Tuesday, 16 April 2013 16:00

New Report Calls Evidence of U.S. Torture "Indisputable"

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A two-year-long non-partisan study has concluded it is "indisputable" that the United States engaged in the practice of torture in the years following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The 577-page report by the Constitution Project also makes clear that the highest officials of the U.S. government were responsible. The policy is unprecedented in the United States, the report said, in "the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody."

The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, was to be released on Tuesday morning, the New York Times reported, though by Tuesday noon, it still had not been posted on the organization's website. The panel was co-chaired by former Congressman Asa Hutchinson, a Republican from Arkansas, and James R. Jones, a Democrat and a former ambassador to Mexico.

Both former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney have admitted authorizing waterboarding of high-ranking al-Qaeda prisoners, a process that simulates drowning for a detainee who is tied to a board while water is poured down his nose and throat. The report says the CIA also slammed detainees into walls, chained them in uncomfortable positions for hours, stripped them of clothing, and kept them awake for days on end. A series of memos from the Office of Legal Counsel from the U.S. Department of Justice during the Bush administration claimed the methods, officially known as "enhanced interrogation techniques," were legal under certain conditions. While human rights organizations and some news commentators denounced the measures as "torture," most major news organizations shied away from the word. As the Times acknowledged Tuesday: "News organizations have wrestled with whether to label the brutal methods unequivocally as torture in the face of some government officials' claims that they were not."

Even the International Committee of the Red Cross, after an internal debate over whether to speak out publicly about the abuses, decided not to, the report found, delaying public exposure of violations of international as well as U.S. law. The panel found the United States also violated international law with "enforced disappearances" and secret detentions of suspected terrorists. Much of the information obtained through coerced testimony or confessions was unreliable, according to the report, which concluded that any valuable information that was obtained through illegal interrogation methods could have been obtained by legal, nonviolent means.

There is "no justification" for relying on torture, the report says, and doing so has "damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive."

The task force traveled to several detention sites as it studied the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the CIA's secret prisons. Staff members interviewed dozens of former American and foreign officials, as well as former detainees, the Times reported. The panel did not have access to classified material, including a 6,000-page report on CIA activities by the Senate Intelligence Committee, based only on CIA records.

Both the Senate and the Constitution Project reports were undertaken as a result of President Obama's decision in 2009 to oppose the creation of a national commission to investigate the post-911 counterterrorism programs. Obama said he wanted to "look forward, not backward," but some of his own policies have perpetuated, and in some cases exceeded, the abuses of the Bush administration. The incumbent has continued the practice of holding prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial, for example, and his use of drones for targeted killings of suspected terrorists, including at least two U.S. citizens, goes beyond the more limited use of the unmanned bombers by his predecessor.

The panel called for the release of the still classified Senate report. "I had not recognized the depths of torture in some cases," co-chairman Jones said. "We lost our compass."

Hutchinson, who served in the Bush administration as chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration and under secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, acknowledged that he took some convincing, but said the two-year study makes clear the United States has relied on torture in its counterterrorism campaign.

"This has not been an easy inquiry for me, because I know many of the players," he told the Times. Hutchinson said he believed the decisions of everyone involved, including President Bush, were made in an effort to prevent more terrorist attacks. But their actions went against what America stands for, he said. "The United States has a historic and unique character, and part of that character is that we do not torture."

But that proposition appears to be up for debate, both here and around the world, given the policies and practices of the past several years and the fact that many influential figures in and around Washington still hold to the rationale of the "torture memos" produced for Justice Department between 2002 and 2005. "As long as the debate continues," the report says, "so too does the possibility that the United States could again engage in torture."

Photo of hand and ankle cuffs in a Guantanamo interrogation room: AP Images

5 comments

  • Comment Link Tom Mangan Sunday, 02 June 2013 04:40 posted by Tom Mangan

    @TC: "Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause... for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country."

    Friends of mine have been ripped to pieces, sent home in plastic bags, or now sit as dust in a mantle-piece. They did this because of their love of this country, the freedoms we enjoy, and our belief in our own integrity--as well as our outrage when we lose it.

    I agree with Mr. Washington, and I firmly believe that: " While we are contending for our own Liberty, we should be very cautious of violating the Rights of Conscience in others..."

    -- George Washington, charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775

  • Comment Link DONALD W Thursday, 18 April 2013 10:16 posted by DONALD W

    I remember a military chaplain article in The Rock, a popular Roman Catholic mag justifying Bush Junior torture programs by quoting the church past history. Obviously the DIA/CIA also infilitrare christian organizations and use them for satanic practices.
    Really only one way to send a clear message to folks like the Bush family and that is arrest them and publically execute them.

  • Comment Link TC Wednesday, 17 April 2013 21:05 posted by TC

    Jesus hanging on the cross has nothing to due with what was done to these terrorists.
    Despite what this article says "torture" was not used. Nothing described in the report was torture. Waterboarding is not torture, sleep deprivation is not torture, etc.
    The conclusion that the info could have been obtained by other means ( a common leftist diatribe ), is total nonsense, and anyone who understands logic knows it is nonsense.
    Aside from the fact that they weren't tortured the thought that, "The purpose of torture is torture" is more nonsense. Sure, that may be the purpose sometimes, but it also may not be.
    Torture has been used for thousands of years for a myriad of reasons.
    In this case anything done to the terrorists was used to gain information, and it has been used for thousands of years for that reason.

  • Comment Link sirburban Wednesday, 17 April 2013 11:38 posted by sirburban

    "American POW's were tortured during WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War ..." Bill

    Does not Jesus hanging on the Cross teach you a thing about torture?

    Torture is human madness.Those that engage in this inhuman practice aren't anymore interested in extracting information from those whom they torture as much as they torture out of hate.

    The purpose of torture is to torture.

    There is no human value in an inhuman action. There is nothing noble in it. No matter how many rationalizations you make up to justify torture the act itself is inhuman and deserves the condemnation of a sane and humane people.

  • Comment Link Bill Tuesday, 16 April 2013 20:37 posted by Bill

    American POW's were tortured during WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War. I don't see how getting some water up a terrorist's nose is going to " increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive."" And terrorists, by violating all the laws of war, give up any right to protection by those laws.

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