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For Binyam Mohamed and Others in the U.K., Compensation. For Us, New Lies

Larry Siems,
The Torture Report
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November 16, 2010

The story the Guardian posted today, second in prominence only to an article announcing Prince William’s engagement, begins,

The government insisted today that it had started to draw a line under the legacy of complicity in rendition and torture that it inherited from the Labour administration by settling claims brought by 16 former Guantánamo inmates.

Those 16 former Guantánamo detainees include Binyam Mohamed; today’s announced settlement includes substantial compensation for the British government’s complicity in his U.S.-directed rendition and torture. As today’s Guardian story — titled “Guantánamo Bay prisoner payouts a first step to ending legacy of torture” — makes clear, the settlement is one part of a wide-ranging effort in the U.K. to address what the British Defense Ministry calls “detainee legacy issues.”

Legal proceedings may soon be filed on behalf of other U.K.-based former detainees who were interrogated at the behest of the U.S. in Guantánamo, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Syria. At the same time, Scotland Yard is continuing to investigate whether individual agents of the U.K.’s M15 and M16 intelligence services can be held criminally liable for their role in the interrogation of Binyam Mohamed in Pakistan and Morocco. And as soon as that investigation is completed, the government will begin an official investigation, headed by Sir Peter Gibson, into the extent to which the Blair government aided and abetted the Bush administration’s torture program, an inquiry that will include the review of hundreds of thousands of pages of secret documents.

It remains to be seen how much of the evidence Gibson reviews will be made public. But as of today, for Binyam Mohamed, the British government is halfway toward honoring its obligations under the Convention against Torture to uncover the truth and to compensate for torture.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., there remains little prospect of redress for those we abused, and truth just seems to be slipping further and further away.

At an appearance at the Miami Book Fair this past Sunday, for example, former President Bush spoke again, as he has since beginning his book tour, of his decision to order the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” include waterboarding; this time he acknowledged approving the waterboarding not just of Khalid Shiekh Mohammed and of Abu Zubaydah but of a third person, known to be Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, as well. He went on to tell the audience that in his memoir,

I walk you through getting this capability, this tool, passed by the United States Congress so it is now available to any president to use should he or she choose to do so.

It was a spectacular lie. Congress never acted to sanction the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, which were classified and known only to a few members of the congressional intelligence committees. And one of the first things President Obama did when he took office was to shut down the CIA’s secret interrogation program and order that all interrogations be conducted according to the Army Field Manual. The Obama administration has acknowledged that waterboarding is torture and made clear the “tool” of enhanced interrogation techniques, which never should have been available in the first place, is most definitely not available to this or any future presidents to use.

What was most flabbergasting and deflating about Bush’s claim was the response it received: warm, sustained applause, and not a single follow-up question.

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