecution.

The likelihood that anyone will be put in the dock is slim for whisperwolf. Blogging on Daily Kos he remains sceptical that our interview with former CIA agent John Kiriakou will have an impact.

For Griper Blade, the green light given for the use of certain interrogation methods raises a fundamental question about the relationship between the law and the American Constitution. In his interview with Panorama, John Kiriakou claimed waterboarding was used against Abu Zubaydah before any legal okay was given. It is an accusation the US strongly deny but for Griper Blade it begs the wider question, who makes the law?

"In the United States, we elect our kings. The entire US government sits behind one desk in one building on Pennsylvania Avenue. Courts and legislatures are pretty much ceremonial," he says.

This is by no means the end of the road. President Obama has said that CIA agents who used the techniques will not be prosecuted, but he has not closed the door on legal action against the lawyers who drew them up.

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