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 worldcantwait.org. 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. (http://chris-floyd.com/articles/1-latest-news/1976- 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:

Panetta, Holder, Obama, Torture and Nuremberg

By Dennis Loo

 
In his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday, Leon Panetta, Obama’s pick for the CIA directorship, “said there is no intention to hold CIA officers responsible for the policies they were told to carry out. CIA interrogators who used waterboarding or other harsh techniques against prisoners with the permission of the White House should not be prosecuted.” (Pamela Hess, “Panetta: Obama won’t ok ‘extraordinary rendition,’” The Daily Transcript, February 5, 2009.)
 
"Individuals,” Panetta said, “who operated pursuant to a legal opinion that indicated that that was proper and legal ought not to be prosecuted or investigated."
 
This declaration echoes what Eric Holder, the new U.S. Attorney General said in his Senate confirmation testimony: ‘[W]here it is clear that a government agent has acted in ‘reasonable and good-faith reliance on Justice Department legal opinions’ authoritatively permitting his conduct, I would find it difficult to justify commencing a full-blown criminal investigation, let alone a prosecution.”
 

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How Obama's New Rules Keep Torture Intact: The Torture Ban That Doesn't Ban Torture

 

The Torture Ban That Doesn't Ban Torture 
 
By Allan Nairn

If you're lying on the slab still breathing, with your torturer hanging over you, you don't much care if he is an American or a mere United States-sponsored trainee.

When President Obama declared flatly this week that "the United States will not torture" many people wrongly believed that he'd shut the practice down, when in fact he'd merely repositioned it.

Obama's Executive Order bans some -- not all -- US officials from torturing but it does not ban any of them, himself included, from sponsoring torture overseas.
 

 

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Don't Forget Guantanamo

 By Andy Worthington

 
With 50 prisoners on hunger strike, including British resident Binyam Mohamed, who is apparently “close to death,” dissent from a military judge, a protégée of Dick Cheney still overseeing the Military Commissions, and doubts about loopholes in President Obama’s Presidential orders regarding “extraordinary rendition” and the use of torture, Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, encourages opponents of Guantánamo and the “War on Terror” to remain vigilant.
 
At first glance, “Don’t Forget Guantánamo” might seem to be an unnecessary headline, given that Barack Obama has been President for only two weeks, and that one of his first acts was to sign a Presidential order declaring that the notorious “War on Terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay will be closed within a year.
 
However, I believe it is appropriate, not only because such sweeping statements encourage the general public to believe that the closure of Guantánamo is a fait accompli, but also because it has already become apparent that issuing a Presidential order is not the same as immediately addressing the human rights abuses that have dogged the prison’s history, and that, sadly, continue to this day.
 

 

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National Call-in Days to Release 17 Chinese Muslims from Guantanamo

World Can't Wait endorsed the 100 Days Campaign to Close Guantanamo.
We received this action alert from Witness Against Torture.

 

BACKGROUND

Free the Uighurs Campaign at WhitehouseThe Uighurs are members of an intensely persecuted minority in western China and were sold to U.S. forces by bounty hunters. Most of them were cleared by the military of any offense in 2003. In September 2008, the U.S. government formally acknowledged that none of them is an enemy combatant. At present, all three branches of the government have acknowledged that the Uighurs should be released. All 17 have been exonerated by both military and habeas courts, and members of Congress have called for their release to the only place they can go: the United States.

Holding that their continued imprisonment was unlawful, U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ruled in October 2008 that they should be present in his court for release into the United States with appropriate conditions. Detailed arrangements to welcome and support the seventeen men had by then been made by religious and refugee organizations. Further commitment of support has been provided by the Uighur community of well established U.S. citizens in the D.C. area.

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Obama Lawyers Set to Defend Yoo

By Josh Gerstein

In Democratic legal circles, no attorney has been more pilloried than former Bush Justice Department official John Yoo, chief author of the so-called torture memos that Barack Obama last week sought to nullify.

John YooBut now President Obama’s incoming crew of lawyers has a new and somewhat awkward job: defending Yoo in federal court.

Next week, Justice Department lawyers are set to ask a San Francisco federal judge to throw out a lawsuit brought against Yoo by Jose Padilla, a New York man held without charges on suspicion of being an Al Qaeda operative plotting to set off a “dirty bomb.”

The suit contends that Yoo’s legal opinions authorized Bush to order Padilla’s detention in a Navy brig in South Carolina and encouraged military officials to subject Padilla to aggressive interrogation techniques, including death threats and long-term sensory deprivation.

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Refuting Cheney’s Lies: The Stories of Six Prisoners Released from Guantánamo

 

By Andy Worthington
 
In the Bush administration’s “War on Terror,” the gulf between rhetoric and reality was always pronounced, and never more so than when Vice President Dick Cheney spokealt out. Cheney’s lies and distortions were on open display in the last month before his departure from the White House, as he sought to leave his legacy of fear burnished on the nation’s consciousness, and in a final fling he told Rush Limbaugh, in no uncertain terms, that when it came to Guantánamo, “now what’s left, that is the hardcore.”
Cheney’s statement came just days after Judge Richard Leon, an appointee of George W. Bush, had ruled in the habeas corpus review of one of the supposed “hardcore” prisoners  — a Chadian national called Mohammed El-Gharani, who was just 14 years old when he was seized in a random raid on a mosque in Karachi, Pakistan, and was later sold to US forces — that the government had failed to establish a case against El-Gharani, and ordered his release “forthwith.”
 
Leon ruled that what purported to be evidence had been supplied by two of El-Gharani’s fellow prisoners whose reliability had been called into doubt by government officials, and when it came to a key allegation, which, in Cheney’s version of reality, ought to have bolstered his claims — an allegation that El-Gharani had been part of an al-Qaeda cell in London in 1998 — Leon was particularly dismissive. “Putting aside the obvious and unanswered questions as to how a Saudi minor from a very poor family could have even become a member of a London-based cell,” he wrote, “the Government simply advances no corroborating evidence for these statements it believes to be reliable from a fellow detainee, the basis of whose knowledge is – at best – unknown.”
 

 

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Dangerous Executive Orders

By David Swanson

The Center for Constitutional Rights has expressed concern that President Obama's executive order banning torture may contain a loophole. But no president has any right to declare torture legal or illegal, with or without loopholes. And if we accept that presidents have such powers, even if our new president does good with them, then loopholes will be the least of our worries.


Torture is, and has long been, illegal in every case, without exception. It is banned by our Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 2340A. Nothing any president can do can change this or unchange it, weaken it or strengthen it in any way.

Preventing torture does not require new legislation from Congress or new orders from a new president. It requires enforcing existing laws. In fact, adherence to the Convention Against Torture, which under Article VI of our Constitution is the supreme law of the land, requires the criminal prosecution of torturers and anyone complicit in torture.

Most of the seemingly noble steps taken by Congress in recent years and by President Obama in his first week have served to disguise the fact that torture always was, still is, and shall continue to be illegal.

 

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Binding U.S. Law Requires Prosecutions for Those who Authorize Torture

By Glen Greenwald

It seems fairly easy -- even for those overtly hostile to the basic rules of logic and law -- to see what conclusions are compelled by these clear premises:
 
 
Bush administration officials from Vice President Dick Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, The Associated Press has learned.
 
The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved. . . .
 
The meetings were held in the White House Situation Room in the years immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks. Attending the sessions were Cheney, then-Bush aides Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
 

 

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Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child

by Andy Worthington

Just two weeks ago, in a habeas corpus case in a Washington D.C. court, Judge Richard Leon turned the clock back to January 11, 2002 (the day Guantánamo opened) by ruling that the US government could continue holding two prisoners at Guantánamo — the Yemeni, Muaz al-Alawi and the Tunisian, Hisham Sliti — because the authorities had demonstrated, to his satisfaction, that they met the criteria for being regarded as “enemy combatants.”
 
According to the definition of an “enemy combatant” that Leon himself had been obliged to choose from several options before proceeding with the cases, this meant that they were “part of or supporting Taliban or al-Qaeda forces, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the US or its coalition partners,” which “includes any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported hostilities in aid of enemy armed forces.”
 
This was a disturbing development, because both men, who have been held for seven years, remain in an unprecedented legal limbo, despite having secured the right to have their cases reviewed in a court of law following a ruling by the Supreme Court last June. Unlike enemy prisoners of war, who are held in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, or criminal suspects, who are expected to face a trial in a timely manner, the “enemy combatants” imprisoned solely on the President’s whim in the wake of the 9/11 attacks can apparently be held indefinitely.
 

 

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Ex-Guardsman denounces Gitmo

By Ryan Loew / Lansing State Journal

 
The deciding moment that transformed Chris Arendt into the anti-war activist he is today came while he was in basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. U.S. forces had invaded Iraq, and the news only amplified the anxiety of a young man who joined the Michigan Army National Guard with hopes of earning money for college.
 
But Arendt, now 24, never went to Iraq. Instead, the Charlotte-area native served as a guard at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba - an experience he described as "terrifying."
 
He's since become a vocal critic of the global war on terror, gaining some national attention when he was featured in an article in Esquire magazine last year. And he's about to take his opinions on the road in the United Kingdom.
 

 

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Seven Years of Guantánamo, Seven Years of Torture and Lies

 

By Andy Worthington
 
Seven years ago, on January 11, 2002, when photos of the first orange-clad detainees to arrive at a hastily-erected prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba were made available to the world’s press, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld reacted to the widespread uproar that greeted the images of the kneeling, shackled men, wearing masks and blacked-out goggles and with earphones completing their sensory deprivation, by stating that it was “probably unfortunate” that the photos were released.
 
As so often with Rumsfeld’s pronouncements, it was difficult to work out quite what he meant. He appeared to be conceding that newspapers like Britain’s right-wing Daily Mail, which emblazoned its front page with the word “torture,” had a valid point to make, but what he actually meant was that it was unfortunate that the photos had been released because they had led to criticism of the administration’s anti-terror policies.
 
Rumsfeld proceeded to make it clear that he had no doubts about the significance of the prisoners transferred to Guantánamo, even though their treatment was unprecedented. They were, in essence, part of a novel experiment in detention and interrogation, which involved being held neither as prisoners of war nor as criminal suspects but as “enemy combatants” who could be imprisoned without charge or trial. In addition, they were deprived of the protections of the Geneva Conventions so that they could be coercively interrogated, and then, when they did not produce the intelligence that the administration thought they should have produced, they were — as a highly critical Senate Armed Services Committee report concluded last month — subjected to Chinese torture techniques, taught in US military schools to train American personnel to resist interrogation if captured.
 

 

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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.