What Fresh Hell Is This?

July 5, 2011

Torture News - Good, Bad and Ugly

From last Thursday:
The Justice Department inquiry into CIA interrogations of terrorist detainees has led to a full criminal investigation into the deaths of two people while they were in custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday.

The attorney general said that he accepted the recommendation of a federal prosecutor, John Durham, who since August 2009 has conducted an inquiry into CIA interrogation practices during the Bush administration. Holder said Durham looked at the treatment of 101 detainees in U.S. custody since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and concluded that only these two deaths warranted criminal investigation. Holder said Durham found some of the 101 had never been held by the CIA.
And more from the Washington Post:
The Justice Department did not say which cases are being investigated, but U.S. officials said they are the death of an Afghan, Gul Rahman, in 2002 at a prison known as the Salt Pit in Afghanistan, and that of an Iraqi, Manadel al-Jamadi, who was questioned by three CIA officers at Abu Ghraib in 2003.

In the case involving the Salt Pit, known as a “black site” because the U.S. government did not officially acknowledge its existence, a CIA officer allegedly ordered Afghan guards in November 2002 to strip Rahman and chain him to the concrete floor of his cell. Temperatures plunged overnight, and Rahman froze to death. Hypothermia was listed as the cause of death and Rahman was buried in an unmarked grave.

Jamadi, the Iraqi, was captured on Nov. 4, 2003, by a Navy SEAL team hunting a terrorist cell thought to be responsible for a bombing in Baghdad. After initial interrogation efforts, he was transferred into CIA custody and was taken to Abu Ghraib. There he was hooded, placed in an orange jumpsuit and shackled to window bars in a shower room, where he died.

Jamadi’s body was put on ice to preserve it for autopsy. U.S. soldiers posed for photographs with the body — including some in which they gave the thumbs-up sign — provoking international outrage when news organizations showed the images.
The "Good" is that there are now criminal investigations into the torture related deaths that occurred during, at with the OK of, the Bush Administration.

The "Bad" is that this narrowing of an investigation leaves out a whole mess o' torture:
“It is difficult to understand the prosecutor’s conclusion that only those two deaths warrant further investigation,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “For a period of several years, and with the approval of the Bush administration’s most senior officials, the CIA operated an interrogation program that subjected prisoners to unimaginable cruelty and violated both international and domestic law. The narrow investigation that Attorney General Holder announced today is not proportionate to the scale and scope of the wrongdoing.”

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the CIA created a network of secret prisons around the world to confine “high-value” al-Qaeda operatives. The detainees were subjected to what the agency called “enhanced interrogation techniques” — escalating forms of duress that began with slaps to the face and ended, in three cases, with prolonged bouts of waterboarding, which simulates drowning.

Among those held by the CIA were leading al-Qaeda figures, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, who was waterboarded 183 times after his capture in March 2003.
Let's all say it together, children: Torture is illegal. Approving the use of torture is illegal. Both happened during the Bush Administration, though he tried to cover his tracks by having his office of legal counsel declare it not-torture.

The Good, Bad and Ugly can be summed up in this from the Post:
The Obama administration closed the CIA prisons and barred the use of the enhanced techniques. The Justice Department said it would not prosecute any CIA personnel who acted in good faith and followed the guidance of the Office of Legal Counsel.
As I pointed out in this recent Jack Kelly blog post, none of that actually flies. None of it gets the Bush Administration off the hook - and none of that gets the Obama Administration off the hook either.

From the Conventions Against Torture (signed into US Law in 1996), Article 1:
For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
And Article 2:
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
So which is worse? Committing a war crime (as the Bush Administration obviously did) or letting the war criminals get away with their crimes (as the Obama Administration is obviously doing)?

As a patriotic American, the day after celebrating our nation's independence, I hang my head in a quiet itching disgust.

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