And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
John 8:32
Original Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

March 19, 2009

Red Cross Report Bolsters Case for Bush Inquiry

by William Fisher

A leaked Red Cross report, detailing chilling accounts of prisoner torture in "black sites" run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, has underlined the need for an independent commission of inquiry into possible war crimes committed by senior officials during the presidency of George W. Bush, according to a statement by 25 prominent clergymen and women.

Rev. Rich Kilmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), told IPS, "We need to understand fully what happened so that we can effectively develop those safeguards. Investigating the past will help produce a future where the U.S. no longer engages in torture."

"Such a commission would not preclude a simultaneous investigation by the Department of Justice or by a special prosecutor," he said. "Where sufficient evidence exists that laws may have been broken, justice dictates that no one is above the law and prosecutions should be launched."

He added that the commission of inquiry could be appointed by the president or by Congress.

Details of the leaked report were first published on the Web site of the New York Review of Books in an extensive article by Mark Danner, a journalism professor. The report, compiled from interviews with numerous U.S. detainees, describes acts of brutalisation and sensory deprivation employed by U.S. agents.

The report concluded: "The allegations of ill-treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition, many other elements of the ill-treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

Danner writes that all the torture techniques "had to have the approval of the CIA's deputy director for operations." He wrote that CIA officers "briefed high-level officials" in the National Security Council's Principals Committee, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Attorney General John Ashcroft, "who then signed off on the interrogation plan." The briefings about these techniques were so "detailed and frequent that some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed."

The CIA's secret "global internment system" was set up at the direction of President George W. Bush less than a week after the attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, Danner asserts.

But during a press conference in August 2007, a reporter asked President Bush if he "had read" another highly confidential report alleging CIA prisoner mistreatment. "Haven't seen it; we don't torture," Bush answered, quickly moving on to another question.

After the Washington Post later uncovered and published details of the CIA's global network of "black site" – secret – prisons, President Bush acknowledged that he had authorised interrogations using an "alternative set of procedures."

These procedures included extended "sleep deprivation," prolonged forced nudity, bombarding detainees with noise and light, repeated immersion in cold water, prolonged standing, sometimes for many days, beatings of various kinds, and "waterboarding" – or, as the report's authors phrase it, "suffocation by water."

According to the ICRC report, "in many cases, the ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program...constituted torture."

Its report continues: "In addition, many other elements of the ill-treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."

Both torture and "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" are forbidden by many treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory, including the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions.

The accounts of the detainees themselves, including the most prominent captured in the "war on terror", describe their detention from the time they were secretly brought to the "black sites" – secret prisons around the world, including in Thailand, Afghanistan, and Poland, through the interrogations using "waterboarding." beatings, and other techniques.

The ICRC interviewed 14 "high-value detainees" over many days for the report, including Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Shaik Mohammed, and Walid bin Attash. These 14 remain imprisoned in Guantánamo.

The ICRC is the appointed legal guardian of the Geneva Conventions and the body appointed to supervise the treatment of prisoners of war. Its reports are delivered to signatory governments on a highly confidential basis. The ICRC expressed dismay at the leaking of one of its reports.

Accounts of the report were subsequently published in most of America's major newspapers, including The New York Times and the Washington Post. So compelling were its details that it gained endorsement from some commentators whose political views customarily lean to the right. For example, Anne Applebaum, a columnist for the Washington Post who has close ties to the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute, wrote:

"That crimes were committed is no longer in doubt...The horror of the CIA interrogation tactics in these places lies not in their scale but in the doggedness with which they defied American and international law...These 14 men were not tortured as part of an ordinary and accepted routine, in other words, but according to special rules and procedures, set up at the highest level of government, by people who surely knew that they were illegal; otherwise, they would not have limited them so carefully."

NRCAT has joined many legal advocacy and human rights organisations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, in calling for an impartial, nonpartisan, and independent "commission of inquiry" to investigate U.S.-sponsored torture and to ascertain the extent to which Bush administration interrogation practices constituted "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

NRCAT'S statement was signed by more than two dozen prominent religious leaders, representing denominations from a wide range of religions, including Protestant and Catholic Christians, Muslims, orthodox and reformed Jews, Sikhs and Hindus.

The ACLU also sent a letter Tuesday to Attorney General Eric Holder reiterating its call for the Department of Justice to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the authorisation to use torture at CIA secret prisons.

"Given the increasing evidence of deliberate and widespread use of torture and abuse, and that such conduct was the predictable result of policy changes made at the highest levels of government, an independent prosecutor is clearly in the public interest," wrote ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero.

Meanwhile, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is exploring the possibility of establishing a "truth" commission.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, is proposing a similar body. Others in and outside Congress are supporting the appointment of an independent prosecutor appointed by the Department of Justice. All would carry out comprehensive investigations into the approval of and use of torture by the U.S. government.

Thus far, President Barack Obama has appeared cool to the idea of a special commission of inquiry. At a recent press conference, he said his inclination was to look forward, not backward. However, he added, "No one is above the law."

(Inter Press Service)

comments on this article?

  • Obama Faces Spate of 'Terror War' Lawsuits

  • Red Cross Report Bolsters Case for Bush Inquiry

  • Obama Follows Bush on Detainees

  • Senate Committee Weighs 'Truth Commission'

  • Lawsuits Challenge Charity Blacklisting

  • Al-Marri Lawyers Seek Supreme Court Review

  • Britain Admits Complicity in U.S. Rendition

  • What About Bagram?

  • Gitmo Report Contradicts Govt. Claims of 'Humane' Detention

  • Court Passes the Buck on Fate of Chinese Muslims

  • Democrats Divided Over 'Reckoning' for Bush

  • Lawsuit Sheds More Light on Terror War Abuses

  • Rendition Case Enters 'Bizarre' Realms of Secrecy

  • 'State Secrets' Privilege Not Gone With Bush

  • The Children of Guantánamo

  • Study Challenges Claims of Gitmo Recidivism

  • Indefinite Detention Case to Test Obama's Pledges

  • Close Torture Loopholes, Physicians' Group Urges

  • Muslim World Hails End of a Despised Symbol

  • Fate of Guantánamo Detainees Still Murky

  • Bagram: Worse Than Guantanamo?

  • 'Bad Apples' Didn't Fall Far From the Tree

  • Immunity Recedes for Private Contractors in Iraq

  • Ret. Officers Urge Obama to Expunge 'Stain of Torture'

  • Freedom Recedes for Uighurs at Guantanamo

  • Next President Will Inherit Guantanamo Dilemma

  • Muslim Charity to Get
    Its Day in Court

  • The Most Secretive Administration Ever?

  • Muslim Charities Negotiate a Minefield

  • Arar Faces Uphill Legal Battle

  • One-Fifth of Iraq Funding Paid to Contractors

  • Hamdan's Future Remains Unclear

  • NGO 'Blacklist' Unfair and Arbitrary, Groups Say

  • New Spying Law Quickly Challenged

  • Hamdan Case to Test Military Tribunals

  • Uyghurs Jailed From Guantanamo to Beijing

  • 'State Secrets' Privilege Derails Rendition Suit

  • Guantanamo Trials Hit Setbacks

  • Lawmakers Seek Probe of 'Media Generals'

  • Abuse Claims Mount Against Pentagon, Contractors

  • Fabricated 'Bioterrorism' Case Collapses

  • Groups Wrangle with CIA over 'Ghost Prisoners'

  • Courts May Get More Latitude on 'State Secrets'

  • Trials of Muslim Charities Likened to a Witch-Hunt

  • Serious Abuses No Bar to US Military Aid

  • Jordan Acted as Hub for US Renditions, Report Says

  • Arab Govts Ever More Draconian, Group Says

  • Reforms Failed to Curb FBI Spying

  • Former Gitmo Prosecutor to Testify for Defense

  • We Don't Do Torture – Especially in Debates

  • Just Waterboarding Under the Bridge

  • Bush, Congress Wrangle Over Domestic Spying

  • Renditions Clothed in State Secrets Mantle

  • Experts Doubt Fair Trials for Gitmo Suspects

  • Bush's Budget Sidelines Transparency

  • Bush: Uniter, Decider, and Now, Interpreter

  • Congress Seeks to Limit 'State Secrets' Privilege

  • Afghan Prison Looks Like Another Guantanamo

  • Terror Prosecutions Shed More Heat Than Light

  • Legal Community Condemns Destruction of CIA Tapes

  • 'Black Site' Survivor Relates Horrific Tale

  • Bush's New Spin Master
    a Lame Duck?

  • Glaring Hypocrisy of Arab Annapolis Participants

  • Civil Libertarians Warn of 'PATRIOT Act Lite'

  • Gitmo Policy Faces Another Supreme Court Test
  • William Fisher writes for Inter Press Service.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2017 Antiwar.com