Former Naval lawyer tackles cruelty

Alberto Mora spoke at the U about torture and accountability.

by Katherine Lymn

With supporters dressed as Guantánamo Bay prisoners picketing outside, Alberto Mora, a big player in the private battle against torture at the prison, tackled the issues of torture and accountability Tuesday at a Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs forum. Mora spoke of the inefficiencies of cruelty âÄî a term he used over torture for legal reasons âÄî and asserted that the practice of inhumane interrogation techniques erodes American values and its judicial system. âÄúWe have departed from our laws and values in this war of terror,âÄù Mora said. âÄúIn the process, we have damaged them.âÄù Mora, a Republican, was appointed by President George W. Bush as general counsel of the Navy. It was MoraâÄôs willingness to go up against his own party and work to end torture at Guantánamo Bay and other U.S. prisons that made him a hero of the scandal, former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale said. Prisoner and Sept. 11 hijacking suspect Mohammed al-Qahtani was subjected to sexual harassment, threatened by a dog and forced to drink liquids without being allowed to use a bathroom, Mora said, citing a 2006 article published in The New Yorker on revelations of these acts. âÄúNot all [prisoners] were treated as bad as Qahtani, but some were treated much worse,âÄù Mora said. Such treatment plainly contradicts U.S. law âÄî the Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment âÄî while also degrading achievements like the Geneva Conventions and general progress toward human rights, Mora said. Cruelty is also counterproductive to the War on Terror, Mora argued. Cruelty âÄúperverselyâÄù gives sympathy to the terrorists, Mora said, adding that it lessened the contrast between the United States and its enemies. Two hooded activists wearing bright orange suits, as some Guantánamo Bay inmates wear, greeted forum attendees outside the Humphrey Institute. âÄúWe are here to support Mora,âÄù said Sonja Johnson, a member of Tackling Torture at the Top. âÄú[Torture] is not what we are about in this world,âÄù she said. Johnson and fellow activist Chuck Turchick did not agree wholeheartedly with Mora, however. They urged criminal prosecution of government and military officials responsible for confirmed torture during the George W. Bush administration. Mora said this would be âÄúpolitically unthinkable,âÄù and would tear the country apart on an issue that is already strikingly partisan. Mora voiced support for addressing the accountability issue, in whatever legal or investigative form, soon instead of in the aftermath of a big terrorist attack, which âÄúwill almost surely happen again,âÄù he said.