No Comment — September 11, 2009, 4:52 pm

Spanish Criminal Investigators Press Holder for Answers on Gonzales Six

Two Spanish investigating judges are pressing forward with their probe into the role that six Bush Administration lawyers, headed by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, played in the torture and mistreatment of Spanish subjects held at Guantánamo. They have now asked Attorney General Eric Holder about the U.S. Justice Department’s role in the affair. I report the details in a feature just up at the Huffington Post.

The judges have asked for responses by the end of October, setting up another major test for Attorney General Eric Holder. This time, the question is whether Holder will choose to oblige or stymie international criminal investigations of Bush officials for torture, in the absence of any domestic efforts in that direction. Holder has thus far threaded the needle between torture critics and torture apologists by launching a narrowly tailored preliminary inquiry into a small group of incidents that exceeded Justice Department guidances in place at the time. Had he launched a more wide-ranging investigation, the Spaniards would almost certainly have abandoned theirs, which is based on the principle of universal jurisdiction when it comes to such things as war crimes.

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The new docudrama The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX) isn’t really about Orenthal James Simpson. It’s about the trials that ran alongside his — those informal, unboundaried, court-of-public-opinion trials in which evidence was heard for and against the murder victims, the defense and the prosecution, the judge, the jury, and the Los Angeles Police Department, to say nothing of white and black America. History has freed us from suspense about Simpson’s verdict, so that the man himself (played here by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is less the tragic hero he seemed in the mid-Nineties than a curiously minor character. He comes to the center of our attention only once, in Episode 2, at the end of the lengthy Ford Bronco chase scene — which in real life was followed by a surreal cavalcade of police cars and media helicopters, as well as an estimated 95 million live viewers — when Simpson repeatedly, and with apparent sincerity, apologizes for taking up so much of so many people’s time. It is an uncannily ordinary moment of social decorum, a sort of could-you-please-pass-the-salt gesture on a sinking Titanic, in which Simpson briefly becomes more than just an archetype.

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