One current story is about the War Crimes Act of 1996. (There's an article about it in Salon here, though you may have to sit through an ad to access it.) Though the U.S. signed on to the Geneva Conventions in 1949, for decades there was no law requiring universal adherance to it by Americans. The military was required to follow the Conventions through the Universal Code of Military Justice, but not civilians. The War Crimes Act closed that loophole, allowing for the prosecution of any American, including any elected official, who violates the Conventions, especially those aspects regarding decent treatment of foreign prisoners.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, ruled that the US really and truly is bound by the Geneva Conventions, even in its treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo. It's amazing the court even had to make such a ruling, as it's been agreed for, oh, a couple of centuries that any treaty ratified by the Senate has the force of law. So now some of the folks in the administration are getting nervous, because they could be prosecuted under the Act. In fact, they've been nervous for some time. From the Salon article:
Publicly released memos show that as far back as Jan. 25, 2002, [current Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales, then the White House counsel, worried that the president's policies could trigger prosecution under the act.
Gee, they were set on a course of action that might mean breaking the law, were they? You and I, in such a position, would probably consider changing our course of action. At the very least, if we didn't and we got caught, we could not expect a judge to be lenient.
So what did they do? Next sentence:
That led the White House to declare, over the objection of the State Department, that al-Qaida was not protected by the conventions.
What a nifty solution!! You're in danger of breaking the law, so just declare that the law doesn't apply to what you intend to do. I'm sure going to use that argument next time I get caught robbing a liquor store.
I just wish this sort of thing were an aberration. Unfortunately, it isn't.