A few months ago, we learned that the US Department of Justice had authored a memo in which they used semantic nitpicking to try and argue their way around the US constitutional ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" and the UN Convention Against Torture to claim that torture was entirely legal. Today more documents have been leaked, showing that they provided legal justification for the US to violate the Geneva Conventions and transfer detainees out of Iraq:
United States intelligence officers have taken detainees out of Iraq for interrogation, according to The Washington Post.
At the request of the CIA, the Justice Department allegedly compiled a secret memo allowing transfer of a dozen detainees over the last six months.
International Red Cross officials have not met with the detainees, an unnamed officer told the newspaper.
This contravenes Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids "individual or mass forcible transfers" or deportations, "regardless of their motive". For those wanting to quibble over whether the convention applies, both the US and Iraq have ratified, and it protects anyone
who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals
In other words, any Iraqi or any non-US citizen in Iraq.
As for why this is important, Senator John McCain summed it up perfectly when he said
"The thing that separates us from the enemy is our respect for human rights".
Under the Bush administration, that seperation is looking smaller every day.