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:

Why Has Shaker Aamer Been Held At Guantanamo For So Very Long?

Democracy Now | October 23, 2015

In an interview with Democracy Now, Clive Stafford Smith, Shaker Aamer's attorney, was asked to elaborate on the point Shaker Aamer has made that his prolonged detention at Guantanamo — even though he has been cleared for release since 2007, — has been in part due to the fact that he witnessed the torture of the man whose torture-extracted testimony was cited by the Bush regime as justification for the devastating war on Iraq.


Talk is Cheap. Shaker Aamer's Freedom Hangs in the Balance

World Can't Wait | September 26, 2015

World Can't Wait Calls for Immediate Release of Shaker Aamer. Not One More Day of Torture for the Last British Resident of Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter's notice of intent to repatriate the illegally detained "terror suspect" -- Mr Aamer has never been charged with a crime -- is a welcome development.


DePaul Students Demand Removal of “Torture” Dean

Jay Becker | September 21, 2015

Dean Koocher, image via Chicago MonitorThe role of members of the American Psychological Association (APA) in facilitating, rationalizing and covering up torture committed by CIA and Department of Defense (DoD) personnel at Guantanamo was confirmed in detail three months ago with the release of the Hoffman Report that investigated long-standing allegations against the APA’s leadership. One name came up more than 200 times in that report: Dr. Gerald P. Koocher, Dean of the College of Science and Health at DePaul University, Chicago.


Guantanamo: Change of Venue is Not Closure - Preemptive Imprisonment Must End!

Jay Becker | September 11, 2015

Last month, word leaked out that the Pentagon is considering various Federal and military prisons in the U.S. to imprison the men held at Guantanamo unlawfully and in inhumane conditions for more than 12 years in most cases. Meanwhile, Ash Carter, Secretary of Defense, is selling this scheme with despicable arguments about “saving U.S. taxpayers money ” and “depriving Islamic fundamentalists of a recruitment tool. ”


Justice Detained, Justice Denied: Indefinite Detention and Torture Continue as Law of the Land

Jill McLaughlin | August 16, 2015

After years of struggle to learn, expose and stop what the American Psychological Association did to support U.S. torture and detention policies, we celebrate a recent victory for people of conscience who have long spoken out and forced revelations of 14 years of sordid, and criminally complicit, history.  Last week, the APA voted to ban psychologists from participating in the interrogation and torturing of detainees at Guantanamo, on vessels in international waters, and in black sites.


Democrats Continue To Delude Themselves About Obama's Failed Guantánamo Vow

Glenn Greenwald | August 12th, 2015

As everyone knows, “closing Guantánamo” was a centerpiece of the 2008 Obama campaign. In the Senate and then in the presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly and eloquently railed against the core, defining evil of Guantánamo: indefinite detention. On the Senate floor, Obama passionately intoned in 2006: “As a parent, I can also imagine the terror I would feel if one of my family members were rounded up in the middle of the night and sent to Guantánamo without even getting one chance to ask why they were being held and being able to prove their innocence.” During the 2008 campaign, he repeatedly denounced “the Bush Administration’s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantánamo.”


In Light of the Report on American Psychological Association Support for CIA Torture

Debra Sweet | July 19th, 2015

Recommended reading on about the recently completed investigation by attorney David Hoffman into allegations that the APA colluded with the Pentagon, the CIA, and the White House in supporting the Bush Regime's abusive detention and interrogation program:

Write to the Guantánamo Prisoners

Andy Worthington | July 7th 2015

Every six months, I ask people to write to the prisoners in Guantánamo, to let them — and the US authorities — know that they have not been forgotten.

The letter-writing campaign was started five years ago by two Facebook friends, Shahrina J. Ahmed and Mahfuja Bint Ammu, and it has been repeated every six months. Their latest campaign coincided with the start of Ramadan, on June 12, and I’m following up in the hope that, as Ramadan continues, you too can send a letter to some or all of the men to let them know they’ve not been forgotten.



UK Celebrities & Politicians Publish Open Letter Calling for Shaker Aamer's Release from Guantanamo

Debra Sweet | July 6, 2015

we-stand-with-shaker-launch-parliamentThere is a substantial outcry coming from the UK because the Obama administration — despite promises to close down Guantanamo, and let those designated for release leave — still refuses to release Shaker Aamer.  He's been cleared for release since 2008.  So during the whole presidency of Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama, his life, his family and supporters wishes, have meant nothing at all.


What Kind of A Country Tortures People?

stang-june26-torture-protestStephanie Tang | June 26, 2015

Today, as Dr. Maran has so clearly explained, together with people in many other countries, we’re standing up in shared commitment and conscience to say No, Absolutely No, to the illegal and immoral practice of torture, and that the world demands that it stop.



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.