Accountability for Torture


1.Appoint a Special Prosecutor

The attorney general should appoint a special prosecutor with full authority to conduct an independent and complete examination of the previous administration's torture program, including the role played by the senior officials most responsible for it and by those who tried to cover up crimes.

The special prosecutor must also conduct a full investigation into the cover-up of any crimes by CIA personnel or contractors—including the infiltration by CIA staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee's computer system.

If there is sufficient evidence of criminal conduct, the offenders should be prosecuted. The U.S. government must also cooperate with pending investigations and legal actions concerning the torture program.

2.Reform the CIA

By taking two key steps, Congress and the president can ensure that the CIA never again engages in torture or unlawful detention.

First, Congress must permanently ban the CIA from operating any detention facility or holding any person in its custody. Second, Congress should subject the CIA to the same interrogation rules that apply to the military.

For at least a dozen years, the CIA has been uncontrolled—and seemingly uncontrollable—by any of the three branches of government. Congress and the president must together repair the broken system of checks and balances that has left the CIA virtually unrestrained.

3.Provide Apology and Compensation

President Obama should publicly acknowledge and apologize to the victims of U.S. torture policies.

To comply with international law, the Obama administration should appoint an independent body to provide compensation and rehabilitation services to those who suffered torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

Recognizing, apologizing to, and compensating victims will begin to heal the wounds our government has inflicted and help rebuild American credibility as a defender of human rights.

4.Honor Courage

President Obama should formally honor the members of the military, the CIA, and other public servants who, when our nation went off course, stayed true to our most fundamental ideals.

Even as top Bush administration officials were crafting and implementing torture policies, an untold number of U.S. service members and civilian officials risked their careers by objecting to official torture and other cruelty.

A public acknowledgement from the president would send a clear message to other government officials that standing against injustice and unlawful acts is honorable.

5.More Transparency

The Obama administration should release still-secret records that would shed further light on the extent of U.S. government abuse, and on the responsibility of senior officials in ordering it.

To start, the Obama administration should release the Senate Intelligence Committee's full investigative report into the use of torture and abuse by the CIA.

It should also release President Bush's September 17, 2001 memo authorizing the CIA to establish secret overseas prisons, known as "black sites"; CIA cables relating to the use of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation techniques; and photographs evidencing abuse of prisoners at detention facilities throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.

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