[Pnews] CIA Torture is Unfinished Business

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 2 12:59:00 EST 2015


  US: CIA Torture is Unfinished Business

December 1, 2015

(Washington, DC) – Obama administration claims that legal obstacles 
prevent criminal investigations into torture by the Central Intelligence 
Agency (CIA) are unpersuasive, and risk leaving a legacy of torture as a 
policy option, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. 
Sufficient evidence exists for the attorney general to order criminal 
investigations of senior United States officials and others involved in 
the post-September 11 CIA program for torture, conspiracy to torture, 
and other crimes under US law.


December 1, 2015 Report

      No More Excuses

A Roadmap to Justice for CIA Torture

The 153-page report, “

No More Excuses: A Roadmap to Justice for CIA Torture 

,” sets out evidence to support the main criminal charges that can be 
brought against those responsible for state-sanctioned torture, and 
challenges claims that prosecutions are not legally possible. The report 
also outlines US legal obligations to provide redress to victims of 
torture, and steps the US should take to do so. It also details actions 
that other countries should take to pursue criminal investigations into 
CIA torture.

“It’s been a year since the Senate torture report, and still the Obama 
administration has not opened new criminal investigations into CIA 
torture,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. 
“Without criminal investigations, which would remove torture as a policy 
option, Obama’s legacy will forever be poisoned.”

On December 9, 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a scathing 
of the still classified 6,700-page report documenting the CIA’s 
detention and interrogation program. The Senate summary, while 
confirming previous reporting 
also revealed that CIA torture was more brutal, systematic, and 
widespread than had been previously reported. It provided new details of 
abuse, such as so-called rectal feeding 
of some detainees, and gave information on the brutal impact that 
painful stress positions and sleep deprivation had on detainees. The 
summary focused on whether “enhanced interrogation techniques” were an 
effective means of gathering useful intelligence – concluding they were 
not – but it did not evaluate the legality of the program.

The Justice Department says that it had already investigated 
CIA abuses in 2009 and concluded there was insufficient admissible 
evidence to bring charges. But that investigation, headed by John 
Durham, examined only CIA abuses that went beyond “authorized” actions, 
instead of all CIA torture and ill-treatment. Even then, investigators 
do not appear to have interviewed 
any former detainees 
undercutting claims that their inquiry was thorough or credible.

One defense frequently heard is that the CIA and senior White House 
officials relied on legal opinions by the Justice Department’s Office of 
Legal Counsel purporting to find that “enhanced interrogation 
techniques” were lawful – the so-called Torture Memos. However, the 
Senate summary provides evidence that CIA officials knew from the outset 
that those practices would violate anti-torture laws. Other evidence 
shows that CIA and White House officials went shopping for guarantees 
against criminal prosecution and when that was refused, helped to craft 
those same legal opinions authorizing the torture that they would rely upon.

    It’s been a year since the Senate torture report, and still the
    Obama administration has not opened new criminal investigations into
    CIA torture. Without criminal investigations, which would remove
    torture as a policy option, Obama’s legacy will forever be poisoned. 

The Torture Memos were so strained in their legal reasoning that they 
cannot fairly be characterized as an honest interpretation of the law. 
These facts are the antithesis of the good-faith reliance on the advice 
of counsel that could serve as a legitimate defense to torture charges. 
Further, the Senate summary and other evidence show that the CIA abused 
detainees in ways that were not authorized and applied authorized 
techniques in ways that far exceeded authorizations.

Although much of the torture and other abuse took place a decade or more 
ago, statutes of limitation do not bar several criminal charges. The 
usual five-year federal statute of limitations is not a bar to the 
crimes of torture or conspiracy to torture when there was a “foreseeable 
risk that death or serious bodily injury” may result, as well as for 
certain sexual abuse charges. In addition, the statute of limitations 
for the crime of conspiracy may be extended if those responsible conceal 
a central component of the plot, which was the case with the CIA 
program, Human Rights Watch said.

Under the United Nations Convention against Torture, which the United 
States ratified in 1988 <http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=35858>, 
governments are required to credibly investigate allegations of torture 
and to prosecute where warranted. The failure to investigate and 
prosecute CIA torture increases the danger that some future president 
will authorize similar illegal interrogation methods in response to an 
inevitable serious security threat. Several presidential candidates for 
the 2016 elections have defended the use 
of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and some have said they would use 
them again 
if elected.

The Convention against Torture, which the US government was instrumental 
in shaping, also requires redress and compensation to torture victims. 
But the Bush and Obama administrations have actively thwarted 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/09/us/09secrets.html?_r=0> every attempt 
by former detainees to obtain remedies in US courts, invoking claims of 
immunity and national security to get lawsuits dismissed before the 
plaintiffs could even introduce evidence of abuse.

The Justice Department should appoint a special prosecutor to conduct 
new investigations ensuring that all relevant witnesses, including 
claimed victims of torture, are interviewed and all available relevant 
physical evidence is collected, preserved, and examined, Human Rights 
Watch said.

“If the United States with its established democracy and stable 
political system can flout its legal obligation to prosecute torture, it 
undermines respect for the rule of law the world over,” Roth said. 
“Government officials who went shopping for and helped to craft legal 
opinions justifying the unjustifiable shouldn’t be able to rely on those 
opinions to shield themselves from liability.”

The report also describes cases abroad 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/05/world/europe/05italy.html> to 
investigate CIA torture-related abuses. Investigations in other 
countries have targeted US officials as well as national officials 
alleged to have participated or been complicit in CIA abuses. The duty 
to prosecute lies principally with the US government, but the Convention 
against Torture contains a “universal jurisdiction” clause that 
obligates all governments to prosecute suspects who come on their 
territory, regardless of where the torture took place. US failure to 
conduct its own thorough and credible investigations into CIA torture 
means that other governments should take steps to investigate these crimes.

“In the face of the Obama administration’s refusal to investigate and 
prosecute senior officials responsible for these serious crimes, other 
countries should proceed,” Roth said. “If President Obama won’t prevent 
a dangerous precedent of impunity for torture, other countries should 
step in.”

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