The NY Times has a nice editorial today on the latest developments in the unfolding torture cases. The Supreme Court last month refused to review an appellate court ruling that said prisoners tortured in US custody could not sue Defense Department officials, because it was not "clearly established" that the treatment they received was illegal. The four complainants are men who were eventually released from Guantanamo without ever being charged with any offense, but along the way they were all beaten and waterboarded.
The interesting part of this is that the party asking the Supreme Court not to review the lower court ruling was the Obama Justice Department. The thinking in the White House still seems to be that arguing over old torture cases is just a distraction from the business at hand, which is health care, energy policy, unemployment, and so on.
I think this is short sighted and ultimately foolish. It is nice that the President has stopped the US military from torturing people, but unless it is established that waterboarding prisoners is illegal and people will be prosecuted for it, some future administration will do it again. The laws banning torture matter, and I think it is a terrible idea to undermine those laws, no matter how pressing other issues seem right now.