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July 13, 2011

US and UK continue ignoring torture

Torture inquiries fail as suspected murders go unacknowledged

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Last week, psychologist and anti-torture advocate Jeff Kaye reported on the continued failure of the UK torture inquiry and the possibility of unacknowledged murders in the US and UK rendition programs. Kaye pointed out that the secrecy of this investigation, evidenced by private hearings and broad definitions of what can remain classified, hinders its credibility and potential to achieve justice.

Then, just yesterday, Human Rights Watch released a report confirming that, as quoted by Kaye, “there is ‘overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration.’ As a result, President Barack Obama is obliged ‘to order a criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse authorized by former President George W. Bush and other senior officials.’”

When the torture inquiry began last summer after the release of previously classified documents, Kaye broke the story about the UK’s collaboration with the US in its policy of “rendition to killing.” Unfortunately, these findings have not spurred any serious investigations of detainee killings or ghost prisoners at CIA sites. As a result, there may be additional cases of abuse and outright murder that remain secret.

The UK’s sham of a torture inquiry and silence about the possibility of murder in the rendition program mirrors the US’s failure to investigate and address these same problems. The US Department of Justice announced on July 1, 2011, that it would investigate only two out of 101 CIA torture cases. At this point, all cases concerning the US torture program have been blocked from court and only low-level agents are facing investigation, giving a free pass to higher-ranking officials who made the decisions to torture detainees.

Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, responded to this news:

Torture policies under the Bush administration were a travesty that cost American lives, undermined the rule of law both in the US and around the world, and eroded the legacy of our nation’s victory in WWII. The Obama administration and Holder Justice Department left the door open to torture and recently confirmed that only scapegoats will face investigation so that senior officials can continue enjoying power and prestige. Now come revelations of potentially further detainee deaths which no one has even acknowledged.

Coleen Rowley, a 24-year veteran FBI special agent and member of BORDC’s advisory board, is also shocked by Kaye’s report.

I’d like to join and underscore the following assessment of former Church Committee Senator Walter Mondale, who described the Bush administration’s use of torture vis-à-vis the current situation like this: “If the verdict here is that you can do these kinds of things and there are no consequences, then that leaves a precedent. I've been around the federal government long enough to know that if there is a bad precedent. It's like leaving a loaded pistol on the kitchen table. You don't know who is going to pick it up and pull the trigger. There need to be consequences for violating the law.”

In his article yesterday, Kaye quoted HRW’s Andrea Prasow on this same issue:

“It’s so clear the investigation is very limited. The scope of the investigation is the most important part. Even if Durham had investigated the 100 or so cases that exceeded the legal authorities, it wouldn’t be sufficient. What about the people who wrote the legal memos? Who told them to write the memos?” she said, emphasizing the fact that Durham’s investigation was limited by Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to only CIA crimes, and only those that supposedly exceeded the criteria for “enhanced interrogation” laid out in a number of administration legal memos. The torture, Prasow noted, was “throughout the military” as well, including “hundreds or thousands” tortured at sites in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo.

About the Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Formed in 2001, The Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) is a national non-profit grassroots organization. We defend the rule of law and rights and liberties challenged by overbroad national security and counter-terrorism policies. BORDC supports an ideologically, ethnically, geographically, and generationally diverse grassroots movement to protect and restore these principles by encouraging widespread civic participation; educating people about the significance of our rights; and cultivating grassroots networks to convert concern, outrage, and fear into debate and action. For more information, visit http://www.bordc.org or call (413) 582-0110.

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