Torture Whitewash: Probe of Two CIA Murders Ends Obama Administration’s Investigation of Bush’s Global Torture Program

How convenient is it that a door shuts on the Bush administration’s global program of extraordinary rendition and torture, just as America’s military-industrial complex plays musical chairs — with Republican holdover Robert Gates leaving as defense secretary, to be replaced by Leon Panetta, who has spent the last two years as the director of the CIA, while Gen. David Petraeus, the military commander in Afghanistan, takes over Panetta’s role at the CIA?

The answer has to be that it would be hard to conceive of a neater example of how the military and the intelligence agencies — or the CIA, at least — are at the very heart of government.

The door that is shutting is the one that involves accountability for the many prisoners subjected to “extraordinary rendition,” torture, and, in some cases, murder, in the Bush administration’s “high-value detainee” program. This involved the creation of secret torture prisons in Thailand, Poland, Romania and Lithuania, and, for a while, in Guantánamo, as well as others in Afghanistan and Iraq, the rendition of prisoners between these facilities, and also to the dungeons of allies in Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Morocco. Read the rest of this entry »

In the US, on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, A Glimmer of Hope Amidst the Hypocrisy

At the weekend, to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, which takes place on June 26 each year, President Obama issued an extraordinary statement, declaring support for those working to eradicate the use of torture, and explaining that “[t]orture and abusive treatment violate our most deeply held values,” that they “do not enhance our national security,” that they “serv[e] as a recruiting tool for terrorists and further endanger[] the lives of American personnel,” and that they “are ineffective at developing useful, accurate information.”

The President was absolutely correct in his assessment of the problems with torture, and was also correct to point out how “President Reagan signed, and a bipartisan Senate coalition ratified” the UN Convention Against Torture, which came to force on June 26, 1987, and whose anniversary has been marked, since 1998, as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

However, when President Obama wrote of “paying tribute to all those who are courageously working to eradicate these inhuman practices from our world, and reaffirming the commitment of the United States to achieving this important goal,” and of remaining “dedicated to supporting the efforts of other nations, as well as international and nongovernmental organizations, to eradicate torture through human rights training for security forces, improving prison and detention conditions, and encouraging the development and enforcement of strong laws that outlaw this abhorrent practice,” it was difficult not to ignore the stench of hypocrisy. Read the rest of this entry »

US Supreme Court Refuses to Allow Abu Ghraib Torture Victims to Sue Military Contractors

With what can only come across as cynical timing, the US Supreme Court on Monday, the day after the UN International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture, declined without comment to take up a lawsuit filed on behalf of 250 Iraqis — formerly prisoners at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, home of the most significant scandal in the Bush administration’s “War on Terror,” which surfaced in April 2004 with the publication of photos showing the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners in US custody at the prison. The prisoners were seeking to hold Titan Corporation, which provided Arabic translation services, and CACI International, which provided interrogators, accountable  for their role in the torture and abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in 2003 and 2004.

Although a handful of serving US military personnel — eleven in total, referred to by President Bush as “a few bad apples” — were prosecuted for the abuse at Abu Ghraib, they were, in fact, scapegoated for implementing a policy that came from the highest levels of government, and which was designed to ensure that all aspects of the detention regime were dependant upon the whims of interrogators — as at Guantánamo, from where the system was exported by its commander, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who was sent to “Gitmoize” Abu Ghraib with the results that the world saw to its horror in April 2004.

The case that was shunned by the Supreme Court on Monday, Saleh v. Titan Corporation, was an important attempt to extend accountability from the military to the contractors who make up such a huge part of America’s post-9/11 war machine, and who, unlike their official military counterparts, appear to be as much beyond the law as the senior administration officials — and their lawyers — who implemented, approved and oversaw every aspect of the “War on Terror” that should have shocked the conscience — involving torture, “extraordinary rendition,” secret prisons and the miseries of arbitrary detention at Guantánamo. As Human Rights First explained, “Army investigations implicated at least five private contractors in similar crimes,” although “no contractor was ever charged.” Read the rest of this entry »

Rights Groups Tell Obama: Reward Those Who Opposed America’s Use of Torture in the “War on Terror”

In a significant gesture in the run-up to the UN International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture, which takes place on June 26, and was inaugurated in 1998, on the 11th anniversary of the ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture, ten human rights groups in the US, including the ACLU, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch and the PEN American Center, have sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to honor the overlooked lawyers, officials and soldiers who, under the Bush administration, took a stand against torture, often at great risk to their careers.

As the groups point out, these individuals — who include Sgt. Joe Darby, former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora, Col. Morris Davis, Lt. Col. V. Stuart Couch, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld and former CIA Inspector General John Helgersen — upheld America’s values and its laws when the Bush administration had moved over to the “dark side” embraced by former Vice President Dick Cheney, and their contributions deserve to be officially acknowledged, especially as others who actively contributed to the illegal and immoral torture program were rewarded by President Bush.

Obviously, the elephant in the room, when it comes to asking President Obama to honor those who publicly opposed the Bush administration’s torture program, is that this should also be accompanied by a call for the officials who authorized the program (up to and including President Bush, who boasted about authorizing waterboarding — a crime — in his autobiography last year) or attempted to justify the torture program (like John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, who wrote and approved what are now known as the “torture memos”) to be prosecuted according to the US federal anti-torture statute. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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