Obama Will Not Prosecute Torture

Post originally authored by VOTS member TMC, and originally posted at The Stars Hollow Gazette.

We know that the Obama administration was determined to never prosecute any of the main architects of the Bush regime torture program, or close Guantanamo. Last week while everyone was focused on the Republican Party Convention in Tampa, the Department of Justice announced that it is formally ending its investigation of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" program with out bringing criminal charges:
Attorney General Eric H. 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 C.I.A.
Mr. 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.

Mr. Holder had stated that the DOJ would not charge any of the interrogators if they had acted strictly in accordance with the department's legal advice. Thus giving legitimacy to the "we were just following orders" defense that was rejected when used by German war criminals at Nuremberg. Mr. Holder just thumbed his nose at established international law, as well.

The lame excuse that there is a lack of solid evidence is just ludicrous, as David Dayen wrote in his article at FDL News Desk:

This was the investigation headed by John Durham, the federal prosecutor selected in August 2009 to look into charges of torture in CIA interrogations during the Bush Administration. We know plenty about those charges. The Justice Department released a previously classified document around the same time that they named Durham to lead the investigation, detailing the methods they used to interrogate suspects, including plenty of metMr. Obamahods that a plain reading would consider to be torture. This included waterboarding, stress positions, mock executions, threatening with handguns and power drills, vowing to kill or rape members of a detainee's family, and inducing vomiting. [..]
In July 2010, federal judge and former Bush-era Justice Department official Jay Bybee, who wrote many of the Administration's guidelines on interrogation, admitted to a House committee that CIA personnel never asked for approval for many of the interrogation techniques they used, that they went further than the prescribed guidelines from him, and that the ones he did prescribe were used excessively. Even if you believe that Bybee's techniques were legal and did not violate federal and international conventions against torture, his testimony revealed clearly that CIA interrogators broke the law. Despite this prima facie evidence of unauthorized interrogation, the investigation went nowhere.

From the very start of his administration Pres. Obama and his officials have shielded the Bush torturers from all accountability, despite his campaign promise to have his Justice Department thoroughly investigate any charge of torture because no one is above the law. Then, even before he was inaugurated Mr. Obama declared that he was apposed to any of these investigations declaring "we must look forward, not backward."

Glenn Greenwald writing for The Guardian, reviews the timeline of decisions that has lead to a whitewash of the "war on terror crimes."

Throughout the first several months of his presidency, his top political aides, such as the chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel and his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, publicly - and inappropriately - pressured the justice department to refrain from any criminal investigations. Over and over, they repeated the Orwellian mantra that such investigations were objectionable because "we must look forward, not backward". As Gibbs put it in April 2009, when asked to explain Obama's opposition, "the president is focused on looking forward. That's why."
On 16 April 2009, Obama himself took the first step in formalizing the full-scale immunity he intended to bestow on all government officials involved even in the most heinous and lethal torture. On that date, he decreed absolute immunity for any official involved in torture provided that it comported with the permission slips produced by Bush department of justice (DOJ) lawyers which authorized certain techniques. "This is a time for reflection, not retribution," the new president so movingly observed in his statement announcing this immunity. Obama added:

"[N]othing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past ... we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future." [..]

(I)n August 2009, Holder announced a formal investigation to determine whether criminal charges should be brought in over 100 cases of severe detainee abuse involving "off-the-books methods" such as "mock execution and threatening a prisoner with a gun and a power drill", as well as threats that "prisoners (would be) made to witness the sexual abuse of their relatives." But less than two years later, on 30 June 2011, Holder announced that of the more than 100 cases the justice department had reviewed, there would be no charges brought in any of them - except two.

Glenn goes on to discuss the evidence in those two brutal cases that the justice department has now closed without charges and how the Obama administration even shut down investigations by Spain and Germany:

Moreover, Obama's top officials, as WikiLeaks cables revealed, secretly worked with GOP operatives to coerce other countries, such as Spain and Germany, to quash their investigations into the US torture of their citizens, and issued extraordinary threats to prevent British courts from disclosing any of what was done. And probably worst of all, the Obama administration aggressively shielded Bush officials even from being held accountable in civil cases brought by torture victims, by invoking radical secrecy powers and immunity doctrines to prevent courts even from hearing those claims.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has prosecuted whistleblowers with a vigor that has surpassed all other presidents. In the NY Times article, Mr Holder noted one case in his announcement:

While no one has been prosecuted for the harsh interrogations, a former C.I.A. officer who helped hunt members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan and later spoke publicly about waterboarding, John C. Kiriakou, is awaiting trial on criminal charges that he disclosed to journalists the identity of other C.I.A. officers who participated in the interrogations.

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In summary

traveler's picture

may we now assume that torture is permissible if we do it and as long as we don't call it torture? The establishment media never uses that term.

The only people who were ever punished for torture were the lowliest of the low, you all remember those "bad apples" at Abu Ghraib. The following is from Wikipedia:

Between May 2004 and March 2006, eleven soldiers were convicted in courts martial, sentenced to military prison, and dishonorably discharged from service. Two soldiers, Specialist Charles Graner, and his former fiancée, Specialist Lynndie England, were sentenced to ten years and three years in prison, respectively, in trials ending on January 14, 2005 and September 26, 2005.

The commanding officer of all Iraq detention facilities, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, was reprimanded for dereliction of duty and then demoted to the rank of Colonel on May 5, 2005. Col. Karpinski has denied knowledge of the abuses, claiming that the interrogations were authorized by her superiors and performed by subcontractors, and that she was not even allowed entry into the interrogation rooms.

And we know that the orders to torture came from the "highest levels". Remember this:

Secretary Rumfeld's General Counsel Jim Haynes, sends an "action memo" for the Secretary's signature advising Rumsfeld to approve a list of harsh interrogation techniques. On December 2, 2002 Rumsfeld signs off, and authorizes all the Category I & II techniques, including 20 hour interrogations, deprivation of light and auditory stimuli, removal of clothing, the use of phobias such as dogs, and stress positions for up to four hours. Haynes notes that Category III techniques, including waterboarding, "may be legally available" but "as a matter of policy a blanket approval. is not warranted at this time." As Secretary Rumsfeld signs the action memo, he adds a post-script "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?"

This is another example of the two-tiered system of justice Glenn Greenwald has written about in his recent book With Liberty and Justice for Some.

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Neither this administration nor most Americans care about tortur

sartoris's picture

Sadly, if anyone is ever convicted of torture it will be extremly low ranking military staff (as in Abu Ghraib). Obaba has done nothing more than tweak the entire extraordinary rendition program.
http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Obama-s-stance-on-rendition-diffe...
http://www.propublica.org/blog/item/as-rendition-controversy-reemerges-o...
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/propublica/2012/07/extra...

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and welcome to VOTS

sartoris's picture

Hi, Benzen. Looking forward to your participation here. It's a great site.

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Wow TMC.

Big Al's picture

What does that say?

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You are right!

Shawn Russell's picture

Wow! I guess this writing wasn't expecting you to be on VOTS ;)

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wow, that's just low

sartoris's picture

I'm sorry I recced this, I didn't know that it was stolen from you.

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That's OK, sartoris

TMC's picture

In a way you rec'd me. I wouldn't have known about it, if I hadn't gotten a heads up from one of the admins who questioned the formatting.

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From another source - Marjorie Cohn on Truthout

traveler's picture

Linked from here: http://truth-out.org/news/item/11319-no-accountability-for-torturers

Amnesty for torturers is unacceptable. General Barry McCaffrey declared, “We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the CIA.” Major General Anthony Taguba, who directed the Abu Ghraib investigation, wrote that “there is no longer any doubt as to whether the [Bush] administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

That question has now been answered.

Now the attorney general has given a free pass to those responsible for the deaths of Gul Rahman and Manadel al-Jamadi. Rahman froze to death in 2002 after being stripped and shackled to a cold cement floor in the secret Afghan prison known as the Salt Pit. Al-Jamadi died after he was suspended from the ceiling by his wrists which were bound behind his back. MP Tony Diaz, who witnessed al-Jamadi’s torture, said that blood gushed from his mouth like “a faucet had turned on” when he was lowered to the ground. A military autopsy concluded that al-Jamadi’s death was a homicide.

Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, wrote that “dredging up the crimes of the previous administration was seen as too distracting and too antagonistic an enterprise when Republican votes were needed.”

Apparently Human Rights Watch considers garnering Republican votes to be more important.

As Ms Cohn points out "the Obama administration’s decision to allow the lawbreakers to go free is itself a violation of the law."

There are two federal criminal statutes for torture prosecutions—the U.S. Torture Statute and the War Crimes Act; the latter punishes torture as a war crime. The Torture Convention is unequivocal: nothing, including a state of war, can be invoked as a justification for torture. By letting American officials, lawyers and interrogators get away with torture – and indeed, murder – the United States sacrifices any right to scold or punish other countries for their human rights violations.

So here we stand once again as witnesses to the elite thumbing their noses at the law and at justice.

Their hypocrisy has no limits.

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