Magazine May 25, 2009, Issue

Torture is a State of Mind

Mens rea and the jurisprudence of coercive interrogation

It’s not torture, the government lawyers insisted, because torture is a “specific intent” crime. This was in a controversial discussion of mens rea, the element of criminal intent in the absence of which an act, no matter how brutal, cannot be a crime. 

In each penal statute, the legislature prescribes the required state of mind that prosecutors must prove. Most of the time, it is “general intent” — the simple awareness that a result is virtually certain to follow from the charged act. If I swing my fist at your head, I know that I will at least put you in

In This Issue

Articles

Politics & Policy

Socialized Failure

The health-care systems of all developed countries face three unrelenting problems: rising costs, inadequate quality, and incomplete access to care. A slew of recent articles, published mainly in medical journals, ...

Features

Politics & Policy

Diagnosis

We are bombarded with messages about the need for health-care reform. But we are not always clear about the problem we are trying to solve. Most Americans are satisfied with ...
Politics & Policy

Placebo

The key congressional committees have yet to introduce the legislation that will carry Democrats’ hopes for “universal coverage” — i.e., a government guarantee that all Americans will have health insurance, ...
Politics & Policy

Prescription

The most powerful constituency in the debate over the future of health care in the United States comprises those families enrolled in stable, employer-based health plans run by large and ...

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Hinge of History

In this important debut book, Michael Kimmage — a young scholar who promises to become one of America’s preeminent intellectual historians — addresses himself to the journeys of two Columbia ...
Politics & Policy

Four Nights

Salzburg, Austria The summer festival that takes place here in this fair city is a very big deal: probably the most prominent music festival in the world. It stretches for ...
Politics & Policy

A Strange Voyage

Across more than 40 years of Star Trek — the five television incarnations, the eleven motion pictures, the galaxy knows how many novels — there have been few sequences as ...

Sections

Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ In a recent press conference, a New York Times reporter asked President Obama what had “enchanted” him the most during his first 100 days as president. Obama might have ...
The Bent Pin

The Bent Pin

Pleasantly Peasantry The sudden transformation of the American consumer from drunken sailor to Silas Marner is the talk of the economic meltdown. After barely a year of hard times, we have ...
The Long View

The Long View

The Literary Arlen Specter From the Oresteia of Aeschylus, trans. Arlen Specter: [Enter Chorus of Argive elders, very old men who carry staves to help them stand up. As they speak, servants ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

THE INHERITANCE Blond, you favored your mother, But named John, after your dad, You inherited all he had: A farm in debt, an old hound, Long-horns and Rhode Island Reds, Guinea and pea fowl, A family of ...
Happy Warrior

Happy Warrior

I was in one of those hotels where they give you the New York Times whether you want it or not. And, even if you leave it in the corridor, ...

Most Popular

Elections

The Post-Election Madness Gets Worse

On the menu today: Two lawyers who aren’t formally on the president’s legal team but who keep filing lawsuits on his behalf tell Georgia Republicans to not vote in the Senate runoffs; Michael Flynn endorses a call for “limited martial law” and a “re-vote” of the presidential election; and the ... Read More
Elections

The Post-Election Madness Gets Worse

On the menu today: Two lawyers who aren’t formally on the president’s legal team but who keep filing lawsuits on his behalf tell Georgia Republicans to not vote in the Senate runoffs; Michael Flynn endorses a call for “limited martial law” and a “re-vote” of the presidential election; and the ... Read More
World

Trump Pulls American Troops Out of Somalia

President Trump on Friday ordered almost all American troops to be withdrawn from Somalia, following similar reductions in U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Pentagon announced that the majority of the approximately 700 troops in Somalia will leave the area by January 15. Many are expected to ... Read More
World

Trump Pulls American Troops Out of Somalia

President Trump on Friday ordered almost all American troops to be withdrawn from Somalia, following similar reductions in U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Pentagon announced that the majority of the approximately 700 troops in Somalia will leave the area by January 15. Many are expected to ... Read More
White House

Trump’s Disgraceful Endgame

President Trump said the other day that he’d leave office if he loses the vote of the Electoral College on December 14. This is not the kind of assurance presidents of the United States typically need to make, but it was noteworthy given Trump’s disgraceful conduct since losing his bid for reelection to ... Read More
White House

Trump’s Disgraceful Endgame

President Trump said the other day that he’d leave office if he loses the vote of the Electoral College on December 14. This is not the kind of assurance presidents of the United States typically need to make, but it was noteworthy given Trump’s disgraceful conduct since losing his bid for reelection to ... Read More

America Waits Out the Biden Era

Now that the post-electoral haze is clearing a little, and we see that the Democrats so skillfully arranged for massive ballot-harvesting electoral fraud in several swing states that their likely theft of the election may, in yet another demonstration of the atrophied condition of the American legal system, be ... Read More

America Waits Out the Biden Era

Now that the post-electoral haze is clearing a little, and we see that the Democrats so skillfully arranged for massive ballot-harvesting electoral fraud in several swing states that their likely theft of the election may, in yet another demonstration of the atrophied condition of the American legal system, be ... Read More
The Economy

Genuine Generosity

Because it tends to exaggerate our already excessive national sentimentality, the Christmas season is a time of sloppy thinking about several separate kinds of endeavor that are all lumped into the category of “generosity.” This year, the usual charitable impulses of the season inevitably will tend to bleed ... Read More
The Economy

Genuine Generosity

Because it tends to exaggerate our already excessive national sentimentality, the Christmas season is a time of sloppy thinking about several separate kinds of endeavor that are all lumped into the category of “generosity.” This year, the usual charitable impulses of the season inevitably will tend to bleed ... Read More