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:

Truth Can't Be "Disappeared"

Curt Wechsler | May 18, 2016

CIA destruction of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture fails to erase the history of, or culpability for the horrors practiced at Guantanamo. No one will be able to put that particular genie back in the bottle. U.S. and international law provide no statute of limitations on the prosecution of war crimes.


New Releases of John Yoo's Promotion of Torture, Surveillance | April 21, 2016

The Justice Department recently released another of the now-notorious Office of Legal Counsel memos written by John Yoo -- memos that authorized torture, warrantless wiretapping, and indefinite detention," reports Patrick Toomey for "The new memo, written as a 'letter' to then-presiding FISC Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in May 2002, addresses the legal basis for the NSA's warrantless wiretapping of Americans' communications under the 'Stellar Wind' program.


Tariq Ba Odah, hunger striker, released from Guantanamo

Debra Sweet | April 21, 2016

The best known of the prisoners is Tariq Ba Odah, on hunger strike since 2007. Even when he went to federal court last year with a demand to be released, the Obama administration fought it. Andy Worthington reports:

After more than eight years on a permanent hunger strike, he weighed just 74 pounds, and, according to medical experts and his lawyers, was at risk of death. Disgracefully, the Justice Department challenged his habeas petition, and, at the end of the year, Reuters revealed that the Pentagon had prevented representatives from an undisclosed foreign country that was prepared to offer him a new home from having access to his medical records, so that the country in question dropped its resettlement offer. 


Changing the Zip Code is Not Closing Guantanamo

Debra Sweet | February 25, 2016

It was never about keeping people in the U.S. "safe."  It's about, as Rubio, Trump & Cruz have been freely saying, having a place where people can be locked up forever without rights, merely on the order of a president.


Waiting for Godot? Guantanamo Prisoners Don’t Have the Luxury

Curt Wechsler | February 10, 2016

“Time. We can’t get it back. When it’s gone, it’s gone,” notes Frida Berrigan,, on the return of Connecticut National Guard soldiers from Guantanamo. “I am always happy when families are reunited, but the words of another father reuniting with his children rang through my head.” (Repatriated prisoner Shaker Aamer met his 13-year-old son Faris for the first time on October 31, 2015.) “All those innocent men released from Guantánamo and still struggling to find their footing in strange lands—and still struggling to heal from severe trauma—know it too.”


Close Guantanamo NOW January 11, 2016

Debra Sweet | December 10th, 2015

Monday, January 11th will be 14 years since the Bush Regime set up Guantanamochgitmo

12:00 pm at The White House,
Washington DC Rally & March

Local actions being planned around the US 


Cat Watters Interviews Andy Worthington and Debra Sweet on Release of Shaker Aamer

Cat Waters | November 17, 2015

British Journalist Andy Worthington who wrote the Guantanamo Files and has been pushing for the release of Shaker Aamer, WE STAND WITH SHAKER, a British citizen held without charge or trial at GITMO for 14 years and cleared for release in by 2 Administrations.


More on the "Getting Rid" of Guantanamo

Debra Sweet | November 18th, 2015

A likely scenario for the Obama administration to "close" Guantanamo may be announced very soon, to include:


First photos & news of Shaker Aamer, released from Guantanamo

Andy Worthington | November 11th, 2015

shaker-aamer-now-jo"Hi Joanne and Andy, please send this message below to all of those who campaigned with We Stand With Shaker, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, those who fasted for me, MPs, and everyone else you know who has fought for my release.


Shaker Aamer: A Voice for Truth and Justice is Finally Released From Guantanamo

Jill McLaughlin | October 30, 2015

Shaker AamerIt is rare that we hear anything good coming out of the criminal U.S. Detention Center in Guantanamo. But this morning people here in the U.S. who have been following the plight of those detained there woke to the news that at long last Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held at Guantanamo was enroute to the U.K. after 14 years of his life were stolen by the U.S. Government. The London Guantanamo Campaign put out the following press release:



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.