Torture

  • February 5, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Federal courts have avoided legal challenges against President George W. Bush’s construction of counterterrorism policies that included extraordinary rendition where terrorism suspects were secretly shipped to countries well-known for employing torture. The Bush and Obama administrations urged the federal courts to dismiss legal challenges to extraordinary rendition and secret detention sites arguing that they would expose “state secrets.”

    But an exhaustive report from the Open Society Foundations’ Justice Initiative reveals the policies marketed as a way to protect Americans from terrorism, trampled human rights and produced fatally flawed information. Rendition, in particular, “stripped people of their most basic rights, facilitated gruesome forms of torture, at time captured the wrong people, and debased the United States’ human rights reputation world-wide,” write OSF’s Jonathan Horowitz and Stacy Cammarano  about the report.

    The federal government has refused to acknowledge participation in rendition and according to Horowitz and Cammarano more than 50 other governments were also involved though have refused to admit it. The initiative’s report details the brutality and senselessness of secret prisons and rendition.

    In "Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition," Amrit Singh, a senior legal officer of OSF’s Justice Initiative, states that “more than a decade after September 11, there is no doubt that high-ranking administration officials bear responsibility for authorizing human rights violations associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition, and the impunity that they have enjoyed to date remains a matter of significant concern.”

    But because the government has used the so-called state-secrets privilege to scuttle lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of its counterterrorism work, it has until now been difficult to discern the scope of rendition, its number of victims and other government involvement.

    In the report’s executive summary, it is noted that “based on credible public sources and information provided by reputable human rights organizations, this report is the most comprehensive catalogue of the treatment of 136 individuals reportedly subjected to these operations. There may be many more such individuals, but the total number will remain unknown until the United States and its partners make the information publicly available.”

     

  • March 1, 2012
    BookTalk
    Cheating Justice
    How Bush And Cheney Attacked The Rule Of Law, Plotted To Avoid Prosecution, And What We Can Do About It
    By: 
    Cynthia L. Cooper and Elizabeth Holtzman

    By Cynthia L. Cooper, an award-winning journalist and lawyer, and Elizabeth Holtzman, a lawyer, former prosecutor and former member of Congress who served on the House committee that investigated Watergate.


    When President George W. Bush and his team left office, mounds of misdeeds were left to fester. Some of their transgressions in office were so shocking – lying to Congress in order to embroil the nation in war and occupation, illegally wiretapping Americans without warrants, authorizing torture that had been outlawed by U.S. and international law – that he and Vice President Cheney probably should have been impeached and removed from office.

    Instead, they completed their terms and sped away. Even though Bush publicly announced in his 2010 memoir that he had personally authorized waterboarding, a recognized form of torture  -- “Damn right,” he is quoted as saying – hardly a peep was heard about seeking accountability. But how can that be? Key to preserving our democracy is the concept that no person is above the law.

    In order to ignite a national conversation on the topic, we set out to show how and why the president and vice president should be held accountable – especially, how they can be prosecuted. That meant looking at the available evidence, investigating precisely what laws are implicated and determining, as best as possible, whether a prima facie case could be made. We found enough to make a courageous prosecutor sit up and take notice, although the statute of limitations is ticking in some areas. We found clear problems under laws related to the conspiracy to deceive Congress, foreign intelligence surveillance and U.S. anti-torture laws – each of which needs prosecutorial attention.

    Along the way, we found something else disturbing, too: a repeated pattern by which Bush and Cheney took extraordinary efforts to protect themselves from the sting of the law. In Cheating Justice: How Bush and Cheney Attacked the Rule of Law, Plotted to Avoid Prosecution – And What We Can Do About It, we look at both: how the ex-president and vice-president can be held personally accountable, but, also, how they tried to manipulate the system from inside to keep themselves from being held to account.

    Perhaps the most startling example of their extraordinary actions was the gutting of the War Crimes Act of 1996. 

  • September 21, 2011
    Guest Post

    By Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU's Human Rights Program. This is a cross-post from the ACLU's Blog of Rights.


    Many people in the United States and around the world remember the horrific events of September 11, 2001 as some of the worst crimes against humanity of the last decade. These attacks savagely flouted the fundamental values of international human rights.

    While the international community was united behind the U.S. call to bring those responsible to justice, the struggle against terrorism — hardly a new enterprise — took a wrong turn towards undermining the international legal frameworks and accountability mechanisms that were developed after World War II.

  • July 6, 2011

    At General David Petraeus’  recent confirmation hearing for CIA director, he testified that the “humane” interrogation techniques mandated by the Army Field Manual are almost always sufficient, but that “there should be discussion" about using "more than the normal techniques" in “special cases” of perceived impending catastrophic danger.

    Petraeus’ “endorsement” of the “possible use of inhumane interrogation techniques” may be more revealing than President Obama’s “high-minded talk” renouncing torture, suggests The Huffington Post’s Dan Froomkin in a lengthy article that poses the question: Could torture again become U.S. policy?

    Our nation finds itself at a “morally precarious moment,” as it repudiates torture today but does little to prevent backsliding in the future, writes Froomkin. Last week, the Justice Department announced it would continue with just two investigations relating to the use of torture, two “particularly gruesome fatalities” that serve as “a poignant reminder” of official failure to hold those responsible to account, Froomkin notes

    Though President Obama has renounced torture and emphasized the illegality of many of the interrogation techniques used after 9/11, he has “repeatedly expressed his desire to ‘look forward instead of looking backward.’” As a result, “When it comes to taking action that will decisively deter any future leaders from doing what Bush and Cheney did, Obama's record is slim,” Froomkin writes.

    Despite repeated calls for accountability by human rights groups and official investigators in the military and the Senate, top level officials have escaped prosecution and torture-memo authors John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee continue to lead successful legal careers.

  • May 5, 2011

    The Obama administration’s striking success at bringing down Osama bin Laden has been sullied by the debate over torture and whether it helped lead to his demise. But American University law school professor William Yeomans writes in Politico that President Obama “has nobody to blame but himself,” for the diversion.

    Yeomans continues that Obama’s failure to “investigate and hold to account those who tortured,” has left the door open for former Bush administration officials to now claim that torture was effective and justified.

    He writes:

    Obama’s refusal to follow through on our nation’s commitment to the rule of law – both domestic and international – allowed the rehabilitation of the Bush administration’s Office of Legal Counsel attorneys, who wrote the memos permitting torture, and the lawless White House officials, who cast aside domestic law, the Convention Against Torture, the Geneva Conventions and a tradition dating to George Washington of humane treatment of detainees by Americans during the conflict.

    Andrew Sullivan examines right-wing pundits’ efforts to push the notion that torture of military detainees was an effective tool in the hunt for bin Laden.