A couple weeks ago, Human Right Watch issued a report calling for a criminal investigation of Bush administration officials for the illegal regime of torture and detainee mistreatment implemented following the attack of September 11th. The report recommends the investigation of President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and CIA Director George Tenet, but also should include an examination of “the actions of the executive branch, the CIA, the military, and Congress” to find all those responsible.
Bravo, I say. This report has been and will almost certainly continue to be entirely ignored by the media and the political class, but in my mind, beginning to prosecute those responsible for the torture regime implemented in the Bush years ought to the be top priority at this point. Still, somehow the Human Rights Watch report does not go far enough.
The report focuses on investigations of Bush era abuses and individuals For the most part, the Obama administration appears in the report as having neglected its responsibility to enforce the law and initiate these criminal investigations. The extent of holding his predecessors accountable for these horrible crimes came in 2009 when Eric Holder appointed US Attorney John Durham to investigate detainee abuse but limited the probe to “unauthorized” acts, effectively eliminating any possibility of prosecuting Bush officials who authorized torture. “The Obama administration has failed to meet US obligations under the Convention against Torture to investigate acts of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees,” the report reads.
The reason this is simply not up to par (as admirable as I think the report is), is because it calls very little if any attention to the fact that Obama has continued many Bush era detainee abuses. As I wrote here, “not only has Obama decreed such ‘looking back’ not take place, he has continued the abuse and outlawry himself.” In the black site run by U.S. Special Operations forces adjacent to Bagram facilities, reports of “sleep deprivation, holding detainees in cold cells, forced nudity, physical abuse, detaining individuals in isolation cells for longer than 30 days, and restricting the access of the International Committee of the Red Cross” have been apparent since Obama took office. Two teenagers even, Issa Mohammad, then 17, and Abdul Rashid, who said he was younger than 16, told the Washington Post that they were subjected to all of these abuses, including being punched and slapped in the face. One prisoner at this site, which the US military denied even existed, lost an entire row of teeth from being hit in the face with the butt of gun by an American soldier while in custody. This is all in addition to the fact that the Obama administration has denied detainees at both Guantanamo and Bagram the right to challenge their detention. Furthermore, Obama has more than just failed to fully commit to criminal investigations of Bush crimes, he has actively protected these Bush officials from judicial scrutiny by invoking states secrets privileges as well as pressuring other governments to stop investigating these crimes, which ought to be considered obstruction of justice.
Clearly this is enough to issue a report calling for the investigation of Obama era detainee abuse as well, right?