Report: U.S. committed widespread torture & abuse of detainees post-9/11
U.S. intelligence and military personnel engaged in widespread torture and abuse of detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, Iraq, and CIA “black sites” in countries like Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Egypt, Jordan, and Thailand, according to a report released by The Constitution Project’s Detainee Task Force.
“We found that U.S. personnel in many instances used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. Both category of actions violate U.S. laws and international treaty obligations,” said Asa Hutchinson, former Republican Congressman from Arkansas and Under-Secretary of Homeland Security during the Bush administration.
The two-year inquiry by the non-partisan task force, which consisted of prominent lawmakers, diplomats, military officials, and experts in law, ethics, and medicine, found that detainees held in U.S. custody were subjected to “brutal” interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation (sometimes by shackling the prisoner to the ceiling), stress positions, and sensory deprivation “in many instances and across a wide range of theaters”.
Some of the degrading treatments inflicted on detainees include nudity, forcing detainees to urinate on themselves or to wear women’s underwear, being led around on a leash, ordering detainees to bark like a dog, and subjecting detainees to extreme cold temperature.
Hutchinson pointed out that the aforementioned techniques were decried by the U.S. State Department as “torture, abuse, or cruel treatment” when employed by foreign governments.
“The United States is understandably subject to criticism when it criticizes another nation for engaging in torture and justifies the same conduct under national security arguments,” said Hutchinson.
Furthermore, the task force confirmed that detainees were tortured in secret prisons overseas under the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program. (The program was shut down by President Barack Obama in 2009 but his executive order could be overturned by a future President.)
Such actions were condoned – if not, authorized – by top U.S. officials in the Bush administration in the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
According to the task force, the pivotal turning point was when President George W. Bush issued an executive order on Feb. 2, 2002 declaring that the Geneva Conventions, which established the standard for the humane treatment of prisoners during wartime, did not apply to to Al Qaeda or Taliban captives in Afghanistan or held in Guantanamo.
Although Bush’s motivation was to protect the U.S. from another terrorist attack, his decision to waive the Geneva Conventions set the tone for high-ranking administration officials – in the White House, Pentagon, CIA, and Justice Department – to approve, allow, and even “contribute to the spread of torture”.
Some of the high-ranking Bush administration officials identified in the report as having played a role in approving techniques or allowing actions that amounted to torture or cruel and degrading treatment include:
- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
- White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez
- Office of Legal Counsel Attorney John Woo
- Counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney David Addington
- CIA Director George Tenet
- CIA Director Michael Hayden
- CIA Counter-terrorism Director Jose Rodriguez
- Psychologist & CIA contractor James Mitchell
- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers
- Guantanamo Bay Commander Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey
- Guantanamo Bay Commander Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller
- Pentagon’s legal counsel William Haynes
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Remarks by Ambassador James Jones on the Constitution Project’s report on detainee treatment – April 16, 2013
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Remarks by Asa Hutchinson on the Constitution Project’s report on detainee treatment – April 16, 2013
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Press briefing Q&A on the Constitution Project’s Task Force report on detainee treatment – April 16, 2013
- The Constitution Project: Detainee Task Force