Anyone who violates the Geneva Convention by engaging in murder, torture, or inhuman treatment is guilty of a crime under U.S. law.
Specifically, the War Crimes Act of 1996, a federal statute set forth at 18 U.S.C. § 2441, makes it a federal crime for any U.S. national, whether military or civilian, to violate the Geneva Convention
The statute applies not only to those who carry out the acts, but also to those who ORDER IT, know about it, or fail to take steps to stop it. The statute applies to everyone, no matter how high and mighty.
What Does This Mean?
Well, according to the Associated Press, Cheney, Ashcroft, Powell, Tenet, and Rice all approved torture, and Bush knew about and approved what they were doing (see also this).
In addition, in addition to Ashcroft, other high-level Justice Department officials such as John Yoo approved of and justified torture.
All of these people are guilty of war crimes under 18 U.S.C. § 2441.
18 U.S.C. § 2441 has no statute of limitations, which means that a war crimes complaint can be filed at any time. The penalty may be life imprisonment or — if a single prisoner dies due to torture — death. Since the U.S. military has admitted that they have tortured some prisoners to death, that means that Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Powell, Tenet, Rice, and Yoo could all be sentenced to life in prison, or even death.
Additionally, violation of the war crimes act almost certainly constitutes a “high crime or misdemeanor” which would allow impeachment of such officials.
Indeed, many high-level officials in the U.S. and abroad have stated that those who crafted the torture policies are guilty of war crimes. For example, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff stated that Dick Cheney might be guilty of war crimes. And Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohammad is calling for an international tribunal to try western leaders for war crimes over the Iraq war.
Indeed, waterboarding is not the only form of tortures which has been used by the U.S. recently.
Finally, Donald Rumsfeld appears to have also committed war crimes. For example, the general in charge of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq stated this week that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other top administration officials ORDERED that inhuman treatment and torture be conducted as part of a deliberate strategy. This confirms what the Pullitzer prize-winning reporter who uncovered the Iraq prison torture scandal and the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam previously wrote.
Alberto Gonzales probably also committed war crimes by promoting and covering up torture.