Growing Chorus Demands Criminal Investigation into Torture Program

Calls for a criminal investigation into the Bush-era torture program described in the Senate report released earlier this month are beginning to mount.

The ACLU and Human Rights Watch (HRW) sent a letter today to the Justice Department, calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct an independent and comprehensive investigation into the program, including the role played by senior Bush administration officials who sought to provide the program and its perpetrators with legal cover. Our call was echoed in a powerful editorial published in today's New York Times.

Even a cursory read of the Senate Intelligence Committee's executive summary leaves no doubt that President Obama's preference to "look forward as opposed to looking backwards" is at odds with the basic principle that nobody, no matter how senior, should be above the rule of law.

The Obama administration has so far ducked the question of accountability, pointing to a previous probe into the program conducted by John Durham in the early days of the Obama administration. But as the ACLU-HRW letter explains, the Senate study, which synthesizes millions of pages of documents into a 6,700-page report, offers new opportunities for a more thorough investigation. It contains "significant new information relating to the commission of serious federal crimes, including torture, homicide, conspiracy, and sexual assault," the letter says. And with so much information newly declassified, an investigation is now possible where it may have once been blocked by state secrets arguments.

As we note in our letter, some of the officials who authorized torture have been defending their conduct very publicly. Against this background, we write,

[T]he failure to conduct a comprehensive criminal investigation would contribute to the notion that torture remains a permissible policy option for future administrations; undermine the ability of the United States to advocate for human rights abroad; and compromise Americans' faith in the rule of law at home

As to the officials who should be investigated, the Times editorial names former Vice President Dick Cheney; Cheney's chief of staff, David Addington; former C.I.A. director George Tenet; John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers inside the Justice Department who drafted the torture memos; Jose Rodriguez, the C.I.A. official who ordered the destruction of the videotapes; the psychologists who devised the torture techniques; and CIA officers who implemented them.

(Learn more about the role of these officials, and other torture architects, in this interactive infographic.)

We note in our letter that torture was authorized by high officials who conspired with one another to evade the law. That conspiracy swept in hundreds of victims – including dozens of innocent men and many not mentioned in the report – who were waterboarded, sodomized, beaten, and kept in coffin-shaped boxes for days at a time, among other atrocities. Our failure to reckon with these crimes has already damaged the global struggle against torture, and it seriously calls into question our commitment to the principle of equality before the law.

"I'd do it again in a minute," Dick Cheney said last weekend. If there's no accountability, what will stop a future administration from doing just that?

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moll

Bush, Cheney and his whole administration need to be held accountable for their lawlessness and illegal acts. Hired two psychologists instead of psychiatrists (doctors) and asked the legal Council instead of the Justice Department (#2 man) because THEY knew it was torture and aginst the Geneva Convention we, the United States, had put in to PREVENT OUR soldiers from the cruelty of torture. We prosecuted & hung the Japanese for waterboarding and prosecuted the Nazi's. Cheney still boasts his WAR CRIMES. Ali Sufan (FBI interrogator) got more from Abu Zyubadah than CIA private contractors-ZERO INFO. Cheny ought to try some of his own MEDICINE and then let us know if they were torture or not. Had he SERVED his country at WAR (SAME as BUSH), he WOULD KNOW! Obama you need to deal with the past BEFORE you can go FORWARD! Reason we are dealing with #HandsUP now.

Family member o...

And I call for one into the murder of my husband and daughter's dad, but I'm not going to get one. They're all just going to be set free so they can do it to someone else the very moment they have the chance.
He not only had to be insulted, demoralized and utterly destroyed from this life so that he never even got a true death certificate (only a "presumed dead" one), but now he has to be insulted and demoralized by never giving any justice to those people who DID have a hand in planning it, justice by way of going to prison for what they did. Torture's not justice and it DOESN'T make up for what they did.
People like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, whom I was told they had enough compelling evidence beFORE they ever tortured him.
It doesn't really matter, bc there's no way in hell I'm going to believe that only 19 or 20 people carried out a plan they started making 10 years before they ever did anything. That's BS, plain and simple. It would have taken more than that number of people to put together the plan.

Anonymous

from a mile-high view: above-the-law politicians (including Bill Clinton and many others) = kings = US political decay = inevitable erosion and eventually elimination of civil liberties

Raymond Babcock

For get about the public. The police should all have cameras. Taking video while they are on duty.

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