THE BLOG
04/24/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

If Only the Torture Memos Were a Game Show

If those who provided misguided and unethical legal cover for the Bush-Cheney administration's torture policy get away with it, at least we can still hope that those who would dare to undermine the integrity of a television game show will be held accountable.

Friday, the New York Times reported that the Federal Communications Commission is investigating whether producers of a proposed Fox game Show "Our little Genius" shared answers with a potential contestant. Such behavior, according to Section 508 of the Communication act of 1934 makes it not only unethical but illegal for anyone to give, with the intent to deceive the viewing or listening public, assistance that will affect the outcome of a "purportedly bona fide contest of intellectual knowledge or intellectual skill."

That same day, the Justice Department released a statement noting that while former department lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee, may have used "flawed legal reasoning" by legitimizing torture in memos to the White House, they were not guilty of professional misconduct. One Justice Department lawyer, Jay Philbin,noted this was, justified, "given the situation and the time pressures." However, this statement was accompanied by a report by the Dept. of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility that detailed gross lapses in professional ethics and conduct.

In game shows, if not in protecting our Constitution, contestants need to abide by the rules even when the clock is ticking down. But when we invoke the ticking bomb scenario-a hypothetical far better suited for a TV game show or drama than reality- the rule of law and rules of decency and common sense get thrown out the window. The bonus prize for the Bush-Cheney Administration was legal cover to pursue its policy of torture-one of if not the most dangerous, disgraceful and misguided policies in our nation's history. But in the long run our country and the world lost big time.

In addition to lawyers, health professionals were complicit in U.S. torture. Not only did health professionals, particularly psychologists, develop, implement and monitor torture, they provided bad science that went into the rationale justifying torture in these memos. This wasn't simply a violation of the law it was a violation of professional ethics and standards both for lawyers and health professionals. There needs to be accountability. Ground-breaking legislation was recently introduced in New York State calling for disciplinary action, including loss of licensure, for health professionals who participate in torture. Similar legislation is being considered in several other states. To learn more about the legislation and to sign a petition in support of this legislation go to :http://stoptortureny.org.

Rather than making us safer, The Bush-Cheney torture policy made the world a much more dangerous place. Our integrity and capacity to speak up against human rights abuses was undermined and the practice of torture-which is documented to occur in over 90 countries- was legitimized. I can only think that the despots around the world who practice torture were thrilled by this. They don't use torture to elicit information-for which it is woefully ineffective- but to break bodies and spirits, to intimidate anyone daring to question ruling authority and undermine community. The torture survivors I care for from around the world-including Tibetan monks and nuns and African student activists bare brutal witness to this.

The Bush-Cheney torture policy involved multiple Executive Branch departments including Justice, Defense, and Intelligence. The Justice Department report demonstrates the crucial need for a full and comprehensive investigation transcending any one individual department. Furthermore, members of professions, including attorneys and health professionals, who violated their ethical standards and duties, must be held accountable. Until then the outcome of this particular reality game show remains tragically and dangerously uncertain.