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U.S. Engaged in Torture After 9/11, Review Concludes

Prisoner Abuses, Torture, and Rape

The Constitution Project’s independent, bipartisan, blue-ribbon Task Force examined the federal government’s policies and actions related to the capture, detention and prosecution of suspected terrorists in U.S. custody during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations.

The report of the blue ribbon Task Force on Detainee Treatment is the most comprehensive, bipartisan investigation into the detention and treatment of suspected terrorists yet published. The product of more than two years of research, analysis and deliberation by the Task Force members and staff, it provides the American people with a broad understanding of what is known -- and what may still be unknown -- about the past and current treatment of suspected terrorists detained by the U.S. government during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, and across multiple geographic theatres, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo and the so-called "black sites." Read the Report

By Scott Shane, April 16, 2013:

WASHINGTON — 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.

The sweeping, 600-page report 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.

Debate over the coercive interrogation methods used by the administration of President George W. Bush has often broken down on largely partisan lines. 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 classified.

“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.

Interrogation and abuse at the C.I.A.’s so-called black sites, the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba and war-zone detention centers, have been described in considerable detail by the news media and in declassified documents, though the Constitution Project report adds many new details.

It confirms a report by Human Rights Watch that one or more Libyan militants were waterboarded by the C.I.A., challenging the agency’s longtime assertion that only three Al Qaeda prisoners were subjected to the near-drowning technique. It includes a detailed account by Albert J. Shimkus Jr., then a Navy captain who ran a hospital for detainees at the Guantánamo Bay prison, of his own disillusionment when he discovered what he considered to be the unethical mistreatment of prisoners.

But the 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. News organizations have wrestled with whether to label the brutal methods unequivocally as torture in the face of some government officials’ claims that they were not.

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. Mr. Obama said then that he wanted to “look forward, not backward.” Aides have said he feared that his own policy agenda might get sidetracked in a battle over his predecessor’s programs.

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 detainees.

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.

“This has not been an easy inquiry for me, because I know many of the players,” Mr. Hutchinson said in an interview. He said he thought everyone involved in decisions, from Mr. Bush down, had acted in good faith, in a desperate effort to try to prevent more attacks.

“But I just think we learn from history,” 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 detentions. 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 report calls for the revision of the Army Field Manual on interrogation to eliminate Appendix M, which it says would permit an interrogation for 40 consecutive hours, and to restore an explicit ban on stress positions and sleep manipulation.

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 report compares the torture of detainees to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. “What was once generally taken to be understandable and justifiable behavior,” the report says, “can later become a case of historical regret.”

A version of this article appears in print on April 16, 2013, Section A, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: U.S. Practiced Torture After 9/11, Nonpartisan Review Concludes.

Graphic Photos of Iraq Rapes and Prison Abuses

The United States bombed, invaded and occupied an innocent nation, Iraq, killing over a million innocent people - men, women and children. Any Iraqis who resisted the occupation of their own country was labeled an "enemy combatant" and a "hostile." Men were taken from their homes by the occupying Americans, by force, then imprisoned and tortured by the tens of thousands. Innocent people were savagely gunned down on the streets. The US military film footage shown above provides stark evidence of the insanity and inhumanity of warfare. These are crimes against humanity. The people responsible for initiating this war would only be brought to justice if the United States were a nation of truth and justice. Instead, those responsible, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Carl Rove, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and others are enjoying lives of wealth and prosperity, largely at the expense of U. S. Taxpayers.

No charges filed on harsh tactics used by CIA

By The New York Times | Mercury News August 30, 2012 at 2:45 p.m.

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. announced Thursday that no one would be prosecuted for the deaths of a prisoner in Afghanistan in 2002 and another in Iraq in 2003, eliminating the last possibility that any criminal charges will be brought as a result of the brutal interrogations carried out by the CIA.

Holder had already ruled out any charges related to the use of waterboarding and other methods that most human rights experts consider to be torture. His announcement closes a contentious three-year investigation by the Justice Department and brings to an end years of dispute over whether line intelligence or military personnel or their superiors would be held accountable for the abuse of prisoners in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The closing of the two cases means that the Obama administration’s limited effort to scrutinize the counterterrorism programs carried out under President George W. Bush has come to an end. Without elaborating, Holder suggested that the end of the criminal investigation should not be seen as a moral exoneration of those involved in the prisoners’ treatment and deaths.

“Based on the fully developed factual record concerning the two deaths, the department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt,” his statement said. It said the investigation “was not intended to, and does not resolve, broader questions regarding the propriety of the examined conduct.”

The Justice Department did not say publicly which cases had been under investigation. But officials had previously confirmed the identities of the prisoners: Gul Rahman, suspected of being a militant, who died in 2002 after being shackled to a concrete wall in near-freezing temperatures at a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan; and Manadel al-Jamadi, who died in CIA custody in 2003 at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Holder’s announcement might remove a possible target for Republicans during the presidential campaign. But the decision will disappoint liberals who supported President Barack Obama when he ran in 2008 and denounced what he called torture and abuse of prisoners under his predecessor.

“It is hugely disappointing that with ample evidence of torture, and documented cases of some people actually being tortured to death, that the Justice Department has not been able to mount a successful prosecution and hold people responsible for these crimes,” said Elisa Massimino, president of Human Rights First.


Report Details British Abuses in Iraq

https://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/DA/20110908/News/605310929/TL 1/4

By JOHN F. BURNS, Posted Sep 8, 2011 at 10:12 PM

A major inquiry into the most notorious case of detainee abuse by British soldiers in Iraq details a series of gruesome abuses by servicemen in a decorated and historic regiment.

LONDON — A major inquiry into the most notorious case of detainee abuse by British soldiers in Iraq described “a very great stain on the reputation of the army” in its report issued Thursday, detailing a series of gruesome abuses by servicemen in a regiment with a 300-year history of battle honors abroad. It concluded that one Iraqi, a 26-year-old hotel worker in Basra, died from “an
appalling episode of serious gratuitous violence.”

The report on the 2003 case was among the most serious blows the British Army has suffered to its reputation from its troubled involvement in the Iraq war, where its combat role, among foreign forces, was second only to that of the United States.

Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to reporters shortly after the findings were released, condemning the “truly shocking and appalling abuse” uncovered by the inquiry and saying it “should never be allowed to happen again.” The defense minister, Liam Fox, described the findings as “deplorable, shocking and shameful.”

The British inquiry, led by one of Britain’s most senior retired judges, spanned three years and cost $20 million. It was begun only after the Defense Ministry lost a four-year court battle to block it. British commanders say that steps already taken to tighten oversight of detainee operations have minimized the risk of any occurrence in Afghanistan, where British forces have also been deployed in numbers second only to the United States in the international coalition.

The final 1,400-page report found that a pattern of “violent and cowardly assaults” by “a large number of soldiers” from a unit of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment had resulted in 93 separate injuries that fatally weakened the hotel worker, Baha Mousa, a single father of two. Mr. Mousa ultimately died on the floor of an abandoned toilet stall. It also criticized a military doctor and a Roman Catholic chaplain for not reporting the abuses after they had seen the injuries to Mr. Mousa.

The abuses chronicled in the report included hooding with burlap sacks, requiring detainees to stand or crouch in stressful positions for hours, depriving them of sleep for extended periods, and a practice that British soldiers call harshing — shouting loudly at detainees from distances of six inches or less. The Basra detainees also reported being deprived of food, having fingers pressed into their eye sockets, and being kicked in the genitals and kidneys.

The report said that the final assault on Mr. Mousa, involving a flurry of punches while he remained handcuffed, occurred shortly before he died. The report’s author, Sir William Gage, said there had been a “corporate failure” in Britain’s Defense Ministry over abusive interrogation methods, including the hooding, stress positions and sleep deprivation, which had all been banned in 1972 by Prime Minister Edward Heath after a scandal over detainee abuses in Northern Ireland.

Although the abuse in Basra was carried out by a group of soldiers led by a corporal, Sir William said that senior officers bore a “heavy responsibility” for not halting the assaults. The Defense Ministry had previously disciplined a number of the officers and
soldiers involved, dismissing several from the military. On Thursday, it said it would immediately suspend any of those still serving, pending further review of their cases.

Six men were acquitted in a court-martial in 2007. A seventh, Cpl. Donald Payne, whom Thursday’s report referred to as “a violent bully,” drew a one-year prison term for subjecting Mr. Mousa to inhumane treatment. Mr. Fox, the defense minister, told Parliament on Thursday that he had instructed officials to “see if more can’t be done to bring those responsible to justice.” Mr. Mousa’s lawyers demanded that those involved be tried in civilian courts.

The parallels between the cases in Basra and the American abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison — including the similar techniques used and the difficulty of holding senior officers to account — have haunted many in Britain. Both involved the abuse of civilian detainees in military custody, and they occurred at roughly the same time, a few months after the 2003 invasion. During that period, American and British troops had begun to face sustained attacks by Iraqi insurgents that resulted in mounting military casualties.

At the time, British commanders in southern Iraq were often outspoken in comparing what they described to visiting reporters as their troops’ restrained and population-friendly tactics with American practices farther north. Citing Britain’s long colonial history, they said their troops understood better than American forces the counterproductive results of aggressive tactics against indigenous people.

Britain withdrew the last of its forces from Iraq in 2009, leaving American troops as the only substantial foreign military presence there. Many analysts in Britain, and some retired officers, described the six-year involvement in Iraq as a dismal failure, mostly centered on the British failure to prevent Shiite militias from gaining effective control of parts of Basra and other cities.

The report found no evidence that Mr. Mousa or other detainees were sexually abused, an obtrusive element in the detainee abuses at Abu Ghraib, although allegations of that kind have been frequent, according to lawyers representing Mr. Mousa’s family, in 150 other cases of alleged detainee abuse by British soldiers in Iraq between 2003 and the end of British detainee operations in 2008. The lawyers said those cases would be pursued with renewed vigor in British courts.

The Defense Ministry fought for years against calls for an independent inquiry into Mr. Mousa’s death, finally losing when the House of Lords ruled that the European Charter of Human Rights, enshrined in British law in 1998, applied to Mr. Mousa when he was in British military custody in Iraq. In 2007, the Defense Ministry agreed to pay $5.4 million in compensation to Mr. Mousa’s family,
including his father, who had served as a police colonel under Saddam Hussein. Attempts to reach Mr. Mousa’s family were not successful. After the compensation was paid by Britain, they left Basra. A BBC interviewer spoke to Mr. Mousa’s father, Daoud, on Thursday in Cairo, where he welcomed the British report, but said his family would never recover from his son’s death. The Basra report included 73 recommendations to eliminate future abuses. Mr. Fox, the defense minister, told the House of Commons that the government had accepted all but one: banning of certain “verbal and non-physical techniques” long used by army interrogators to obtain information from detainees. He did not specify those techniques, but he said that he had asked Britain’s top military officer, Gen. Sir David Richards, to redraft the rules so that only “defined people in defined circumstances” could use them.