Unfortunately, not for the victims of torture by the United States but by North Korea:
A federal judge on Tuesday awarded more than $65 million to several men who were captured and tortured by North Korea after the communist country seized the U.S. spy ship USS Pueblo during the Cold War…
The USS Pueblo was seized off North Korea while it was on an intelligence-gathering mission on Jan. 23, 1968. The North claimed the ship was inside its coastal zone while the U.S. Navy contended it was in international waters.
One of the U.S. ship’s 83 crew members was killed and 10 others were wounded. The crew members, led by Cmdr. Lloyd Bucher, were released after 11 months of captivity and sometimes torture.
I certainly don’t begrudge the victims this award, though it’s mostly symbolic; the chances of them actually collecting the money are slim. But these descriptions sound pretty familiar:
Some of the torture described to Kennedy included “severe physical beatings with karate blows, broom handles, belt buckles, boards and chairs, along with punches with rifle butts and whatever else that was handy.”
That sounds a lot like Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, only you’d have to add in a wide range of other abuses. And that doesn’t even count what was done to people we sent to other nations where they could really get medieval on them, like Maher Arar. This isn’t speculation, we have the memos sent back and forth discussing the abuse of detainees and how the government hid them from the Red Cross. We have Cheney going on TV and admitting to waterboarding prisoners.
Our judges seem to have no difficulty seeking justice for Americans victimized by other nations, so why can’t non-American victims get justice from our own government? Arar is a Canadian citizen that we arrested and sent to Syria where he was tortured for months on end. And when he sued our government over it, the courts dismissed the case based on the state secrets privilege (we’re now waiting for the results of an en banc rehearing in the 2nd circuit).
Kennedy said Congress in 1996 lifted immunity for foreign states officially designated by the State Department as state sponsors of terrorism.
It’s time for Congress to lift our own government’s effective immunity from judicial challenge, which is what the state secrets privilege guarantees. That’s part of the American Freedom Agenda Act that Ron Paul is sponsoring. Obama, back that bill and get it passed. Justice demands nothing less.