White House: We Violated the Constitution, So We Don’t Have to Follow the Constitution
The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
A second constitutional provision that might be thought relevant to interrogations is the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment, however, applies solely to those persons upon whom criminal sanctions have been imposed. As the Supreme Court has explained, the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause “was designed to protect those convicted of crimes.” Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 664 (1977). As a result, “Eighth Amendment scrutiny is appropriate only after the State has complied with the constitutional guarantees traditionally associated with criminal prosecutions.” Id. at 671 nAO. The Eighth Amendment thus has no application to those individuals who have not been punished as part of a criminal proceeding, irrespective of the fact that they have been detained by the government.
This statement by the Bush administration is at once profoundly dunderheaded and diabolically twisted. Clearly, the statement that “The Eighth Amendment, however, applies solely to those persons upon whom criminal sanctions have been imposed” cannot be true, since the amendment refers specifically to bail. The authors of the torture justification memo wrench the contention out of its context. Guess what the next sentence of Ingraham v. Wright is? “We adhere to this longstanding limitation and hold that the Eighth Amendment does not apply to the paddling of children as a means of maintaining discipline in public schools.” The justices in the case concluded, “Whatever force this logic may have in other settings, we find it an inadequate basis for wrenching the Eighth Amendment from its historical context and extending it to traditional disciplinary practices in the public schools.”
But that’s small potatoes compared to the rest of the paragraph, which concludes that people put under indefinite detention are not subject to the 8th Amendment to the Constitution because they haven’t been convicted in a court of law. But they haven’t been convicted (much less charged) in a court of law because the writ of Habeas Corpus guaranteed in the Constitution has been denied them. So here’s what this justification for torture by the Bush administration boils down to: because the U.S. Government has violated the constitutional rights of its indefinite detainees in one regard, it can go ahead and violate the constitutional rights of its indefinite detainees in another regard. According to the Bush administration, once the government leaves the Constitution behind, anything goes. Even torture.
Republican moral values.