Democracy Has Prevailed.

April 17, 2013

Yes, They Tortured - And They're Getting Away With It

From yesterday's NYTimes:
A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.

The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “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, is to be released on Tuesday morning.
You can download the entire report here.

And from a NYTimes editorial today:
It is the fullest independent effort so far to assess the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the C.I.A.’s secret prisons. Those who sanctioned the use of brutal methods, like former Vice President Dick Cheney, will continue to defend their use. But the report’s authoritative conclusion that “the United States engaged in the practice of torture” is impossible to dismiss by a public that needs to know what was committed in the nation’s name.
But let's delve into the report itselve.  From it's Preface we learn that the panel that produced the report: made up of former high-ranking officials with distinguished careers in the judiciary, Congress, the diplomatic service, law enforcement, the military, and other parts of the executive branch, as well as recognized experts in law, medicine and ethics. The group includes conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats.
And that the report: the product of more than two years of research, analysis and deliberation by the Task Force members and staff. It is based on a thorough examination of available public records and interviews with more than 100 people, including former detainees, military and intelligence officers, interrogators and policymakers.
And some of the findings. I want you to notice the lack of weasel words, qualifiers and obfuscational tactics. The statements are clear - as are the offenses they describe.

Finding 1:
U.S. forces, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment. Both categories of actions violate U.S. laws and international treaties. Such conduct was directly counter to values of the Constitution and our nation.
In a brief analysis of this that follows, the report states:
The Task Force believes there was no justification for the responsible government and military leaders to have allowed those lines to be crossed. Doing so 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.

Democracy and torture cannot peacefully coexist in the same body politic.
Finding 2:
The nation’s most senior officials, through some of their actions and failures to act in the months and years immediately following the September 11 attacks, bear ultimate responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of illegal and improper interrogation techniques used by some U.S. personnel on detainees in several theaters. Responsibility also falls on other government officials and certain military leaders.
This would be, in my mind at least, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and so on.

When news of the torture came out, its apologists routinely declared that the "enhanced interrogation techniques" actually worked.  And so these techniques, while perhaps grotesque and incomprehensible actually saved lives.  The point from the apologists: "Sit down and STFU."  This, of course, leads me to

Finding 3:
There is no firm or persuasive evidence that the widespread use of harsh interrogation techniques by U.S. forces produced significant information of value. There is substantial evidence that much of the information adduced from the use of such techniques was not useful or reliable.
Then there's the clear rebuke of the Obama Administration in these next two findings.

Finding 20:
The Convention Against Torture, in addition to prohibiting all acts of torture, requires that states ensure in their “legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation.” The United States has not complied with this requirement, in large part because of the government’s repeated, successful invocation of the state-secrets privilege in lawsuits brought by torture victims.
Finding 21:
The Convention Against Torture requires each state party to “[c]riminalize all acts of torture, attempts to commit torture, or complicity or participation in torture,” and “proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.” The United States cannot be said to have complied with this requirement.
So far, there has been no such investigation into the Bush era crimes - as are required by law.

Conclusion: The Bush Administration tortured and the Obama Administration is letting them get away with it.

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