Charlie Savage reports that the US government is likely to deny the applicability of two treaties; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture, to persons outside the US who are under US control. Apparently, human rights lawyers in the State Department lost an internal battle against military and intelligence lawyers over the most accurate interpretation of the treaty:
Matthew Waxman, a Columbia professor who was a top detainee policy official for the Bush administration, said military and intelligence agencies had been skeptical of taking that step because they worried about potentially complicating their overseas operations.
John Bellinger, the top State Department lawyer in the Bush administration, noted that the presentation comes in the midst of a furor over National Security Agency surveillance. The rights treaty also bars “arbitrary or unlawful interference” with privacy, although it is not clear that it requires parties to respect rights of foreigners not in its custody.
“This is a particularly sensitive time because of the N.S.A. controversy,” he said. “I cannot imagine the U.S. government would change its position, even if it were previously tempted to.”
I’m reminded of a panel discussion on US drone strikes that I participated in at Columbia.
A political science professor (not the one quoted above) on the panel argued that the US shouldn’t be accountable to international law under the International Criminal Court because the US would be obstructed from exercising global leadership as a result.
This case is slightly different since human rights violations don’t fall under the purview of the ICC, but the parallels are there. I’d think the layman might be forgiven for concluding that the present form of global leadership bears a very uncanny resemblance to looking out for Number One.