You are hereTorture
There are still 241 detainees awaiting trial or release at Guantanamo Bay. While President George W. Bush's Cabinet irrevocably tarnished our international reputation in a variety of ways, perhaps the most shocking part of his legacy is the continued acceptance of torture through the refusal to hold accountable those responsible for it.
High school history courses have taught us the infamous names of ruthless dictators such as Pinochet, Lenin, Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot, who inflicted terror and oppression on people without regard to international or domestic law. Those who chose to stand up and oppose their abuses of power disappeared and were systematically murdered or tortured.
US President Barack Obama's decision not to prosecute CIA agents who used torture tactics is a violation of international law, a UN expert says.
The UN special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, says the US is bound under the UN Convention against Torture to prosecute those who engage in it.
Mr Obama released four "torture memos" outlining harsh interrogation methods sanctioned by the Bush administration.
Mr Nowak has called for an independent review and compensation for victims.
"The United States, like all other states that are part of the UN convention against torture, is committed to conducting criminal investigations of torture and to bringing all persons against whom there is sound evidence to court," Mr Nowak told the Austrian daily Der Standard.
The memos approved techniques including simulated drowning, week-long sleep deprivation, forced nudity, and the use of painful positions.
Four memos released last week describe in banal detail interrogation methods that rely on physical punishment and intimidation, things like waterboarding, cramped confinement, slaps to the face and sleep deprivation. The memos, from President George W. Bush's Justice Department to the Central Intelligence Agency, say that if interrogators observe certain limits, these techniques do not amount to torture under U.S. law.
That the U.S. government would countenance anything like torture in a system of secret CIA prisons for alleged al-Qaida terrorists would be shocking news, except that others have reported this long ago. However, these memos confirm, as if any more evidence were needed, that the nation must squarely face this dark stain on its moral reputation.
As we have argued before, the president should appoint a bipartisan commission to fully air the details and assign responsibility. It should not, however, undertake criminal prosecutions. That is the responsibility of the Justice Department.
President Obama argued when he authorized the release of the memos that "...at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past." We disagree. Without accountability, the rule of law is meaningless.
Senior Bush figures could be prosecuted for torture, says Obama
President says use of waterboarding showed US had 'lost moral bearings' as Dick Cheney says CIA memos showed torture delivered 'good' intelligence
By Ewan MacAskill and Robert Booth | Guardian UK
Senior members of the Bush administration who approved the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation measures could face prosecution, President Obama disclosed today.
He said the use of torture reflected America "losing our moral bearings".
He said his attorney general, Eric Holder, was conducting an investigation and the decision rested with him. Obama last week ruled out prosecution of CIA agents who carried out the interrogation of suspected al-Qaida members at Guantánamo and secret prisons around the world.
Washington, DC |April 17, 2009| www.adc.org | The American-Arab Anti- Discrimination Committee (ADC) commends the decision by the Obama Administration to release memoranda from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, during the Bush Administration, which authorized the use of torture, including waterboarding. The release of these memos today is another positive step in the direction of better understanding the dangerous and unlawful policies of the past administration.
The President has made it clear that the United States does not torture, and numerous reforms have been put into place to make this policy a reality. This move by the Obama Administration is part of a series of progressive policy changes on civil liberties and human rights. During his first day on the job, President Obama’s decision to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, was welcomed by ADC. Further, ADC commended the decisions of the Administration to ratify protocols of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), and the decision to join the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The Story of Mitchell Jessen & Associates: How Psychologists in Spokane, WA, Helped Develop the CIA’s Torture Techniques
We broadcast from Spokane, Washington, less than three miles from the headquarters of a secretive CIA contractor that played a key role in developing the Bush administration’s interrogation methods. The firm, Mitchell Jessen & Associates, is named after the two military psychologists who founded the company, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. Beginning in 2002, the CIA hired the psychologists to train interrogators in brutal techniques, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and pain. We speak with three journalists who have closely followed the story. [includes rush transcript]
Mark Benjamin, National correspondent for Salon.com.
Katherine Eban, Investigative reporter and writer for several national publications. Her July 2007 article for Vanity Fair, “Rorschach and Awe.”
Karen Dorn Steele, a local investigative reporter who covered Mitchell and Jessen for The Spokesman-Review. She won a George Polk Award for a 1994 newspaper series on squandered money in the $50 billion Hanford Nuclear Reservation cleanup, the nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in Spokane, Washington, less than three miles from the headquarters of a secretive CIA contractor that played a key role in developing the Bush administration’s interrogation methods. The firm, Mitchell Jessen & Associates, is named after the two military psychologists who founded the company, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen.
Beginning in 2002, the CIA hired the psychologists to train interrogators in brutal techniques, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and pain. Both of the men had years of military training in a secretive program known as SERE—Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape—which teaches soldiers to endure captivity in enemy hands. Mitchell and Jessen reverse-engineered the tactics taught in SERE training for use on prisoners held in the CIA’s secret prisons.
The declassified torture memos released last week relied heavily on the advice of Mitchell and Jessen. In one memo, Justice Department attorney Jay Bybee wrote, quote, “Based on your research into the use of these methods at the SERE school and consultation with others with expertise in the field of psychology and interrogation, you do not anticipate that any prolonged harm would result from the use of the waterboard.”
MEMO IMPLICATES FEDERAL JUDGE BYBEE AS A WAR CRIMINAL | Press Release
Attorney General Eric Holder has exposed Bush’s former Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee’s liability for prosecution by releasing a memo that he wrote in 2002 approving CIA torture and other war crimes.
Defying a provision of the Geneva Conventions drafted in response to crimes of Nazi physician Josef Mengele, Bybee approved of the use of various techniques as a medical experiment designed to find out whether they would, for the first time, yield success as interrogation tools. Now a judge in the Ninth District of the federal appeals court, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party has recently called for Bybee’s impeachment due to his war crimes.
The memo, dated August 1, 2002, was one of four released on April 16 by the Department of Justice in compliance with a court order, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act. Addressed to John Rizzo, then Acting CIA General Counsel, the memo approved techniques already applied in ongoing interrogation of prisoner Abu Zubaydah, who was being held at a secret location outside the United States as a suspected high-level member of Al-Qaeda.
President Holds Open Door For Prosecutions of Bush Officials For Interrogation Policies, Truth Commission
Note: This Article Was Taken Down From ABCNews' Front Page In Less Than 2 Hours. "No news here, folks, move along."
Update: This was the lead story on ABC World News Tonight on 04/21/2009.
ABC News' Jake Tapper, Sunlen Miller and Yunji de Nies report:
President Obama suggested today that it remained a possibility that the Justice Department might bring charges against officials of the Bush administration who devised harsh interrogation policies that some see as torture.
He also suggested that if there is any sort of investigation into these past policies and practices, he would be more inclined to support an independent commission outside the typical congressional hearing process.
Both statements represented breaks from previous White House statements on the matter.
While the Bush-era memos providing legal justifications for enhanced interrogation methods "reflected us losing our moral bearings," the president said, he also that he did not think it was "appropriate" to prosecute those CIA officers who "carried out some of these operations within the four corners of the legal opinions or guidance that had been provided by the White House."
But in clear change from language he and members of his administration have used in the past, the president said that "with respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that is going to be more of a decision for the Attorney General within the parameters of various laws and I don’t want to prejudge that. I think that there are a host of very complicated issues involved there."
Several years too late, we've been dragged kicking and screaming into what a democratic republic should be engaged in: a public debate on whether such a nation is ever well-advised to engage in the torture of captives. Of course, the motives adduced are always the best--we've been attacked, the government has to protect the country--but it's not the proclaimed motives that separate the most admirable countries in the world from the most despised, but the behavior in pursuit of those motives.
By Dave Lindorff
If the day comes that Congress finally does its duty and begins an impeachment effort against 9th Circuit Federal Appeals Judge Jay Bybee, the former Bush assistant attorney general who in 2002 authored a key memo justifying the use of torture against captives in the Afghanistan invasion and the so-called “War on Terror,” it would be fitting punishment to watch him squirm as his own words as a judge were played back to him.
It was as an Appeals Court Judge Bybee, sitting on a case being heard in 2006 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, that he wrote the following words:
OBAMA "LOVE LETTER" TO CIA DISTORTS HISTORICAL TRUTH
By Sherwood Ross
One can only wonder what prompted the incredible absurdities written by President Obama in his April 16th love letter to the employees of the Central Intelligence Agency(CIA). It not only absolves CIA torturers from prosecution on the grounds that they were only following orders, (the same defense employed by Nazi hoodlums at the Nuremburg war crimes trials after World War Two,) but his laudatory statements about The Agency fly in the face of the historical record. Obama’s letter surely will go down in history as one of the most disingenuous documents ever to appear under the presidential seal. Worse, it strongly hints the American public has elected another in that long line of imperial presidents stretching back to William McKinley.
IF NIXON HAD BEEN TRIED FOR WAR CRIMES
By Nick Mottern
The following is an excerpt from a talk by Nick Mottern on April 19, 2009 delivered after receiving a Peace and Justice Award from the WESPAC Foundation in White Plains, NY.
I asked (several friends) what they would like me to speak about today, and the consensus was: Tell people why you do peace and justice work. I will get to that in the course of my remarks.
I want to address a fundamental issue facing us right now: President Obama has said that people who have committed torture
during the Bush/Cheney years will not be prosecuted. He said: “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past...we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.”
I would like to make two points.
On the Sunday morning news programs, several pundits went out of their way to either endorse waterboarding and other techniques endorsed in the torture memos - or to dismiss the idea of holding their authors responsible.
On ABC News’ “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” George Will echoed several Bush officials when he criticized the release of the memos, saying “The problem with transparency is that it’s transparent for the terrorists as well.” Will expressed concern about the cost of letting “the bad guys” know what techniques, such as waterboarding, will be used on them. He went on to add, as noted by HuffPost’s Jason Linkins, that “intelligent people of good will” believe the President of the United States can do whatever he wants to “defend the country.”
Official: Obama doesn't want interrogation charges
By Douglass K. Daniel | Yahoo! News
President Barack Obama does not intend to prosecute Bush administration officials who devised the policies that led to the harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said Sunday.
Obama last week authorized the release of a series of memos detailing the methods approved under President George W. Bush. In an accompanying statement, he said "it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice, that they will not be subject to prosecution." He did not specifically address the policymakers.
Asked Sunday on ABC's "This Week" about the fate of those officials, Emanuel said the president believes they "should not be prosecuted either and that's not the place that we go."
Despite the outcry it has prompted, the Administration was absolutely right to declassify the Department of Justice-CIA interrogation memos. The argument that the letters compromise national security does not hold water. As noted in the memos, the interrogations techniques are taken from the military's escape and evasion training manuals, known as SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) — which in turn were taken from Chinese abusive interrogations used on our troops during the Korean War. If there is any doubt the techniques were already in the public domain, released detainees have more than detailed the abuse interrogation techniques they were subjected to.
But Obama should not stop there. The memos justify abusive interrogations by the completely discredited "ticking time-bomb" defense — that if we don't torture a suspect when we know there is an imminent threat, we stand to lose many, many American lives. But what ticking bomb? In one memo it states that it was thanks to waterboarding 9/11's mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (who was, according to the memo, subjected to the procedure 183 times) that we learned about a "Second Wave" of attacks. There has been little heard since about the "Second Wave," so without more documents declassified, it can be assumed that KSM made it up to stop the waterboarding. In another memo, it is noted that senior Al Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah was tortured into admitting KSM was the 9/11 mastermind. The memo does not note that early on KSM freely admitted his role in an interview with al-Jazeera. (View pictures of life inside Guantanamo.)
Attorney General Eric Holder during his confirmation hearing:
I understand that the attorney general is different from every other cabinet officer. Though I am a part of the president's team, I am not a part of the president's team in the way that any other cabinet officer is. I have a special and unique responsibility. There has to be a distance between me and the president. The president-elect said when he nominated me that he recognized that, that the attorney general was different from other cabinet officers. I think if you look at my record, if you look at my career and the decisions that I have made, I have shown that I have the ability and, frankly, the guts to be independent of people who have put me in positions.
How do we square this statement with the President's announcement that those who waterboarded terrorism suspects, among other torture techniques, would not be prosecuted? By issuing such a statement it appears President Obama is the "legal decider" and he has decided, in explicitly political terms, that "nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."
I will not describe what could be gained as others have done an eloquent job but I would like to point out that seeking justice for wrongly injured people is not "retribution" as the President put it.
Lawyers Group Targets Ex-Pentagon Counsel For Sanctioning Torture
By William Fisher | The Public Record
Lawyers who reject President Barack Obama’s decision not to seek prosecution of officials who may have participated in the torture of terror-suspect prisoners are seeking justice through another avenue: Sanctions against government lawyers who created the “enhanced interrogation” policies of former President George W. Bush.
Their first target is former Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes II. The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) has filed a complaint against Haynes, asking the State Bar of California to investigate him and revoke his status as Registered In-House Counsel. Haynes is now an attorney with Chevron Corp. in San Ramon, Calif.
The Los Angeles Times reports that a similar complaint is being prepared in Pennsylvania against former Justice Department lawyer John C. Yoo, the University of California Berkeley law professor, for his role in drafting the legal guidelines that approved enhanced interrogation techniques including waterboarding during his service in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) during the Bush Administration.
Former Reagan Justice Department official Bruce Fein writes that Obama's decision to release CIA memos without prosecuting Bush administration officials flouts his constitutional duty.
On Thursday, April 16, in response to a lawsuit initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union, President Barack Obama released four redacted Office of Legal Counsel memoranda from the Bush administration to the CIA justifying torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. (The CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques were modeled on the Chinese Communist coercive brainwashing program against Americans captured in the Korean War to induce false confessions.) Each memorandum hedged its conclusions with substantial caveats, such as the absence of judicial precedents and concessions that reasonable persons could dispute their exculpatory conclusions. The memoranda were later renounced as bad law.
Obama has set a precedent of whitewashing White House lawlessness in the name of national security that will lie around like a loaded weapon ready for resurrection by any commander in chief eager to appear “tough on terrorism” and to exploit popular fear.
In "1984," George Orwell's classic novel on the evils of totalitarianism, the agents of Big Brother break down the will of resisters by throwing them in a dreaded torture chamber known as Room 101. The idea behind Room 101 is to expose interrogation subjects to whatever they fear most. The protagonist in the novel, Winston Smith, fears rats. Confronted with a cage full of rats when he enters Room 101, Smith breaks down and betrays his lover, Julia, as an enemy of the state.
A former head of the CIA slammed President Obama on Sunday for releasing four Bush-era memos, saying the new president has compromised national security.
Michael Hayden, who served as former President Bush's last CIA director from 2006 to 2009, said releasing the memos outlining terror interrogation methods emboldened terrorist groups such as al Qaeda.
"What we have described for our enemies in the midst of a war are the outer limits that any American would ever go to in terms of interrogating an al Qaeda terrorist. That's very valuable information," Hayden said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."
"By taking [certain] techniques off the table, we have made it more difficult -- in a whole host of circumstances I can imagine -- for CIA officers to defend the nation," he said.
But Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said certain techniques should not have been allowed in the first place. McCaskill called them "a great recruitment tool for those who want to do harm to our country."
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel dismissed Hayden's assertion that releasing the memos had undermined U.S. intelligence efforts by giving al Qaeda critical new information.
"One of the reasons the president was willing to let this information out was that already the information was out," he said on ABC's "This Week."
"Go get the New York Review of Books. It's there."
There's been a lot of discussion about whether those who did what the OLC memos authorized should be prosecuted. But in the case of those who waterboarded KSM and Abu Zubaydah, that's irrelevant, because they did things the OLC memos didn't authorize.
I've put this detail in a series of posts, but it really deserves a full post. According to the May 30, 2005 Bradbury memo, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002.
On page 37 of the OLC memo, in a passage discussing the differences between SERE techniques and the torture used with detainees, the memo explains:
The CIA used the waterboard "at least 83 times during August 2002" in the interrogation of Zubaydah. IG Report at 90, and 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM, see id. at 91.
Note, the information comes from the CIA IG report which, in the case of Abu Zubaydah, is based on having viewed the torture tapes as well as other materials. So this is presumably a number that was once backed up by video evidence.
CIA fears torture prosecutions | Times Online UK
Only some of the secrets of US ‘ghost’ prisons have been revealed
THE CIA fears some of its operatives could face prosecution for torturing high-level terrorist suspects, despite President Barack Obama’s promise of legal immunity.
The confidential US Department of Justice guidelines on interrogating high-level detainees, which were made public last week, provide only a small window into the secret prisons or “black sites” run by the CIA.
“These are the first dominoes,” said Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit that forced the release of the memos. “It will be difficult for the new administration to argue now that other documents can be lawfully withheld.”
The memos, drawn up by Bush administration officials and lawyers, detailed what was permissible, such as placing detainees in a cramped box, “walling” them by slamming them against a wall, dousing them with a hose, depriving them of sleep, confining them with insects and simulating drowning - “waterboarding”.
A former senior CIA official at the time of the 9/11 attacks told The Sunday Times that there was more to uncover about the ghost prisons.
Obama v. Nuremberg
By John Branson
In its coverage of the Obama administration's grant of amnesty to torturers, the mainstream media's silence about the lessons from Nuremberg
is deafening. At Nuremberg, "just following orders" was rejected as a defense to war crimes or a basis for immunity, and was relevant, if at all, to sentencing. Nuremberg Principle IV states:
"The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."
Historians and legal scholars have attributed great significance to the fact that the Nazis created a full-fledged legal regime - replete with laws, legal opinions, lawyers and judges - so as to keep the general public on board with the persecution and extermination of Jews, and to give officials at the highest and lowest levels the comfort and assurance needed to justify the most brutal acts against humanity.
To astute observers, what was most troubling about the crimes of the Nazi regime was the absence of lawlessness. For this reason, the prosecutors at Nuremberg understood the importance of trying and convicting the legal architects of the criminal regime (including judges and lawyers), as well as those who sought to defend their acts by reference to the express policies of the Nazi regime and the orders of superiors based on such policies.
Obama Administration: No Prosecution of Officials for Bush-Era Torture Policy
By George Stephanopoulos | ABCNews This Week
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said during our exclusive interview Sunday on "This Week" that President Barack Obama will not pursue the prosecution of Bush-era officials who devised torture policy against detainees, as laid out in memos the Obama administration released this week.
Earlier in the interview, I asked Emanuel about a series of officials, including former CIA director Michael Hayden and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who have criticized the Obama administration's decision to release the Bush-era memos outlining torture techniques of detainees.
"First of all, we banned these techniques and practices. Banned them because we didn't think they were consistent with American security and its values," Emanuel said on "This Week."
Obama, Our New “War President,” Violates the Constitution by Fighting the Constitutional Right of Habeas Corpus
Obama made many promises, and three stick in my memory — to restore civil rights stolen by Bushman, end the looting on Wall Street, and bring the troops home from Iraq. In a word, “change.” Looking at the results achieved in the last three months on all three fronts, it appears that Americans have been taken for chumps, because if what we’ve got is change, it’s surprisingly indistinguishable from the same old-same old, as our charismatic leader would put it. Today, I’m going to talk about how he’s chosen to continue as our “war president,” and why he should change course now, for the good of the nation.
The Evil of Arbitrary Arrest Under The Tyrannical Authority of “General Warrants” and “Bills of Attainder”
Until you have been subjected to it, you can hardly imagine the terrors inflicted by despots using brute force to arrest and imprison people without cause. I have represented people who were arrested and imprisoned on false charges, but even that does not compare to being arrested for no reason whatsoever. People arrested for no reason naturally fear that they may never be released. Certainly, those detained for no reason are much more likely to be tortured and killed in secret. After all, if you can be arrested for no reason, why would you need a reason to go farther, and commit torture, or simply eliminate the problem? Lots of people like to say it was taxes that caused the revolution, but I suspect unlawful detention was by far the more powerful driver of rebellion. The Declaration of Independence accused King George of a “long train of abuses” agains the American colonists, among them:
Depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: Transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
By Agence France-Presse
The first use of waterboarding and other harsh treatment against suspected Al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah was ordered by senior Central Intelligence Agency officials over objections from his interrogators, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Citing unnamed former intelligence officials and a footnote in a newly released legal memorandum, the newspaper said the harsh interrogation techniques had been ordered despite the belief of interrogators that the prisoner had already told them all he knew.
Former president George W. Bush had publicly described Zubaidah, who was captured in 2002, as Al-Qaeda's chief of operations while other top officials called him a "trusted associate" of Osama bin Laden and a major figure in the planning of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
VIENNA (AP) — An Austrian newspaper quotes the U.N.'s top torture investigator as saying President Barack Obama's decision not to prosecute CIA operatives who used questionable interrogation practices violates international law.
Manfred Nowak is quoted in Der Standard as saying the United States has committed itself under the U.N. Convention against Torture to make torture a crime and to prosecute those suspected of engaging in it.
Obama assured CIA operatives on Thursday they would not be prosecuted for their rough interrogation tactics of terror suspects under the former Bush administration.
Nowak also says in the newspaper interview published Saturday that a comprehensive independent investigation is needed, and that it is important to compensate victims.
By Andrew Kalloch, Harvard Law Record
Major General Antonio Taguba called for an independent commission to investigate war crimes committed by senior members of the Bush Administration in remarks in Ames Courtroom on Tuesday, April 14. The event was sponsored by Physicians for Human Rights and the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School.