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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Obama urged to probe Bush torture allegations

Years Later: Human Rights Watch Announces That Bush and Cheney Tortured
Demonstrators hold a mock waterboarding in Times Square
© AFP/File Timothy A. Clary

AFP - Activist Post 

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Human Rights Watch called Tuesday on US President Barack Obama to order a criminal investigation into alleged detainee abuse by predecessor George W. Bush and senior figures in his administration.

"There are solid grounds to investigate Bush, (former vice president Dick) Cheney, (former secretary of defense Donald) Rumsfeld, and (former CIA director George) Tenet for authorizing torture and war crimes," said HRW executive director Kenneth Roth.

In a 107-page report entitled, "Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees," the rights watchdog said inaction was denting America's standing in the world.

"The US is right to call for justice when serious international crimes are committed in places like Darfur, Libya, and Sri Lanka, but there should be no double standards," said Roth.

"When the US government shields its own officials from investigation and prosecution, it makes it easier for others to dismiss global efforts to bring violators of serious crimes to justice."

Human Rights Watch said the narrow scope of a probe by Attorney General Eric Holder, which only examined "unauthorized" acts, had failed to address systemic abuse under the Bush administration.

Holder in 2009 ordered a review of CIA interrogations of over 100 detainees at secret sites overseas but concluded last month that a full criminal probe was only necessary in the case of two deaths in custody.

"The road to the violations detailed here began within days of the September 11, 2001 attacks by Al-Qaeda on New York and Washington, DC, when the Bush administration began crafting a new set of policies, procedures, and practices for detainees captured in military and counterterrorism operations outside the United States," the Human Rights Watch report said.

Instead of looking at isolated cases, Obama should probe those responsible for setting up the harsh interrogation practices at Guantanamo and the secret rendition programs overseas as America went to war in Afghanistan, it said.

Bush has publicly admitted approving the use of waterboarding -- a form of mock execution involving near-drowning -- and "never exerted his authority to stop the ill-treatment or punish those responsible," the report said.

He also authorized illegal CIA detention and rendition programs under which detainees were held incommunicado and transferred to countries like Egypt, Syria, and Jordan for likely torture, according to Human Rights Watch.

The report described Cheney as "the driving force behind the establishment of illegal detention and interrogation policies" which were then approved by Rumsfeld.

Both top officials followed the waterboarding and other illegal interrogation methods used on key terrorism suspects closely, while CIA director Tenet oversaw and ran the entire program, it said.

Attempts by top Bush administration officials to justify their actions by saying they were given the all-clear by Justice Department lawyers ignores evidence they sought to influence those decisions, it said.

"Senior Bush officials shouldn't be able to shape and hand-pick legal advice and then hide behind it as if it were autonomously delivered," Roth said.

Any criminal investigation should examine the preparation of the Justice Department memos used to justify the detention programs and also look at the roles played by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Attorney General John Ashcroft, as well as administration lawyers, the report said.

Human Rights Watch also urged Congress to set up an independent, nonpartisan commission to examine the actions of the Bush administration and ensure such systematic abuses are not repeated.

Publicizing his memoir in 2010, Bush defended his decision to allow "waterboarding" of terrorist suspects by claiming it prevented deadly attacks in Britain.

He said information obtained using the interrogation technique had helped prevent planned attacks on London's Heathrow airport and Canary Wharf.

Cheney and Rumsfeld have been more outspoken about the harsh interrogation methods, claiming that waterboarding played a role in tracking down Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and even calling for the technique to be reinstated.

Obama administration officials have hit back at such claims, insisting the intelligence that led to bin Laden came from a broad variety of sources.

© AFP -- Published at Activist Post with license


Years Later: Human Rights Watch Announces That Bush and Cheney Tortured
By davidswanson - Posted on 12 July 2011

Statutes of limitations for torture not resulting in death have passed. The DOJ has refused to prosecute 99 of 101 cases of torture-to-death that it looked at. Obama has long since publicly told the DOJ not to prosecute the CIA for torture. Obama's torture of Bradley Manning has been widely ignored. Rendition has been established as normal. Torturers have published confessional/bragging memoirs. Habeas corpus has been formally ended. The Bagram-Gitmo archipelago is here to stay. Torture continues in Iraq, Afghanistan, elsewhere. Assassinations have been established as the truly big new fashion. Harold Koh has replaced John Yoo as the Guy Who Will "Legalize" Anything. We've got more illegal wars going at once than ever before. Congress has practically dropped the pretense of a rule of law. The President can't clear his throat without opposing "relitigating the past," as if on the planet he comes from it is common to litigate the future. And Human Rights Watch has chosen this moment to announce that Bush and Cheney might just have been responsible for torture?

(Washington, DC) - Overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration obliges President Barack Obama to order a criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse authorized by former President George W. Bush and other senior officials, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The Obama administration has failed to meet US obligations under the Convention against Torture to investigate acts of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, Human Rights Watch said.
Hey, thanks, Sherlock.  What was your first clue? 
I'm glad someone still cares.  But why not care a little faster?  This report ends by reviewing foreign efforts to step in where the U.S. justice system has failed, and U.S. efforts -- successful thus far -- to prevent that.
If Human Rights Watch turns against illegal wars someday, we can perhaps expect a review of the bombing of Libya several years after it ceases.  And we'll be better off, I guess.  But why not speak up at the time? If Bush and Cheney belong in prison, why would it have been so unacceptably impolite to impeach them and remove them from office?

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