“We do not torture,” Bush declared in response to reports of secret CIA prisons overseas.
“I have been told that all interrogation techniques previously authorized by the Executive Order are still on the table but that certain techniques can only be used if very high-level authority is granted…We have also instructed our personnel not to participate in interrogations by military personnel which might include techniques authorized by Executive Order but beyond the bounds of FBI practices.” FBI memo May, 2004
“There has been no presidential determination that circumstances warrant the use of torture to protect the mass security of the United States.” Alberto Gonzales, White House Counsel June 22, 2004
“The United States doesn’t and can’t condone torture.” Secretary of State Rice, January, 2005
“The notion that somehow the United States was torturing anybody is not true,” Cheney told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute at an event to promote his new book. “Three people were waterboarded and the one who was subjected most often to that was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and it produced phenomenal results for us.”
“It is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture,” Constitution Project Task Force, April 2013
The Constitution Project Task Force is a bi-partisan commission of former political and military officials. Their report is the first attempt to thoroughly examine this subject of treatment of detainees under both the Bush and Obama administrations. That’s because the Obama administration made the decision not to pursue civil or criminal penalties for anyone in the previous administration involved in torture or renditions.
I don’t think that anyone, except perhaps extreme partisans like Dick Cheney, is surprised at the conclusion of the task force regarding the definition and use of torture.
If there are any that still dispute the definition of torture, here’s a quote from Asa Hutchinson who was co-chair of this reporting committee. Mr. Hutchinson is a former GOP congressman from Arkansas, NRA consultant and undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.
There are those that defend the techniques of—like waterboarding, stress positions and sleep deprivation, because there was the Office of Legal Counsel, which issued a decision approving of their use because they define them as not being torture. Those opinions have since been repudiated by legal experts and the OLC itself. And even in its opinion, it relied not only on a very narrow legal definition of torture, but also on factual representations about how the techniques would be implemented, that later proved inaccurate. This is important context as to how the opinion came about, but also as to how policy makers relied upon it.
It was also a harsh and direct repudiation of George Bush and Dick Cheney.
Based upon a thorough review of the available public record, we determined that, in application, torture was used against detainees in many instances and across a wide range of theaters.
The task force also found that there was “no firm or persuasive evidence” that the use of such techniques yielded “significant information of value.”
This second conclusion supports ALL of the predictions of professionals when the use of torture was originally proposed. Those who are subjected to these techniques will say whatever they think will cause the pain to stop. Since there is no way to tell the difference between what is fabricated and what is true, pretty much everything that is gained under duress is has to be validated through other independent reports. If the majority of intelligence information is being gathered through torture, none of it can be independently confirmed. As a result, the only actionable data is that obtained through methods where torture was not involved.
The last conclusion of the task force is that the US should also close Guantanamo because this culture of abuse continues there. The Obama administration has been unable to close Guantanamo because of political opposition from conservative Republicans. This opposition has its roots in the same lies and Zombie Politics which caused Guantanamo to be built in the first place.
Guantanamo remains stark evidence of the arrogance and cynicism of the whole neocon philosophy of ends justifying means represented by Dick Cheney. It will go down in history as one of the darker episodes of our democracy.
All this, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the renditions, the torture, Guantanamo, the Department of Homeland Security, domestic wiretapping, and death by drone are in the name of protecting this country from terrorist attacks.
Let’s compare these investments and the politics behind them with the politics of gun control. That’s next.