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Torture: America's Export

Zachary Katznelson,
Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project
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February 6, 2013

Yesterday, the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) issued a comprehensive report laying out the scope of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition, secret prison and torture program. The report, following up on the ACLU’s 2012 Torture Report, traces the evolution of the program, through which the CIA kidnapped terrorism suspects from around the world, flew them secretly to “black sites” – where they were held incommunicado without charge or trial – and tortured them. The OSJI report reveals that 54 nations, more than a quarter of the world, directly participated in the torture program, including through housing CIA prisoners on their soil, where they were often tortured; helping kidnap terrorism suspects and ship them overseas without any legal process; and allowing CIA planes to use their airspace and airports for those kidnapping missions. (Check out the report to learn which countries participated, and what types of assistance they offered). And it compiles the largest, most detailed list yet of the men and women thrown into these horrific black holes, naming 136 victims, many of whose whereabouts remain unknown today.

But even the impressive OSJI report is not the full story; the CIA continues to cloak the entire truth in shameful secrecy, including suppressing the statements of torture victims who remain in United States custody (with the acquiescence of a military commissions judge). We are urging the Senate Intelligence Committee to release a 6,000-page classified report it has adopted that details the CIA torture program, to ensure that Americans know all the facts about what was done in our names (click here to add your voice).

While President Obama outlawed the torture techniques used by the CIA, he has to date refused to hold anyone accountable for these egregious violations of domestic and international law, stating, “We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” That decision has sent the dangerous message has not only prevented accountability, but set a terrible example for the world, eroded America’s reputation and undercut our claims to uphold the rule of law.

The ACLU has been at the forefront of accountability efforts for these violations of domestic and international law, through our groundbreaking Freedom of Information Act requests, which have forced the government to release tens of thousands of pages of documents on the torture program. Our efforts have also included litigation on behalf of victims; advocacy to honor the courageous public servants who stood against the torture program; and pressure for a full criminal investigation of those who devised, orchestrated and implemented the torture program, followed by prosecutions where there is sufficient evidence. We will continue to press on all these fronts until the United States returns to the rule of law and provides adequate redress to the dozens and dozens of people so brutally abused.

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