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Bipartisan Report: U.S. Practiced Widespread Torture, Torture Has “No Jusification” and Doesn’t Yield Significant Information, Nation’s Highest Officials Bear Responsibility

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Cross-Posted from Washingtons Blog

Yesterday, a bi-partisan panel – co-chaired by the former undersecretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush, former Republican congressman from Arkansas and NRA consultant (Asa Hutchinson) and former Democratic congressman and U.S. ambassador to Mexico (James Jones) – released a 577-page report on torture after 2 years of study.

Other luminaries on the panel include:

  • Former FBI Director William Sessions
  • 3-star general Claudia J. Kennedy
  • Retired Brigadier General David Irvine
  • Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador and Representative to the United Nations, and U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation, India, Israel, El Salvador, Nigeria, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Thomas Pickering

The panel concluded:

  • “Torture occurred in many instances and across a wide range of theaters”
  • There is “no firm or persuasive evidence” that the use of such techniques yielded “significant information of value”
  • “The nation’s highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of torture”
  • “Publicly acknowledging this grave error, however belatedly, may mitigate some of those consequences and help undo some of the damage to our reputation at home and abroad”

The panel also found:

  • The use of torture has “no justification” and “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”
  • “As long as the debate continues, so too does the possibility that the United States could again engage in torture”
  • The Obama administration’s keeping the details of rendition and torture from the public “cannot continue to be justified on the basis of national security”, and it should stop blocking lawsuits by former detainees on the basis of claiming “state secrets”

At a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, co-chair Hutchinson said:

We found that U.S. personnel, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. Both categories of actions violate U.S. laws and international treaty obligations.

This conclusion is not based upon our own personal impressions, but rather is grounded in a thorough and detailed examination of what constitutes torture from a historical and legal context. We looked at court cases and determined that the treatment of detainees, in many instances, met the standards the courts have determined as constituting torture. But in addition, you look at the United States State Department, in its annual country reports on human rights practices, has characterized many of the techniques used against detainees in U.S. custody in the post-9/11 environment—the State Department has characterized the same treatment as torture, abuse or cruel treatment when those techniques were employed by foreign governments. The CIA recognized this in an internal review and acknowledged that many of the interrogation techniques it employed were inconsistent with the public policy positions the United States has taken regarding human rights. The United States is understandably subject to criticism when it criticizes another nation for engaging in torture and then justifies the same conduct under national security arguments.

There are those that defend the techniques of—like waterboarding, stress positions and sleep deprivation, because there was the Office of Legal Counsel, which issued a decision approving of their use because they define them as not being torture. Those opinions have since been repudiated by legal experts and the OLC itself. And even in its opinion, it relied not only on a very narrow legal definition of torture, but also on factual representations about how the techniques would be implemented, that later proved inaccurate. This is important context as to how the opinion came about, but also as to how policy makers relied upon it.

Based upon a thorough review of the available public record, we determined that, in application, torture was used against detainees in many instances and across a wide range of theaters.

***

And while our report is critical of the approval of interrogation techniques that ultimately led to U.S. personnel engaging in torture of detainees, the investigation was not an undertaking of partisan fault finding. Our conclusions about responsibility should be taken very simply as an effort to understand what happened at many levels of the U.S. policy making. There is no way of knowing how the government would have responded if a Democrat administration were in power at the time of the attacks. Indeed, our report is equally critical of the rendition-to-torture program, which began under President Clinton. And we question several actions of the current administration, as well. It should be noted that many of the corrective actions that—were first undertaken during the Bush administration, as well.

But the task force did conclude that the nation’s highest officials, after the 9/11 attack, approved actions for CIA and Defense personnel based upon legal guidance that has since been repudiated. The most important decision may have been to declare the Geneva Convention did not apply to al-Qaeda and Taliban captives in Afghanistan or Guantánamo. The administration never specified what rules would apply instead. The task force believes that U.S. defense intelligence professionals and servicemembers in harm’s way need absolutely clear orders on the treatment of detainees, requiring at a minimum compliance with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. This was not done. Civilian leaders and military commanders have an affirmative responsibility to assure that their subordinates comply with the laws of war. President Obama has committed to observe the Geneva Conventions through an executive order, but a future president could change it by the stroke of a pen.

***

The task force believes it is important to recognize that—that is—that to say torture is ineffective does not require a demonstration that it never works. A person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information. Nor does the fact that it may sometimes yield legitimate information justify its use. What values do America stand for? That’s the ultimate question. But in addition to the very real legal and moral objections to its use, torture often produces false information, and it is difficult and time-consuming for interrogators and analysts to distinguish what may be true and usable from that which is false and misleading. Also, conventional, lawful interrogation methods have proven to be successful whenever the United States uses them throughout history—and I have seen this in law enforcement, as well. We’ve seen no evidence in the public record that the traditional means of interrogation would not have yielded the necessary intelligence following the attacks of 9/11.

Retired Brigadier General David Irvine, a former strategic intelligence officer and Army instructor in prisoner interrogation said:

Public record strongly suggests that there was no useful information gained from going to the dark side that saved the hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands of lives that have been claimed. There are many instances in that public record to support the notion that we have been badly misled by false confessions that have been derived from brutal interrogations. And unfortunately, it is a fact that people—people will just say whatever they think needs to be said if the pain becomes more than they can bear. Other people are so immune to pain that they will die before they will reveal what an interrogator may wish to know.

I’ll just say, in conclusion, that in 2001 the United States had had a great deal of experience with tactical and strategic interrogations. We had been very successful over a long period of time in learning how to do this and do it very, very well. Unfortunately, when the policies were developed that led us to the dark side, many of those who were involved in formulating those policies had no experience with interrogation, had no experience with law enforcement, had no experience with the military, in how these matters are approached. One of the most successful FBI interrogators prior to 2001 was a guy named Joe Navarro. And Joe is noted for having said—and he was probably one of the handful of strategic interrogators qualified to interrogate and debrief a high-value al-Qaeda prisoner. But Joe said, “I only need three things. If you’ll give me three things, I will get whatever someone has to say, and I will do it without breaking the law. First of all, I need a quiet room. Second, I want to know what the rules are, because I don’t want to get in trouble. And third, I need enough time to become that person’s best and only friend. And if you give me those three conditions, I will get whatever that person has to say, and I will get it effectively and quickly and safely and within the terms of the law.” So, we can do it well when we want to. We need to do more, looking at our history, to remind us what worked and why it worked, and not resort to what may seem at the time to be expedient, clever or necessary.

Indeed, top American military and intelligence interrogation experts from both sides of the aisle have conclusively proven the following 10 facts about torture:

1. Torture is not a partisan issue

2. Waterboarding is torture

3. Torture decreases our national security

4. Torture can not break hardened terrorists

5. Torture is not necessary even in a “ticking time bomb” situation

6. The specific type of torture used by the U.S. was never aimed at producing actionable intelligence … but was instead aimed at producing false confessions

7. Torture did not help to get Bin Laden

8. Torture did not provide valuable details regarding 9/11

9. Many innocent people were tortured

10. America still allows torture

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59 comments

    1. Richard Kline

      This report was certain at some point. However the policies and needs which drive torture are never really touched upon here, as in nearly all discussions on programmatic torture in the US-Israeli model (yes, that linkage: we copied it from them).

      Torture was never justifiable on grounds of utility, i.e. ‘actionable’ information will be reliably derived in theat manner. This is something extensively studied in the mid-20th century, from an enormous body of actual data in WW II, in the systematic use of torture by the French in Vietnam and Algeria, by the massive use of torture by the US and our running dogs in Vietnam, and elsewhere. Torture simply doesn’t yield accurate information. Yes, you may uncover something that is true, but you also uncover many things that are not true, and distinguishing the one from the other is impossible. One makes many enemies, wins no friends, corrupts accurate intelligence, and renders ones own uniformed personnel destructively careless and coarsened. That’s all without talking about moral issues, or the psychological cost to ones own personnel. From any instrumental standpoint, torture is a programmatic failure; literaly, it’s worse than doing nothing.

      —But instrumental reasons have NOTHING to do with why torture is inflicted by a state actor upon a class of detainees. The real purposes of torture are two fold. One of them is to humiliate the oppressed, specifically those in a public to be suppressed who are not detained but know of the actions. The point is to create a climate of fear—”We can do this to you, and there is _nothing_ you can do about it”—thereby to cultivate a submissive apathy. In that regard, it is entirely immaterial if the innocent are tortured, because the issue is not who’s innocent and who’s activist but rather who has the power and who must submit. Tortue is down to enforce the caste and power gradient, forcing those to submit to grovel or face grotesque abuse. The second purpose of torture is the counterweight to that, to enforce the superior status of the group who can inflict torture unilateraly and without meaningful retaliation. Those at the top of the power gradient torture to remind themselves “We’re superior, we can do this to them and they can’t do it to us.” From that standpoint, ‘information’ extracted is entirely irrelevant because it is the _process_ of self-reinforcement which is the real goal of programmatic torture. That makes the torturers sound like, well, bastards, and the policy executives behind them—and this was all decided at the absolute top of the pay grade of public policy—sound like brothers to Ming the Merciless. So a facade of ‘we need to do this because X’ is cooked up, but that all it is, a facade. There is no need; there is only a desire.

      Many Americans had their sense of untouchable superiority badly shaken by those planes hitting the twin towers on a particular day. The image which everyone talks about is the edifices collapsing, but the one that affected them more, believe it, which they DON’T talk about was that of rich, young, white, men in ties in financial heart of the country running away from the dust clouds with panic on their faces. I noted that image at the time, and recall it very well. —And this is why we routinely tortured and abused in Afghanistan, Iraq, and everywhere else we put boots on the ground. This is why we persist in grotesquely torturing totally helpless and in many cases innocent detaineesin Guantanamo to this day: it is an object lesson to ourvelves that we are in a position of superiority, and an abject reminder to anyone we might decide not to like that this can be done to them because they are inferior people who can’t do anything about it we don’t let them do.

      And this is why we will continue to torture. Not because of ‘intelligence.’ Not because we’re interested in ‘who is guilty,’ but because our sense of imperial superiority is largely dependent upon hurting people who can’t really fight back. That is always what programmatic torture is about: rascism, castism, and schoolyard bullying to an exponent of three or four. Crimes against humanity and or genocide hover in our policy background to raise the exponent as deemed necessary; that’s why we won’t sign-on to ‘no first use of nukes,’ for instance, and still retain biological weapons programs that can be ramped up.

      None of this is unique to Americans and the US. What stands out historically is that peoples who have suffered a sharp defeat or worse in some way seem that much more likey to programmatically torture subsequently. (I don’t think that this has been given a comprehensive historical study, so I’ll call that a working hypothesis.) The Germans tortured more after WW II than before, though they were hardly lighthanded previously. The French tortured more after WW II. The US tortured more in Vietnam than in Korea. Israel tortured more after Kristelnacht. The Islamist Iranians tortured more once in power than the monarchist Iranians had tortured them. And of course the US went right back to torture after 2001, needing to pump up some exceptional tumescence again. We can assume on such grounds that Arab governments as they shake off imperial overreach and govern themselves will, too, torture more than before.

      All the mouthing about torture misses the point: the point is to hurt them so we feel better. That is all. And that’s less pretty even than the perfectly sound, perfectly tame opines of this blue ribbon group who’d like to get our national reputation out of the sewer but won’t call out a spade as a spade.

  1. NotTimothyGeithner

    My conspiracy theory is the Bushies made sure to inform Democratic leadership at every step. Any move against the Bush Administration means Nancy, Reid, and other top “intelligence” members plus probably staffers would be up for prosecutions.

    That was before I realized the depths of Obama’s depravity.

    1. George Washington Post author

      Leading democrats like Pelosi, Harman, Rockefeller and others in Congress rubber-stamped torture:

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/08/AR2007120801664_pf.html

      http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/07/15/complicity/index.html

      And Pelosi hid from the 9/11 Commission and the American people the fact that the interrogations of 9/11 suspects were videotaped, and that the alleged “confessions” of those held at Gitmo were wholly unreliable.

      http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/Was-Pelosi-aware-of-CIA-s-tactics-3299806.php

    2. lambert strether

      I’ve always felt there was a direct video feed* from the Abu Ghraib torture rooms (or wherever) right to the White House. Insiders only!

      When Scalia and the rest of official Washington evinced such enthusiasm for 24, they weren’t just praising the entertainment; they were comparing.

      NOTE * For whatever reason, the tech dudes who run the networks that move the torture data are never deposed. Could be interesting.

      1. steelhead23

        Lambert – Knowing that Scalia is Opus Dei – and may be a Templar – it would not much surprise me if the man has a bust of Torquemada on his desk – and a Pope’s pear in his collection at home.

  2. wunsacon

    I’m skeptical about some aspects of this report.

    Who’s the intended audience? Is it trying to tell American voters and future leaders that “torture is bad and useless, so don’t use it”? Or is trying to convince *other* countries that “torture is bad and useless, so don’t use it against *us*”?

    We tortured in Vietnam. (See Phoenix Program.) Our agents tortured in Latin America. Would we have done it again in Iraq if there wasn’t evidence from all those other examples that it sometimes produces useful data? If it does produce useful data, do heavy-handed militarists care if they also kill and maim a lot of innocent, politically weak people along the way in order to “stabilize” a country, make it safe for democracy, and earn their paycheck?

    Warring factions have tortured for millenia. Maybe, just maybe, we’re a little more selective and less gruesome than prior eras. (This sounds like a bad way to go: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazen_bull) This report won’t likely change anything, for long. Just like the Church Committee and Pecora Commission. We’re doomed to repeat this shit.

    1. TomDor

      Who The F##K cares what audience this was meant for….. clue for the clueless – the audience is the entire population of humans. Message — torture is never justifiable…no excuses what so ever.. ever.
      What do you want… a whole retelling of human history and torture and how bad that works or. do you think that freedom and liberty are just things that one ought to sit back and enjoy without having to go through those problems like; being ever vigilant, being brave to stand up for the obvious etc.
      Of course these things will occur again and again…but just because they do does not mean that the struggle for human dignity and justice is meaningless.

      1. two beers

        Of course torture is never justifiable, but I like to carve out one exception, and waterboard war-porn impressario Kathryn Bigelow just for the hell of it.

      2. wunsacon

        >> does not mean that the struggle for human dignity and justice is meaningless.

        I’m a little surprised but can see how/why you might interpret my comment the way you did. To clarify: I don’t think the struggle is “meaningless” in the same sense you’re using. I’m saying the struggle is “unwinnable”.

        In order for it to be “winnable”, I gotta see millions protesting over this issue and Obama/Holder prosecuting torturers instead of Manning and Swartz.

        As for the question of “audience”, uh, yeah, it’s relevant. This is a *report* put out by a group of politicians. Where are the indictments? Maybe it’s a “limited hangout”. Maybe parts of it are true and some not-so-true.

        I’m glad you’re incensed though. I wish everyone were angry over this issue.

    2. Yalt

      The purpose of torture isn’t to provide data, useful or otherwise. The purpose of torture is to provide confessions, and denunciations of others. The truth of those confessions and denunciations is rather beside the point, what matters is that they are useful.

      And of course there’s the collateral benefit of spreading terror and helplessness among the population from which the tortured are culled.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Torture is also a source of orgasmic pleasure for some, such as Dick Cheney, a leering war and torture junkie. I suspect Obama is another closet sadist.

      2. wunsacon

        >> The purpose of torture isn’t to provide data, useful or otherwise. The purpose of torture is to provide confessions, and denunciations of others.

        Yalt and Doug, I believe you’re reading too much into the torturers’ “thought process” — giving them too much credit — but also reading in bad motivation beyond what exists. It’s mostly Dubya’s “thinking”: “let’s get the bad guys”. With “good” intentions, limited knowledge/wisdom, an inability to grasp their own information horizons, and effectively unchecked power, they do the bad things they do. (To be clear, IMO, they belong in jail regardless of what “good” they think they were doing.)

        1. Yalt

          If you think torture is a new phenomenon and that its origin and purposes can somehow be linked to “dubya’s thinking” I don’t know what to say.

          The only thing new under the Bush administration is that very little effort was made to conceal the fact that people were being tortured and that the torture was being done by US citizens. In the past we at least made an attempt to maintain appearances–we sent our Dan Mitriones out into the world but they were expected to have others do most of the actual torturing.

  3. Mad Hatter

    Be what you would seem to be – or, if you’d like it put more simply – never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise. ~Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

    1. two beers

      Shrub says he’s comfortable with what he did as president, but have you seen his creepy, self-reflexive, self-portrait in the shower? It has to be seen to be believed: We seen him naked from the back, standing in the shower, shoulders sagging, with his weary face reflected in a tiny mirror.

      He says he has a clean conscience, but his painting screams subconscious guilt-ridden anguish. Sonewhere in that pea-brain of his, there seems to be a tiny and shamed soul.

      1. TomDor

        Bush’s most damagaing remark… a remark that I believe was the maost damaging remark made by any president ever, it’s destructive force still reverberates today went something like this

        ‘Your either for us or against us’

        Most unpatriotic and destructive comment – in my opinion.

  4. clarence swinney

    GEORGE W. BUSH DELUSIONS
    He told an interviewer “I am comfortable with what I did as President”.
    He ignores this litany of negatives
    Took a Surplus as far as the eye can see to 1,400B deficits
    Increased Spending from 1,800B to 3,500B—90% increase
    Increased Debt from 5,800B to 11,900B—112% increase—doubled in 8.
    Decreased 237,000 net new jobs per month to 31,000
    Allowed the trashing of housing industry by big banks.
    Approved the creation of a new world wide Casino Derivative of Wall Street.
    He and 11 members of his staff are well documented as having told 935 LIES to convince the public and Congress to invade an unarmed, destitute, innocent nation of 15 Million adults.
    He endorsed the Torture of many in many different prisons.
    He imprisoned 14 year old with hardened criminals.
    He ignored the several warnings that something like 9-11 was to occur.
    There are 1500 Million Muslims who now detest America because of Bush.
    Many Muslim in many nations lost loved ones because of our actions.
    Several historians have already rated his administration as the Worst in our history.
    Bush and Cheney need a trip before the International War Crimes Tribunal.

    1. TK421

      Where to even begin?

      President Obama has asserted the right to have Americans killed without due process or any kind of oversight–and actually carried it out–which George Bush never did.

      A greater share of income gains went to the wealthiest Americans under Obama than under Bush.

      Muslim opinions of America are lower under Obama than they were under Bush.

      etc. etc. etc.

      1. Mad Hatter

        I’m not sure it’s wise to speak for a billion and a half people. There are pretty legit estimates out there (Lancet)of a hundred thousand dead in Iraq alone. How does one claim that one pile of shit smells worse than another?

  5. Mortgage Fall Guys

    CACI: paid to rape, torture, and commit human rights abuses.
    The Inc. featured in today’s “War on Whistleblowers” CACI, is one of Gov’mints favorite ATM customer, paid to get ‘er done, but also useful for blame when the royals snipe amongst themselves. And during those woeful editorial memorials at what they got away with.

    ‘Blame them when they do it, not us when we pay them to do it for us’

  6. direction

    Can’t help but wonder if the torture issue is just another facet of the “guns as fetish objects” phenomenon.

    When I was working in eldercare, before we invaded Iraq, I remember seeing a client’s copy of the American Legion’s magazine. That month the cover photo was of a man’s bound hands and the title was something along the lines of “When is it okay to torture?” and I thought: “Here we go…they’re pushing for a new policy.” There already existed a tremendous body of scientific study that said torture decreased rather than increased the quality of information. Now over a decade later, they get to conclude the same conclusions.

    come on humanity, when do we get start making the world a better place?

  7. washunate

    I am reminded of how much General Taguba stuck his neck out investigating abuse and speaking clearly about it – and how the Democratic establishment did exactly nothing.

    “After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

    http://prcsd.org/resources/must-read/phr-report.html

    1. barrisj

      I have several books on my home library shelf that have detailed the pervasive use of torture and brutality by the US military and CIA since the beginning of “the war on terror”:
      Danner, “Stripping Bare the Body”; Falk, et al, “Crimes of War”; McKelvey, “Monstering”; Danner, “Torture and Truth”; Sands, “Torture Team”; Greenberg and Dratel, “The Torture Papers”; Mayer, “The Dark Side”. People, nothing in the referenced report is new, but it does represent a massive collation of data that places illegal interrogation and imprisonment of “terrorist suspects” into a broader frame of deliberate government policy, and should leave no doubt as to the culpability of dozens of high-ranking officials and members of government who have yet to be called to account for authorising such willful acts of medieval torture. It is extremely unlikely that any of the perps will see a court of law, or even hear an accusation before a duly constituted commission or tribunal, as a result of what appears in the Task Force report, now or in the future. However, actions have consequences, either foreseen or unforeseen, count on it.

  8. Left of Che

    I wonder if the US military and intelligence services tortured non-white “terrorists” (including various Arab nationalists, Islamists, anti-US insurgents etc) in significantly greater proportion than they did non-white commies back in the day? Torturing troublesome (or suspected troublesome) persons of a different race seems to be recurring thing.

  9. Jimbo

    Torture was widespread during the Vietnam War too. As were massacres ten times the size of Mi Lai. Our indifference -our enjoyment- towards the suffering and deaths of others WILL produce payback; karma is more infallible than the Pope.

  10. Claudius

    It seems the bipartisan committee has effectively taken the first step in acknowledging human rights abuses happened and have identified the US government agency heads and government leaders responsible. Acknowledged that the US is a society of which some of its principal agencies and representatives have committed human rights abuses; perpetrated torture under the auspices of a democratically elected government, standing laws, a constitution and specific international treaties.

    But how, as a nation, do we get from acknowledgement of a crime to truth, reconciliation and justice? How do we make such a transition in a democracy when it was democratic institutions that committed the abuses; when former high government officials and agency heads protect themselves with immunities and legal protections afforded to them by legal and sovereign safeguards inherent within those same democratic institutions?

    The abuses were not committed by a junta or a despotic regime; they were committed by US government agents, and enabled by democratically elected representatives. If the agents and representatives are to blame, the people who elected them are to blame, the people who enacted the laws and statues are to blame, democracy as an enabler, is to blame – and, that’s one big societal guilt trip. And, the only way for America to face up to that kind of self reflection (in a way it has is striven to avoid at similar, critical national junctures) is to have something it has never previously: its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    Truth commissions provide the benefits of criminal prosecutions (retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation of offenders, establishing a common historical record of truth), in addition to: societal healing and reconciliation, the promotion of democratic values and human rights, improvement of the US’s international image, and the possibility of initiating broad institutional reform.

    Finally, if the work of a truth commission is combined with political safeguards, reparations to victims, together with the passing of time, a lasting and comprehensive sense of justice and peace can result, and the legacy of state organized criminality will allow America to once again be seen as moral, just and truly democratic.

  11. JGordon

    “A country blowing itself up is quite a sight to behold, and it makes us wonder about lots of things. For instance, it makes us wonder whether the people who are doing the blowing up happen to be criminals. (Sure, they may be in a manner of speaking—as a moral judgment passed on the powerful by the powerless—but since none of them are likely to see the inside of a jail cell or even a courtroom any time soon, the point is moot.)”

    -Dmitry Orlov http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2013/04/understanding-organizational-stupidity.html

    Although they are criminals in legal fact as well as moral fact, if you consider corruption, war crimes and torture to be criminal activity. Which some of us still do.

  12. | | | |

    The USG is a criminal state: not just torture but mass murder, extermination, disappearance, rape, collective persecution, starvation, and on up to criminal aggression. The officials in its command structure are enemies of all mankind in the law of every country in the world. They are going to be looking over their shoulders for the rest of their lives. To feel safe they have to be able to kill anybody and silence everybody, at home and abroad. Desperate criminals like this are not ever going to leave you alone. The world will have to stop them. There are ways to stop them short of war, but that will take decades and it might not work. The US population doesn’t know what it’s up against, and pretending that this is a democracy makes it hopeless.

    US government criminals have a long-term plan to maintain their impunity. They want to be safe in a totalitarian rogue state. US officials are at it again with IEDs and ricin. This is our Reichstag fire.

  13. Yearning to Learn

    2. Waterboarding is torture

    assuredly. To anybody who says it is not, remind them:

    The US hung Japanese soldiers convicted of Waterboarding US Soldiers. the crime? Torture.

  14. Susan the other

    Commissions to determine the illegality of something are useless. Illegality of torture is black and white. If you want a hedge then study “Is torture really torture?” Agnotology. And altho’ I’m a very, very pissed-off patriot, I would only say that we haven’t beheaded any particular person with a scimitar. Only a drone. Not good. And the whole mindset is nuts.

  15. steelhead23

    In 1976, then-president Ford penned Executive Order 11905 that outlawed “political assassination” by this nation’s military and intelligence services. Since 1948, the U.S. has been a signatory on treaties banning torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners. Through direct action and the action of proxies, the U.S. Government has routinely violated these precepts, from Mossadegh to Allende to bin Laden, the U.S. Government has killed political rivals. At the U.S. Government-run School of the Americas has taught foreign nationals the fine points of intelligence gathering through torture. Combined with assassinations via drone attacks these facts lead to the unequivocal conclusion that the government of the United States of America is the principal purveyor of terrorism on the globe and is a menace to global peace and prosperity. I am old enough to yearn for the glory days of the Church Committee and the moral leadership of President Ford. We are lost.

  16. rps

    How convenient to publish a government report after-the-fact about past and ongoing crimes against humanity.

    Simply, the fact is -many us inherently understand torturing humans or living creatures is a crime against nature; its morally reprehensible of a person(s) reducing themselves beyond shame in their degrading humiliating acts of inflicting pain and death on another under the guise of “interrogation techniques.” There are no justifications in their personal debasement and predilections in seeking a perverse enjoyment of harming others under the nom de plume of our national flag, implying we are accessories in their personal crimes of degradation; of ethos, pathos and logos disintegration.

    We know who they are; they are the antithesis to human advancement

  17. Expat

    Until Bush, Gonzales, Rove, and Rumsfeld are tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity, this whole debate is nothing but that, a sterile debate.

    1. rps

      And John Yoo, the author of the Bush administration legal memos justifying the use of torture

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Dan Froomkin’s article on this report is excellent, here is the part relevant to Obamination’s cupability:

        There’s also a matter of law. That U.S. officials involved with detention in the CIA’s black sites committed war crimes and violated interntional law, which the report concludes to be self-evident, isn’t something Obama is allowed to ignore.

        It actually violates the U.S.’s legal obligations under the international Convention Against Torture, which requires each country 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,” the report concludes, noting: “No CIA personnel have been convicted or even charged for numerous instances of torture in CIA custody — including cases where interrogators exceeded what was authorized by the Office of Legal Counsel, and cases where detainees were tortured to death. Many acts of unauthorized torture by military forces have also been inadequately investigated or prosecuted.”

        So it’s not just Bush and Cheney who violated international law; now it’s Obama, too.

        http://froomkin.tumblr.com/post/48146234808/new-torture-reports-blames-obama-and-the-media-for-not

        Behind all this formulaic language

        1. Mad Hatter

          And the rest of the Democratic Aristocracy named higher up the comment thread, indict them, as well.

          The problem, as with letting criminal bankers skate, is we’re (supposedly) a nation whose legal system functions on precedent. Let them skate this time and they skate from here on out; the new normal.

        2. Habitat for Crimes Against Humanity

          That’s the thing. Obama’s got a long, idyllic retirement ahead of him, a good 35, 40 years of cashing in on his corrupt abuse of function. But administrations and cabinets will come and go. Every time we get a new AG, he’ll have to worry: it might not always be a crook like Holder or a flunky like Gonzales. What if it’s a Ramsey Clark? What if someone with integrity squeaks in?

          Say she gives her word that she will support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and bear true faith and allegiance to the same – What if she means it?

          You might wind up with a loose cannon who comes right out and admits that Article VI of the U.S. Constitution and The Paquete Habana, 175 U.S. 677 (1900), make international law an integral part of federal law. That customary international law is part of federal common law and the common law of every state, and conventions and treaties are equivalent to federal statutes. That includes the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, The Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, The United Nations Charter, The Geneva Conventions of 1949. That includes the Nuremberg Charter as an executive agreement concluded by the President in his authority as Commander-in-Chief of U.S. forces. That includes the Convention Against Torture.

          So this new AG lets the cat out of the bag, the secret’s out: war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace, they’re not just rhetorical flourishes, they’re binding law in federal courts: The Nuremberg Charter as part of the Statutes at Large, 59 Stat. 1544-1589; The Nuremberg Judgment as Federal Rules Decisions 6 F.R.D. 69 (1946), and incorporated in the supreme law of the land as Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice.

          The systematic nature of the worldwide torture gulag constitutes a crime against humanity. The Nuremberg Judgment makes Obama a war criminal under 18 USC § 2441. Obama acquiesced, obstructed justice. He’s not just hostis humani generis, he’s a felon.

          The whole world wants a scalp. They never stopped pointing out that war crimes have no statute of limitations. Bush drank himself to death, he’s out of reach. The U.S. is weaker and more isolated all the time. Obama is loathed for his treachery to the old and sick and poor. If we throw the book at him, the US can rejoin the civilized world.

          Enjoy your retirement, scumbag.

  18. harry

    Ok so they did Torture in the past. But its over now.

    Terrible thing but no point dwelling on the past.

    Till the next time someone fancies doing it……

  19. diane

    The fact that upper echelon at the APA (American Psychological Association) aided, abetted, and defended Psychological and Physical Torture, exposed, in a hideous and horrifying fashion, how systemic Torture is to our ‘system of Government’:

    April 2007 Psychoanalysis, The American Psychological Association, and the Involvement Of Psychologists at Guantanamo Bay

    By Dr. Frank Summers

    The question that has plagued me throughout my efforts to overturn the APA position is: Why is the APA so insistent on finding a way to rationalize and protect behavior that is clearly unethical and in violation of basic ethical precepts? Koocher’s letter gave me a clue. He seemed to be unashamedly excited in anticipation of psychologists playing the major behavioral science role for the DOD. Since World War II, psychological research has received large amounts of DOD funding, some of it going to former APA presidents, to investigate techniques applicable to coercive interrogation (McCoy, 2006). As long as it does not oppose the ethics of military activities, psychology can establish itself as the primary recipient of DOD research money as well as consulting contracts, especially now that psychiatry has adopted an unequivocal moral stance against some DOD facilities. While I do not and could not have definitive evidence that research and consulting funds are the motives for the bond between psychology and the DOD, the behavior of the APA leadership strongly suggests that this is the case. So, in the end, the elderly gentleman at the drug store near where I grew up had a time-honored insight that may explain the puzzle. “Boys,” he used to tell us, “when something doesn’t make sense, just follow the money.”

    1. diane

      Currently:

      04/11/13 Where Accountability Goes to Die – Guantánamo and the APA

      by TRUDY BOND, ROY EIDELSON AND STEPHEN SOLDZ

      As psychologists distressed by the involvement of our own profession in detainee abuse,[pdf] we are especially troubled by the failure of the American Psychological Association (APA) to sanction one of its members, Dr. John Leso, a psychologist and Army officer who served at Guantánamo from June 2002 to January 2003. Six long years ago one of us (Trudy Bond) filed a complaint against Dr. Leso with the APA’s Ethics Committee. Providing detailed and comprehensive documentation, the complaint identified Dr. Leso’s role in developing abusive and torturous detention and interrogation procedures at the facility, as well as his direct participation in the mistreatment of prisoner Mohammed al-Qahtani. Remarkably the Ethics Committee has still not adjudicated this case.

      The evidence of Dr. Leso’s ethical violations is quite considerable and thus difficult to summarize. While much information is still classified, ample evidence of wrongdoing by Dr. Leso is publicly available in a wide range of official government documents. Of particular note is a 2008 Report from the Senate Armed Services Committee[pdf] (SASC), based on the Committee’s extensive inquiry into the treatment of detainees held at Guantánamo and elsewhere. The Report discussed the activities of a military psychologist – identified in supporting documentation[pdf] as Dr. Leso – and psychiatrist Paul Burney as the lead members of the first Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) at Guantánamo, tasked with using their professional expertise to advise interrogators.

      According to the SASC Report, after three months of monitoring interrogations at Guantánamo, Drs. Leso and Burney traveled to Fort Bragg in North Carolina for training in interrogation techniques modelled on the Army’s program of Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE). SERE is an intensive training program for U.S. service members at high risk of capture. One component teaches how to resist the type of interrogation employed “by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions.” Thus SERE trainees are exposed to torture techniques as a form of inoculation training. As the SASC Report documents in detail, during the period after the 9/11 attacks, CIA and military psychologists reverse-engineered these SERE training techniques to be used as “enhanced interrogation techniques” against U.S. “war on terror” prisoners. With this maneuver the U.S. military joined those powers that “refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions” in interrogations.

      ….

  20. Dave of Maryland

    You sure you wanna go here? If a former president is ever held accountable for crimes while in office, we have opened the door to coups. Why do you suppose every new president goes easy on his predecessor?

    1. diane

      Huh?

      We already have a coup against the average citizens of this country by the Powers That Be.

      1. Dave of Maryland

        A government that exploits its own people is government as usual. One could even say, a “good” government.

        1. diane

          One could say anthing they cared to, but it wouldn’t make it pass muster among the masses of average citizens who generally abide by certain moral beliefs of treating others as they wish to be treated; and certainly: not torturing, killing, or thieving from, one another, for just three examples.

  21. Eureka Springs

    This should be bigger than Watergate… unlike Watergate it should lead to real and long prison sentences.

    These are the moments in time when people look back and discover how and when “nazis” and such were/are able to take hold of an entire populace.

    Times when silence is worse than mere complicity. Because those leading in complicity are also maintaining GITMO, perpetuating needless war upon many countries, mere suspects, and manufactured terror on so many levels – only threatening to make it worse.

    Too many are entertaining the notion a vaporizer in chief and his party would ever be disturbed by previous torturers in chief and his party. Like the Borgias or Game of Thrones, there are no good parties/guys in charge.

  22. AbyNormal

    “Torture” by Wislawa Szymborska

    Nothing has changed.
    The body is susceptible to pain,
    it must eat and breathe air and sleep,
    it has thin skin and blood right underneath,
    an adequate stock of teeth and nails,
    its bones are breakable, its joints are stretchable.
    In tortures all this is taken into account.

    Nothing has changed.
    The body shudders as it shuddered
    before the founding of Rome and after,
    in the twentieth century before and after Christ.
    Tortures are as they were, it’s just the earth that’s grown smaller,
    and whatever happens seems right on the other side of the wall.

    Nothing has changed. It’s just that there are more people,
    besides the old offenses new ones have appeared,
    real, imaginary, temporary, and none,
    but the howl with which the body responds to them,
    was, is and ever will be a howl of innocence
    according to the time-honored scale and tonality.

    Nothing has changed. Maybe just the manners, ceremonies, dances.
    Yet the movement of the hands in protecting the head is the same.
    The body writhes, jerks and tries to pull away,
    its legs give out, it falls, the knees fly up,
    it turns blue, swells, salivates and bleeds.

    Nothing has changed. Except for the course of boundaries,
    the line of forests, coasts, deserts and glaciers.
    Amid these landscapes traipses the soul,
    disappears, comes back, draws nearer, moves away,
    alien to itself, elusive, at times certain, at others uncertain of its own existence,
    while the body is and is and is
    and has no place of its own.

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