In Pursuit of Investigation and Prosecution of CIA Torture Program Perpetrators

Friday, December 04, 2015
President George W. Bush (AP photo)

President Barack Obama has walked away from pursuing those involved in the CIA’s torture program, but human rights advocates are demanding the administration take legal action against them.


Obama and his top officials say there is not enough evidence to pursue prosecution of CIA agents and contractors or former members of the George W. Bush administration who authorized the secret renditions and torture of suspected terrorists.


But Human Right Watch (HRW) argues “sufficient evidence exists” for Attorney General Loretta Lynch to carry out criminal investigations of “senior United States officials and others involved in the post-September 11 CIA program for torture, conspiracy to torture, and other crimes under U.S. law.” HRW says its new report provides evidence to support criminal charges against those responsible for state-sanctioned torture, and it discusses legal obligations to provide redress to victims of torture.


Kenneth Roth, HRW’s executive director, said it is vital to conduct criminal inquiries. “Without criminal investigations, which would remove torture as a policy option, Obama’s legacy will forever be poisoned,” Roth said.


Last year, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a summary of its still-classified report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.


HRW claims that summary both confirmed previous reporting and revealed that CIA torture was “more brutal, systematic, and widespread” than had been previously found.

The Senate summary also provides evidence, HRW says, that CIA officials knew that what they were doing represented violations of anti-torture laws, regardless of what Bush legal advisers provided in the so-called torture memos that justified the tactics of the CIA program. The CIA was even concerned about its legal exposure; agency acting general counsel John Rizzo “expressed concern about ‘criminal liability’ under the Torture Statute and sought a guarantee from the Justice Department that employees would not be prosecuted for use of these techniques,” according to HRW’s report.


The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit late last month against the federal government under the Freedom of Information Act to release more details about the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

U.S.: CIA Torture is Unfinished Business (Human Rights Watch)

ACLU Sues for Info on CIA Rendition Program (by Adam Klasfeld, Courthouse News Service)

No More Excuses: A Roadmap to Justice for CIA Torture (Human Rights Watch)

National Archives Asked to Declassify Details of Torture Program Improperly Classified by CIA (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

The Case for War Crimes Trials (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Torture Tapes Destruction…Another Crime Unpunished (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Should George W. Bush be Tried for War Crimes? (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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