General Intent v. Specific Intent

The Oregonian

The article is titled "Putting The Hoods Over The Heads Of Congress." Very good read about the continuing apples falling from the tree of Abu Ghraib, specifically the recent Wall Street Journal expose.

I'm looking at my copy of the Working Group Report (6 March 2003) which is at the heart of these new revelations.

On page eight (my copy - the report number is 9), the WGR is opining on the requirements of proving "specific intent" to torture. "General intent" is not enough - the defendant in a torture trial must be proven to have specific intent to torture.

The difference is illustrated by an case from the Supreme Court itself:

The Supreme Court has used the following example to illustrate the difference between these two mental states:

[A] person entered a bank and took money from a teller at gunpoint, but deliberately failed to make a quick getaway from the bank in the hope of being arrested so that he would be returned to prison and treated for alcoholism. Though this defendant knowingly engaged in the acts of using force and taking money (satisfying "general intent"), he did not intend permanently to deprive the bank of its possession of the money (failing to satisfy "specific intent").

Carter, 530 US at 268 (citing I W. Lafave & A. Scott, Substantive Criminal Law 3.5 at 315 (1986).
Carter v. US is an interesting quote here. The defendant had robbed a bank, but had exerted no force or intimidation inside the bank (he had shoved an exiting customer back into the bank, who screamed - he then entered the bank, hopped over the counter unhindered, took the cash, and ran). He was tried under 2113(a) and had requested a jury instruction pretrial on the requirements of 2113(b), a lesser charge. It was denied because (b) was eventually held to not be a subset of (a).

This was because of three different elements in (b) not found in (a). The one we're concerned with is intent. Carter's eventual decision relied on the case US v. Lewis, which was the actual "I robbed the bank to get back into prison" case. The Lewis decision held that general intent was enough to convict under 2113(a) - no "specific" intent was required, as in (b). Therefore, (a) and (b) were two separate classes of crime and Carter was not deprived of due process when his jury wasn't instructed about (b).

So, back to the WRG. Since the statute under discussion (18 USC 2340) defines the act of torture with a requirement of specific intent, the WRG claims the following:
If the defendant acted knowing that severe pain or suffering was reasonably likely to result from his actions, but no more, he would have acted only with general intent...(general intent "usually takes the form of recklessness (involving actual awareness of a risk and the culpable taking of that risk) or negligence (involving blameworthy inadvertance)").
You see? That guy under the hood with his genitals hooked to electrodes? The electrodes aren't actually hooked to anything, so we specifically know that severe physical pain isn't going to occur. No torture.

The document goes on to argue that even if you know a particular result is "certain to occur", theoretically you haven't demonstrated specific intent. For an act to become torture under this act, the act must be undertaken with the specific purpose of causing severe pain and suffering. But the interrogation uses blunt this: the specific intent is to obtain the information, not to cause the pain.

So, yeah, the man under the hood is suffering severe mental pain, but our intent is to get the information, not to cause the pain. Oh, those bad men who don't tell us what we want to see what they made us do? This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you, ya know...

However, the report regretfully concludes that paragraph by noting that juries can and usually do conclude specific intent when certain knowledge of the outcome of the act is present. Boohoo for the poor Bushistas.

The whole document, then, is meant to help blunt the specific knowledge necessary for a conviction of torture to occur. It's cover for Bush, who is using it as such. And this is only looking at one page! It's an exercise in political obstifucation. They cloud their own minds so that they can do as they please.

That's the interesting thing - this is a group of prosecutors making criminal proscecutions for torture as difficult as possible for themselves. Isn't that proof enough of how nutty this WGR is?

This gang should hang.

Random iTunes - Special Reagan Funeral Edition

  1. Rocket Man - Elton John
  2. I Cover The Waterfront - Billie Holiday
  3. I Wanna Be Around - Tony Bennett
  4. Skating Away - Jethro Tull
  5. The Fletcher Memorial Home - Pink Floyd
  6. 3 AM - Matchbox 20
  7. The King Must Die - Elton John
  8. Fine and Mellow - Billie Holiday
  9. Death Letter - Cassandra Wilson
  10. One For My Baby - Etta James
This one's going out to the DUer who got fired from a Mobile NPR station. He was supposed to pick out music to honor the Gipper, but asked some other DUers for music selections that would subtly subvert the intent of the edict. A Freeper read the thread, sent a letter to his station manager, and the man lost his job.

Want to know what the guy was going to play?
Okay, here's the playlist for Friday;

I'm starting off with the dictated requiem, though it will be expressly stated as being played "in conjunction with our day of national observance," not "in mourning."

But here's what it is: A movement from "Memento Mori: An AIDS Requiem."

I'm following it up with Virgil Thomson's "The River" along with brief explanation of it's ecological themes.

Next is Duke Ellington's "Black, Brown & Beige Suite," a work designed to portray the history of Black Americans with a pride and elegance thereto for unseen.

Then Gershwin's "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin.'"

Which brings us to our next hour's commemorative selection, a dirge-like preBaroque piece from the Kronos Quartet entitled "Using the Apostate Tyrant as his Tool."

Then we have Erich Korngold's expanded work from the score of "Deception."

Then Richard Wagner's "Tannhauser Overture."

Then Leo Brouwer's "The Black Decameron."

We'll see what happens.
What a firebrand. Misanthrope, my heart goes out to's one for the road.

"The Flight Did Take Place"

Talking Points Memo > St. Petersburg Times

Two days after the Sept. 11 attacks, with most of the nation's air traffic still grounded, a small jet landed at Tampa International Airport, picked up three young Saudi men and left.

The men, one of them thought to be a member of the Saudi royal family, were accompanied by a former FBI agent and a former Tampa police officer on the flight to Lexington, Ky.

The Saudis then took another flight out of the country. The two ex-officers returned to TIA a few hours later on the same plane.

For nearly three years, White House, aviation and law enforcement officials have insisted the flight never took place and have denied published reports and widespread Internet speculation about its purpose.

But now, at the request of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, TIA officials have confirmed that the flight did take place and have supplied details.
Well, there's flip-flopping, and then there's out-and-out lying.

Bush lied. The Saudis got a ride.

Great New Comic Strip

One Man Army

It's done by a long time Chimpster (person who frequents the Smirking Chimp website). Check it out...

Authority to Set Aside the Law is "Inherent In The President"

Talking Points Memo

To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."
Marshall has a cogent take on Jefferson's musings about presidential prerogatives.

Bottom line: This gang should hang.

Blogger's Got A New Interface

Which is something you can't see here at my blog, which is too bad.

The new interface is blue and beige and a lot slicker than the old one. Yay, Blogger!

Please consider Blogger for all your introductory blogging needs. Thank you.

Somebody Seems To Be Dead

Anybody know who?