Rights of detainees

  • 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 3, 2011

    Andrew Sullivan examines the efforts by right-wing media to push the claim that torture of certain detainees in U.S. custody helped lead the CIA to Osama bin Laden’s courier, who then led the CIA to the Pakistani compound where he had been living.  

    Sullivan says the claim has already “become a meme,” citing several comments from right-wing media pundits helping to create it. Sullivan also cites a piece by David Weigel, who writes that we should expect to hear more about how the Bush administration’s policy on interrogations produced results. “It may not be Republican candidates pointing this out,” Weigel writes. “They don’t need to. George W. Bush has a considerable amen chorus in the press, with former staffers like Marc Thiessen, Michael Gerson, and John Yoo writing regular columns about how the 43rd president was right.”  

    Sullivan continues, “Leave aside the horrifying fact that Republicans, seeking to score some ownership this triumph, would look to torture as their contribution. Why not the beefed up on-the-ground intelligence from 2005 on? That’s Bush’s legacy that Obama built on. Besides, there is no evidence that it played any part whatsoever."

    Sullivan also notes a piece by The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, who cites an article from The New York Times that “the turning point came when detainees being held in Guantánamo – not in the C.I.A.’s secret black-site prisons – revealed to American interrogators the pseudonym used by the key bin Laden courier, whom they also identified as a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.”