On Memorial Day Weekend, America Reckons with Torture

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
This weekend, Bill Moyers’ public television show is devoting a full hour to Reckoning With Torture, the innovative film project by director Doug Liman, the ACLU, and PEN American Center. The movie will tell the story of America’s torture program using the government’s own documents. Here’s a preview of the upcoming Moyers & Company episode: http://billmoyers.com/segment/preview-reckoning-with-torture/
Facing the truth is hard to do, especially the truth about ourselves. So Americans have been sorely pressed to come to terms with the fact that after 9/11 our government began to torture people, and did so in defiance of domestic and international law. Most of us haven’t come to terms with what that meant, or means today, but we must reckon with torture, the torture done in our name, allegedly for our safety.
It’s no secret such cruelty occurred; it’s just the truth we’d rather not think about. But Memorial Day is a good time to make the effort. Because if we really want to honor the Americans in uniform who gave their lives fighting for their country, we’ll redouble our efforts to make sure we’re worthy of their sacrifice; we’ll renew our commitment to the rule of law, for the rule of law is essential to any civilization worth dying for.
After 9/11, our government turned to torture, seeking information about the terrorists who committed the atrocity and others who might follow after them.  Senior officials ordered the torture of men at military bases and detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq, in secret CIA prisons set up across the globe, and in other countries – including Libya and Egypt — where abusive regimes were asked to do Washington’s dirty work.
The best known of all the prisons remains Guantanamo on the southeast coast of Cuba.  For years, the United States naval base there seemed like an isolated vestige of the Cold War – defying the occasional threat from Fidel Castro to shut it down. But since 9/11, Guantanamo – Gitmo – has been a detention center, an extraterritorial island jail considered outside the jurisdiction of U.S. civilian courts and rules of evidence. Like the notorious Room 101 of George Orwell’s 1984, the chamber that contains the thing each victim fears the most to make them confess, Guantanamo’s name has become synonymous with torture. Nearly 800 people have been held there. George W. Bush eventually released 500 of them, sometimes after years of confinement and cruelty.  Barack Obama has freed 67, but 169 remain, even though the president pledged to close the Guantanamo prison within a year of his inauguration. Now, forty-six are so dangerous, our government says, they will be held indefinitely, without trial.
We almost never see the detainees. Were it not for the work of human rights organizations and the forest of lawsuits that have arisen from our actions, the prisoners would be out of sight, out of mind. Five of the Guantanamo prisoners were recently arraigned before a military commission for their role in the attacks. One of them is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who says he was the mastermind behind 9/11. He was waterboarded by interrogators 183 times. Pentagon officials predict it will be at least another year before the five go on trial.
Earlier this month,  lawyers for Mohammed al-Qahtani – the so-called “20th hijacker” who didn’t make it onto the planes — filed suit in New York federal court to make public what they described as “extremely disturbing” videotapes of his interrogations.  He was charged in 2008 with war crimes and murder, but the charges were dropped after the former convening authority for the Guantanamo military commissions, Susan Crawford, told journalist Bob Woodward that al-Qahtani’s treatment “met the legal definition of torture.”
He remains in indefinite detention, as does Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi citizen alleged to have run terrorist training camps. He was waterboarded at least 83 times in a single month.  Just this week a federal appeals court refused to release information on the interrogation methods the CIA used on Abu Zubaydahand other terrorist suspects.
You may also have seen the flurry of action this month around a section of the new National Defense Authorization Act that allows the military to detain indefinitely not only members of al Qaeda, the Taliban and “associated forces” but anyone who has “substantially supported” them.  A federal court struck down that provision in response to journalists and advocates who believe it could be so broadly interpreted it would violate civil liberties.  Nonetheless, two days after the court’s decision, the House of Representatives reaffirmed the original provision.
The other day, eight members of the Bush Administration – including President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld – were found guilty of torture and other war crimes by an unofficial tribunal meeting in Malaysia.  The story was played widely in parts of the world press, with reports that the judgment could lead the way to proceedings before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It received almost no mention here in the United States.
This summer, it’s believed that the United States Senate’s intelligence committee finally will release a report on “enhanced interrogation techniques,” that euphemistic phrase for what any reasonable person not employed by the government would call torture. The report has been three years in the making, with investigators examining millions of classified documents. The news service Reuters says the report will conclude that techniques such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation do not yield worthwhile intelligence information.
So here we are, into our eleventh year after 9/11, still at war in Afghanistan, still at war with terrorists, still at war with our collective conscience as we grapple with how to protect our country from attack without violating the basic values of civilization — the rule of law, striving to achieve our aims without corrupting them, and restraint in the use of power over others, especially when exercised in secret.
In future days and years, how will we come to cope with the reality of what we have done in the name of security?  Many other societies do seem to try harder than we do to come to terms with horrendous behavior commissioned or condoned by a government. Beginning in 1996, in South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission held hearings at which whites and blacks struggled to confront the cruelty inflicted on human beings during apartheid.
And perhaps you caught something said the other day by the president of Brazil, Dilma Roussef.  During the early 70′s, she was held in prison and tortured repeatedly by the military dictators who ruled her country for nearly 25 years. The state of Rio de Janeirohas announced it will officially apologize to her. Earlier, when she swore in members of a commission investigating the dictatorship, President Roussef said: “We are not moved by revenge, hate or a desire to rewrite history. The need to know the full truth is what moves us.”
In other words, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
On this weekend's Moyers & Company (check local listings), PEN American Center's Larry Siems, author of The Torture Report, and movie director Doug Liman, whose credits include The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Fair Game, join Bill Moyers to talk about U.S. torture tactics and their collaborative multimedia effort with the ACLU, Reckoning with Torture.
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Randy L. Dixon ...

NDAA 2012 was here.
Section 1021 and 1022 have been called a violation of constitutional principles and of the Bill of Rights - Curated by Randy L. Dixon Rivera
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba ·


How many heroes and heroines throughout history have earned our humble respect -and a kind of immortality- by speaking truth to power: "Your might will never make you right!"
The truths that set us free we know and love instinctively.
--Carole Kronberg


By Jameel Jaffer and Amrit SinghSpecial to CNNEditor's note: Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh are attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and co-authors of Administration of Torture: A Documentary Record from Washington to Abu Ghraib and Beyond . Jaffer is coeunsl to the plaintiffs in ACLU v. Department of Defense, a lawsuit that has forced the release of more than 100,000 pages of government documents concerning the abuse of prisoners. Singh is lead coeunsl in the suit seeking disclosure of photographs of U.S. personnel abusing prisoners at overseas locations. Jameel Jaffer says the courts have ruled that refusal to disclose the abuse photos was unlawful.(CNN) Last week President Obama announced that he would suppress prisoner abuse photographs that he earlier said he would release. Given the president's stated commitment to government transparency, this reversal was both surprising and profoundly disappointing.The ACLU has sought release of these photos for almost six years. In October 2003, we filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for records including photographs relating to the abuse of prisoners in U.S. detention facilities overseas.In 2005, a federal judge in New York ruled that the Bush administration's refusal to disclose the photographs was unlawful, and in 2008 a federal appeals court unanimously affirmed that decision. The Bush administration continued to suppress the photos, and now President Obama has vowed to do the same.The photos are a critical part of the historical record. The government has acknowledged that they depict prisoner abuse at locations other than Abu Ghraib, and it's clear that the photos would provide irrefutable evidence that abuse was widespread and systemic.The photos would also shed light on the connection between the abuse and the decisions of high-level Bush administration officials. As the district court recognized, the photos are the best evidence of what happened. In explaining his change of heart, President Obama said that the release of the photos would not add any additional benefit to the ongoing public debate about the abuse of prisoners. But the ongoing public debate is rife with false claims, and the photos would expose the truth.The Bush administration told the public that abuse was aberrational and isolated, and many media organizations adopted this fraudulent narrative as their own. But even President Obama, in explaining his reversal, perpetuated the myth that the abuse of prisoners was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals. President Obama's statement was meant to explain why the photos would not inform the public debate, but it only underscored why the release of the photographs is so important. Many Americans still believe that abuse took place in spite of policy rather than because of it.The truth is that senior officials authorized the use of barbaric interrogation methods that the U.S. once prosecuted as war crimes, and even abuse that was not expressly authorized was traceable to a climate in which abuse was tolerated and often encouraged. The photos would help tell this story.President Obama's other rationale for suppressing the photographs is that they would inflame anti-American opinion and put our troops in greater danger, an argument that was repeatedly rejected by the courts when made by the Bush administration.Nobody, of course, wants to see anyone get hurt by the release of this or any other information. But the fundamental problem with the government's argument is that it lacks a limiting principle.Any photograph of prisoner abuse, civilian casualties in Afghanistan, or U.S. military operations in Iraq could be used to inflame anti-American opinion ; indeed, the same is true of any news article that discusses (for example) torture, Guantanamo, or the CIA's secret prisons. To give the government the power to suppress information because it might anger an unidentified set of people in an unspecified part of the world and ultimately endanger an ill-defined group of U.S. personnel would be to invest it with a virtually unlimited censorial power. And by investing it with such power, we would effectively be affording the greatest protection from disclosure to records that depict the worst kinds of government misconduct.President Obama has inherited a legacy of lawlessness and abuse, and it's not easy to untangle that. But the idea that suppressing the photographs will help the country turn the page on the last eight years is misguided.We cannot make a clean break with the past until the public knows what happened in the detention centers and why. Blinding ourselves to the ugly consequences of the Bush administration's policies only deprives us of the opportunity to learn from recent history. And if we fail to learn from this history, we are bound to repeat it.The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh.a9 2009 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved


I understand that the phtoos could likely cause aggression against the United States to escalate. I get it.It still cannot be a reason to negate or lessen the severity of the issue.The United States prosecuted people in the past who performed the same acts of torture on our own. We are (the president included) obligated by our own law, which is written in accordance with international law, to stand firm and investigate the crimes and prosecute accordingly.The irony of Obama's decision to not disclose these phtoos because they would cause aggression and increase risk to our troops is the same reason that we hold ourselves to a higher moral standard.Although I supported Ron Paul..I voted as much against McCain because he sought to only continue Bush's failed policies, and for Obama because of his philosophies on the same important critical core issues.I understand the staggering task and cost concerning the economy..the uphill fight in regards to healthcare reform and education, etc., but turning a blind eye to this issue of torture and sidestepping the law is reprehensible. I urge every American to call or write their congressman to speak up about this outrage and travesty of justice.

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