The federal government has indicted one Roy M. Belfast, Jr. for engaging in torture, and thereby violating 18 U.S.C. 2340A. As Robert Chesney notes (via Steve Vladeck), this is the first such federal indictment.
Given the controversy about what does, or does not, constitute torture under U.S. law, Vladeck notes the issuance of this indictment raises some interesting questions:
does this mean that the government will have to advance a theory of what, precisely, is "torture" under U.S. law? If so, wouldn't that open the door for the defense to invoke every single argument the Bush Administration has ever made about what torture isn't? . . .This one will be worth watching.
for an Administration that has tried so hard to avoid a meaningful national debate over what is and what is not "torture," this case strikes me as likely to force the issue in very direct, and perhaps very powerful, ways.