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Torture: Immoral and Useless

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June 17, 2009

Tell us something we don’t know.

We know torture is immoral, of course. And we know, from testimony by former interrogators like Matthew Alexander (who contributed to our Accountability for Torture Blog Forum earlier this week) and FBI agents like Ali Soufan, that torture doesn’t work. The less-redacted Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) transcripts released this week only confirm as much.

Earlier this week on the Rachel Maddow Show, ACLU National Security Project staff attorney Ben Wizner spoke about the newly released transcripts, which we received from the Justice Department as part of our ongoing CSRT Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. It’s hard to dispute the fact that torture doesn’t work when you look at the tribunal’s own documentary record. Ben says:

There was one thing in that passage that the Bush administration desperately did not want the world to know, and that was that its illegal torture program not only was immoral, but that it was also useless.

You heard Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. He said, “They tortured me and I said, ‘OK, bin Laden is there.” But have we caught bin Laden?

Indeed. So why torture? And why the cover-up? Why all the blacked out portions of the transcripts? Ben points out that the Bush administration desperately wanted to hide the fact that its illegal, immoral program also didn’t work. But even more disturbingly, it appears that the Obama administration is continuing to cover up Bush-era torture. As Ben stated on the show, “The disturbing trend here is that…the Obama administration is stepping back from transparency because they see that it is an inevitable ingredient to accountability.”

Below are two versions of the same page taken from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s CSRT hearing. Click to view the full-size PDF:

Released in 2008 by the Bush DOJ.

Released on June 19, 2009 by the Obama DOJ.

I know, it’s hard to tell the difference. But the one on the right, the one released by the Obama DOJ, reveals this juicy tidbit: “On 5 September 2006, I was transferred here [to GTMO, Cuba].” President Bush revealed as much in a speech he gave on September 6, 2006. Not exactly a life-or-death national security secret the Bush administration was blacking out, was it? Makes you wonder what else is behind the redactions.

Now is the time to demand accountability. In an opinion piece featured on Salon today, the ACLU’s Executive Director Anthony Romero and Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld — who served as a prosecutor in the Gitmo military commissions and resigned from six cases due to ethical problems with the tribunal system — make a case for accountability. They state:

There are some who might find it surprising to be hearing from the two of us together — a civil libertarian and an Army officer. But to us, the fit is quite natural. While having taken different paths, we have both sought the same destination: the preservation of American values, the rule of law and human rights. Without accountability, we cannot preserve those ideals. Without holding ourselves to the standards we wish to impose on others, we cannot move forward and we cannot hold ourselves out as a nation that adheres to a legal and moral code of conduct. It is critical that we hold accountable those who authorized, those who legally sanctioned and those who implemented the torture policies of one of the darkest periods in our nation’s history. What is at stake is nothing less than our democracy.

Head over to Salon to read the full piece, and then stop by our Accountability for Torture site to learn more. Send evidence of torture to the DOJ, and demand that it appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate those who authorized torture.

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