The U.N. General Assembly is expected to call for a worldwide moratorium on executions in a plenary session this month. Although it will not bind individual countries, abolitionists see the resolution as carrying moral and political weight. They also believe it will encourage nations that still use the death penalty to review their capital punishment laws. Currently, 133 have abolished it, either by law or in practice. Since 1990, over 50 countries have done away with it. Recent examples include Liberia, Rwanda and Ivory Coast, along with Paraguay and Mexico. In Europe and Central Asia, Albania, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey have also become abolitionist governments.
Only 25 countries carried out executions in 2006. Of these, most took place in China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and the United States. Chinas were the most numerous: 1,010, although credible sources believe the number could be as high as 8,000. Iran was second with 177 put to death. Support for the death penalty in the United States has been falling, not least because of fears that innocent people might be put to death. Since 1973, 124 death row prisoners here have been released after it was found they were innocent of the crimes for which they were condemned to death. The United States should follow the lead of the United Nations and ban this cruel and unusual punishment.Toward More Intelligent Intelligence?
The publication of a National Intelligence Estimate in early December on the state of Irans nuclear weapons development contradicted the conclusion of a previous estimate published in 2005.
The earlier report affirmed with high confidence that Iran was determined to develop nuclear weapons despite international sanctions. The 2007 estimate, however, revised that judgment, stating with high confidence that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. The later estimate was based on recent interceptions of statements by Iranian military leaders criticizing their governments decision to stop the program. The more recent report undercut the pugnacious rhetoric of the Bush administration threatening military action if Iran continued its program of nuclear development. The collective decision of the 16 members of the National Intelligence Council to revise dramatically its earlier conclusion was undoubtedly influenced by the realization that unreliable intelligence reports in 2002, conditioned to some extent by the political agenda of the administration, had led the nation into the unnecessary and costly pre-emptive invasion of Iraq.
Later in the same week, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, informed Congress that in November 2005 the agency had destroyed hundreds of hours of videotapes of interrogations of Al Qaeda agents. The struggle to develop and maintain an intelligence community that can successfully protect the national interests of the United States while remaining faithful to its constitutional values continues.
With apologies to Harpers Magazine