Torture and Detention

Frequently Asked Questions (scroll down for article archives and further resources)

"If anyone acts like they don't know their government is torturing people on a widespread and systematic scale, they are choosing NOT to know. We have to continue to lead people to act against this -- going out to people, into classes, to institutions, and on Too many people have learned to accept this, there is not nearly enough opposition to the revelations about these top level torture meetings -- but this is something that can change quickly if a beginning core acts with moral clarity..." -Debra Sweet, Director of World Can't Wait

Indefinite Detention and Torture Under ObamaDownload this flier

Torture + Silence = Complicity!

Act Now to Stop Torture!

Has Obama put an end to torture, rendition, and indefinite detention? Facts you need to know:

1. Obama admits Bush officials tortured, but refuses to prosecute them.

Cheney has bragged about authorizing water boarding of detainees. In January 2009, Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, that he believed water boarding was torture. Torture is a violation of Geneva Conventions. The Obama administration is, therefore, not only morally, but legally, required to prosecute Bush Regime officials for torture.

2. Under Obama, the U.S. is still holding detainees without charges or trial.

During the campaign Obama declared habeas corpus to be “the foundation of Anglo-American law.”Habeas corpus is your right to challenge your detention. It is a 900-year- old right. Without habeas corpus there are no restraints on a government’s powers to detain and punish.

Contrary to his rhetoric, the Obama administration is continuing the Bush Regime’s policies of denying prisoners habeas corpus rights and has even adopted the same arguments made by Bush. In February 2009, the Obama administration declared in Federal Court that it would not grant habeas corpus rights to detainees in U.S. custody in Bagram, Afghanistan.

In March 2009 Obama’s Justice Department claimed that Guantanamo prisoners who were detained before June 2008 had no habeas corpus rights. On May 21, 2010 the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Obama administration, holding that three prisoners who are being held by the U. S. at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan cannot challenge their detention in U.S. courts.

3. Don’t be fooled just because Obama isn’t using the term “enemy combatant”

The Obama administration will no longer use the term “enemy combatant,” but it’s a change in name only: in the same court filing in which it made this announcement, Obama’s Justice Department made clear that it would continue to detain prisoners at Guantanamo without charge. As the NY Times put it:

[T]he [Obama] Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, Obama’s executive orders do not ban indefinite detention. In addition, at his confirmation hearing, Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder said: “There are possibly many other people who are not going to be able to be tried but who nevertheless are dangerous to this country… We’re going to have to try to figure out what we do with them.” Holder suggested prisoners could be detained for the length of their war of terror which, as we know, has no set end point.

4. Guantanamo is still open. The prison at Bagram is growing and torture is being committed.

According to Reuters, abuse of prisoners worsened shortly after the election of Obama:

Abuses began to pick up in December 2008 after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.”

Earlier this year Scott Horton reported in Harper’s Magazine on three murders of detainees in 2006 at Guantanamo that the military tried to cover up as suicides. More is coming out about torture at Bagram Detention Center in Afghanistan. Recently Andy Worthington reported on the detention and torture of three teenagers in his article, “Torture and the ‘Black’Prison,” or What Obama is Doing at Bagram (Part One).”

On June 7, 2010 Chris Floyd of Empire Burlesque wrote that under the Bush Regime medical personnel experimented on detainees to prove that the techniques used did not constitute torture. The chilling history of Nazi medical experimentation on those in concentration camps lurks in this revelation. ( echoes-of-mengele-medical-experiments-torture-and- continuity-in-the-american-gulag.html)

This is a violation of Geneva Conventions and there is evidence that these experiments are going on under Obama.

5. Obama is continuing rendition.

During his confirmation hearing, new CIA director Leon Panetta made it clear the Obama administration will continue rendition. Rendition is the practice of kidnapping somebody in one country and shipping them to another country for detention. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), said “Rendition is a violation of sovereignty. It’s a kidnapping. It’s force and violence…Once you open the door to rendition, you’re opening the door, essentially, to a lawless world.”

Obama supporters have attempted to draw the distinction between this practice and “extraordinary rendition,” defined as the practice of transferring somebody to another country knowing that they will be tortured. During his confirmation hearing, Leon Panetta said that under the Bush administration, “There were efforts by the CIA to seek and to receive assurances that those individuals would not be mistreated.” So Panetta is embracing the practices of the Bush Regime by continuing rendition!

Panetta then added, “I will seek the same kind of assurances that those individuals will not be mistreated.” (emphasis added)

Articles on Torture and Detention:

The Violence Of The U.S. War On Terror

 Debra Sweet | January 8, 2019

This is not a film review.  But see "Vice," starring Christian Bale as "Dick" Cheney.  You'll look at this photo differently after seeing the film.


One of the remarkable features of the film is the startling, realistic jumps to the violence of the U.S. war on terror precipitated by Cheney's actions.  Cheney co-ordinates the build-up to the attack on Iraq and suddenly the screen is filled with Iraqis being bombed.  Cheney authorizes the rendering of a cleric in one of the Baltic states, and bam, the cleric is thrown into a van within seconds, gagged and disappeared.  The concepts of human rights and democracy, U.S. style, get brought sharply to the viewer, as a public service.


Close Guantanamo

Curt Wechsler | January 7, 2019


Rule of Law, Not Rule of Trump

January 11, 2019, marks the 17th anniversary of the opening of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, which was established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. It also marks the start of the prison's third year under the direction of the Trump administration. At the beginning of the Trump administration 41 people remained imprisoned at Guantanamo. Over the last two years, the Trump administration has released just one individual, leaving 40 people in detention while, at times, signaling interest in expanding Guantanamo. What will happen to the prison and its detainees in the remaining years of the Trump administration? Will anyone else be released? Will the prison ever close?


Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Lobbied for Appointment of John Yoo to 9th Circuit Court

Curt Wechsler  | September 8, 2018

The Trump nominee for U.S. Supreme Court believed the author of notorious memos providing legal cover for those torturing human beings would be great as a lifetime pick for Ninth Circuitreports Common Dreams staff writer Julia Conley on confidential emails released by Senator Cory Booker. The exchanges between Kavanaugh and Kyle Sampson occurred one day after the date of one of Yoo's torture memo drafts tweets journalist Mike Sacks: 

Kavanaugh referred to Yoo as his "magic bullet." Interpret that as you will, but I see this exchange as Kavanaugh's wanting to load up the judiciary with originalist, Unitary Executive folk; and as circumstantial evidence that Yoo knew the potential blowback for the torture memo.


Trump's Judge Kavanaugh has a role in US Torture

Debra Sweet | July 19, 2018

kavanaugh-trump-guantanamoWhen Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, one of his selling points was Kavanaugh's seat on the US Court of Appeals for the DC District. GW Bush appointed him to the court in 2006, bolstering a conservative majority which went on to decide against habeas corpus relief for dozens of prisoners held in Guantanamo without charge.Kavanaugh contributed to the ongoing argument over whether Bush, or any president could hold prisoners indefinitely without charge his opinion that "only rules explicitly enacted by Congress, not international laws of armed conflict, can constrain what an American president can do in wartime."


BE the Trump Resistance

Curt Wechsler | June 3, 2018

rem"I'll never forgive Trump and I won't stop talking about it," says Mike Mills, founding member of the alternative rock band R.E.M. "It's not just who he is and what he represents... It's what he's done to the American political process. He has allowed stupidity to be the coin of the realm, he has allowed thinking that has been and should always be marginalised and on the edges to become almost part of the mainstream...


Thanks to U.S. Senate, Torture Is 'Legal'

Curt Wechsler | May 17, 2018

merlin 137904927 0e01a2e2-20a8-4941-b196-42a0f570db68-jumbo-thumb-autox482-2281The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 10-5 to support Gina Haspel's nomination for CIA director Wednesday. Haspel's defense of torture practices she facilitated at a CIA black site in Thailand in 2002 -- that they were "legal" at the time -- disqualifies her from assuming the role of CIA director, argues professor emerita Marjorie Cohn. Failure to condemn the rescinded opinions of John Yoo invites a repetition of the brutality the professor authorized. Haspel provides little assurance that she wouldn't, like former vice president Dick Cheney says, "do it again."  


Why “Torture Doesn’t Work”

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH | May 14, 2018

tortureRackIntro., by Patrice Greanville: The appointment by Donald Trump of Gina Haspel, a CIA official directly involved in supervising torture, as head of the agency, has thrown the world of liberal pretensions and their mouthpieces into turmoil.  Liberals do not mind imperialist crimes as bloody and vicious as they come, provided that a mask of civility and deniability is maintained by the exceptional nation, something impossible in the case of Haspel, whom even some former colleagues find a questionable choice and whose offences remain a matter of record. This is nothing new, of course. This kind of pickle is inherent in the US empire, which requires refined hypocrisy and massive public ignorance—abetted confusion would be a more appropriate term— to conduct its criminal plutocratic agenda.  We are being literal here. Most American politicians earn their epaulettes by learning the craft of imposture, Obama being the most recent example of true mastery of this devious art, but Trump, a non-professional politician, and a clumsy oaf by nature, is incapable of delivering in that regard, his regime inevitably defined by coarse impulsiveness, pervasive chaos, and petulant recklessness, where the true, ugly and sociopathic face of imperial power is often revealed. 


Gina Haspel Should be Prosecuted, Not Confirmed to Run the CIA

Debra Sweet | May 8, 2018

The CIA nominee supervised detainee torture at a “black site” in Thailand 

Gina Haspel arrived to run “Detention Site Green” in late October 2002, after the harsh interrogation of Abu Zubeydah that reportedly reduced attendant personnel to tears. 

She supervised the interrogation of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques during at least four separate periods.

Interrogators at the site sought to make terror suspects talk by slamming them against walls, keeping them from sleeping, holding them in coffin-sized boxes and forcing water down their throats — a technique called waterboarding. 


'This Is Not America. This Is Not Who We Are.' Except It Is.

Curt wechsler | May 3, 2018   

The U.S. "War on Terror" has always been about persecuting Muslims, torture being the modus operandi of a cruel system of institutionalized Islamophobia. The nomination of Gina Haspel to head the Central Intelligence Agency confirmed what we already knew: political impunity thrives in an authoritarian environment. And blaming the subjects of abuse endears you to white supremacists.


Indefinite Detention Is Torture

Curt Wechsler | April 5, 2018

Indefinite Detention Is Torture

Habeas corpus, or the Great Writ, is the legal procedure that keeps the government from holding you indefinitely without showing cause. “The serious physical and psychological harm that results from such detention can constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” charges The Center for Victims of Torture. “These effects are amplified in detainees who have been tortured or experienced trauma prior to commencement of indefinite detention.”     


A Failure of Accountability Made Gina Haspel's Nomination Possible

Curt Wechsler | March 17, 2018

gina-haspel-mgn-thumb-275xauto-2241Few people have paid a professional price for involvement in America's torture program, notes Rogue Justice author Karen Greenberg. John Yoo, the author of the infamous 2002 memos declaring torture legal, remains a tenured professor at Berkeley. Steven Bradbury, who authorized "enhanced" interrogation techniques, now serves as General Counsel of the United States Department of Transportation. Disgraced Attorney General Alberto Gonzales eventually landed a job as Dean of Belmont University College of Law, in Nashville, Tennessee, where he currently teaches Constitutional Law. Former Bush and Obama administrators found senior posts in business and academia (universities, think tanks, foundations, corporations, law firms) and serve to arbiter public opinion on the crimes of the Trump/Pence regime. 



World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.