It’s time to hold the architects of illegal torture accountable for their crimes


Posted  by AzBlueMeanie:

NurembergCan we seat a Nuremberg Tribunal-style panel of judges now to hold the architects of illegal torture accountable for their crimes in the name of America? (Statutes of limitations do not apply to war crimes).

The New York Times today reports  "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." U.S. Engaged in
Torture After 9/11,
Review Concludes

The sweeping, 577-page report [Document: Constitution Project’s Report on Detainee Treatment] 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.

The Constitution Project’s task force on
detainee treatment, led by two former members of Congress with
experience in the executive branch — a Republican, Asa Hutchinson, and a
Democrat, James R. Jones — seeks to produce a stronger national
consensus on the torture question.

While the task force did not have access to classified records, it is
the most ambitious independent attempt to date to assess the detention
and interrogation programs. A separate 6,000-page report on the Central
Intelligence Agency’s record by the Senate Intelligence Committee, based
exclusively on agency records, rather than interviews, remains

“As long as the debate continues, so too does the possibility that the
United States could again engage in torture,” the report says

The use of torture, the report concludes, 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.”
The task force found “no firm or
persuasive evidence” that these interrogation methods produced valuable
information that could not have been obtained by other means. While “a
person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information,” much
of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says.

* * *

[T]he report’s main significance may be its
attempt to assess what the United States government did in the years
after 2001 and how it should be judged
. The C.I.A. not only waterboarded
prisoners, but slammed them into walls, chained them in uncomfortable
positions for hours, stripped them of clothing and kept them awake for
days on end.

The question of whether those methods amounted to torture is a
historically and legally momentous issue that has been debated for more
than a decade inside and outside the government. The Justice
Department’s Office of Legal Counsel wrote a series of legal opinions
from 2002 to 2005 concluding that the methods were not torture if used
under strict rules; all the memos were later withdrawn. 

In addition, the United States is a signatory to the international
Convention Against Torture, which requires the prompt investigation of
allegations of torture and the compensation of its victims

Like the still-secret Senate interrogation report, the Constitution
Project study was initiated after President Obama decided in 2009 not to
support a national commission to investigate the post-9/11
counterterrorism programs, as proposed by Senator Patrick J. Leahy,
Democrat of Vermont, and others.

* * *

The panel studied the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, in
Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the C.I.A’s secret prisons. Staff members,
including the executive director, Neil A. Lewis, a former reporter for
The New York Times, traveled to multiple detention sites and interviewed
dozens of former American and foreign officials, as well as former

Mr. Hutchinson, who served in the Bush administration as chief of the
Drug Enforcement Administration and under secretary of the Department of
Homeland Security, said he “took convincing” on the torture issue. But
after the panel’s nearly two years of research, he said he had no doubts
about what the United States did.

* * *

Mr. Hutchinson said. “It’s incredibly
important to have an accurate account not just of what happened but of
how decisions were made.”

He added, “The United States has a historic and unique character, and part of that character is that we do not torture.”

The panel found that the United States violated its international legal
obligations by engineering “enforced disappearances” and secret
. It questions recidivism figures published by the Defense
Intelligence Agency for Guantánamo detainees who have been released,
saying they conflict with independent reviews.

It describes in detail the ethical compromise of government lawyers who
offered “acrobatic” advice to justify brutal interrogations and medical
professionals who helped direct and monitor them
. And it reveals an
internal debate at the International Committee of the Red Cross over
whether the organization should speak publicly about American abuses;
advocates of going public lost the fight, delaying public exposure for
months, the report finds.

Mr. Jones, a former ambassador to Mexico, noted that his panel called
for the release of a declassified version of the Senate report and said
he believed that the two reports, one based on documents and the other
largely on interviews, would complement each other in documenting what
he called a grave series of policy errors.

“I had not recognized the depths of torture in some cases,” Mr. Jones said. “We lost our compass.”

While the Constitution Project report covers mainly the Bush years, it
is critical of some Obama administration policies, especially what it
calls excessive secrecy. It says that keeping the details of rendition
and torture from the public “cannot continue to be justified on the
basis of national security” and urges the administration to stop citing
state secrets to block lawsuits by former detainees.

* * *

The core of the report, however, may be an appendix: a detailed 22-page
legal and historical analysis that explains why the task force concluded
that what the United States did was torture. It offers dozens of legal
cases in which similar treatment was prosecuted in the United States or
denounced as torture by American officials when used by other countries

The architects of illegal torture do not get a pass simply because they are Americans. General George Washington set the American standard with the Continental Army:

“Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure
any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such
severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may
require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be
disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause… for by
such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their
– George Washington, charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775

Torture is a violation of American law, international law, conventions of war, and treaties for which the U.S. is not only a signatory but its chief sponsor. We have a legal and moral obligation to hold our own architects of illegal torture accountable for the crimes they have committeed in the name of America. Americans do not get to sit in judgment for atrocities committed by Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan, and then look the other way when an American has committed identical crimes of illegal torture. Americans hold themselves to a higher moral and ethical standard. We are a nation of laws, and we will hold our own accountable for their crimes. No man is above the law.

President Obama was wrong when he said that he wanted to “look forward, not backward” when he took office in 2009, and signed an executive order ending the illegal torture authorized by the Bush-Cheney regime. Mr. President, you have a legal and moral obligation to enforce our laws. It's time to hold the architects of illegal torture accountable for their crimes.

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AZ BlueMeanie
The Blue Meanie is an Arizona citizen who wishes, for professional reasons, to remain anonymous when blogging about politics. Armed with a deep knowledge of the law, politics and public policy, as well as pen filled with all the colors stolen from Pepperland, the Blue Meanie’s mission is to pursue and prosecute the hypocrites, liars, and fools of politics and the media – which, in practical terms, is nearly all of them. Don’t even try to unmask him or he’ll seal you in a music-proof bubble and rendition you to Pepperland for a good face-stomping. Read blog posts by the infamous and prolific AZ Blue Meanie here.


  1. Obama was politically right, but morally wrong on this point. We owe it to ourselves and our posterity to examine what our leaders did in our names and hold them, and ourselves, accountable. Nice post, Blue.