The Obama administration is facing renewed pressure to answer for its track record on torture after the relative calm that followed the release of the Senate torture report’s damning executive summary in December.As the NYTimes pointed out last December:
In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch Friday, human rights group Amnesty International pressed the Justice Department to revisit its decision not to prosecute former officials from the CIA and the George W. Bush administration for their involvement in the agency’s post-9/11 torture program. The new evidence from the report prepared by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence merits another look, says Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International, in the letter.
The long-delayed report delivers a withering judgment on one of the most controversial tactics of a twilight war waged over a dozen years. The Senate committee’s investigation, born of what its chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, said was a need to reckon with the excesses of this war, found that C.I.A. officials routinely misled the White House and Congress about the information it obtained, and failed to provide basic oversight of the secret prisons it established around the world.The torture happened and it was illegal.
In exhaustive detail, the report gives a macabre accounting of some of the grisliest techniques that the C.I.A. used to torture and imprison terrorism suspects. Detainees were deprived of sleep for as long as a week, and were sometimes told that they would be killed while in American custody. With the approval of the C.I.A.'s medical staff, some prisoners were subjected to medically unnecessary “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration” — a technique that the C.I.A.'s chief of interrogations described as a way to exert “total control over the detainee.” C.I.A. medical staff members described the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, as a “series of near drownings.”
The report also suggests that more prisoners were subjected to waterboarding than the three the C.I.A. has acknowledged in the past. The committee obtained a photograph of a waterboard surrounded by buckets of water at the prison in Afghanistan commonly known as the Salt Pit, a facility where the C.I.A. had claimed that waterboarding was never used. One clandestine officer described the prison as a “dungeon,” and another said that some prisoners there “literally looked like a dog that had been kenneled.”
And here's another problem as described by Amnesty International in that letter:
In April 2009, President Obama wrote to CIA employees to assure them that anyone who followed Department of Justice advice in using “enhanced” interrogation techniques would not face prosecution. Attorney General Holder subsequently gave assurances that: “the Department of Justice will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and withi n the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees.”Hardly surprising but not only was the torture illegal but covering up for the torturers is also illegal.
In Amnesty International’s view, the USA is granting what amounts to a de facto amnesty for crimes under international law and has effectively engaged in an executive encroachment on judicial power. This arrogation of judicial function can be seen as a continuation of the Bush administration’s deliberate and calculated removal of the judiciary from any oversight over the secret detentions in que stion. During the course of these detentions multiple crimes under international law were committed, crimes which the Obama administration continues to insulate from judicial determination of individual criminal responsibility.
Granting immunity for crimes under international law, or introducing any other measure that prevents the emergence of truth, a final judicial determination of guilt or innocence before an ordinary civilian court and full reparation for victims, by design or effect, by legislation or by executive policy, violates international law. An amnesty for torture would violate express provisions of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and an amnesty for enforced disappearances would be incompatible with that treaty and others such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Prosecute the torture.