Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Protest Letter to Obama on Failure to Release Torture Evidence

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and a host of other organizations, including Alliance of Justice, Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, After Downing Street, Veterans for Peace, American Muslim Voice, and many others, have sent a letter (PDF) to President Obama asking him to withdraw his opposition to the release of photos of detainee abuse. The letter continues (italics in original):
More broadly, we write to remind you of the context in which this issue arises, explain why transparency and robust accountability are a strategic national security imperative, and to expose the self-interest of voices counseling against accountability.

You recently received a letter from seven former CIA directors “urg[ing] you to exercise your authority to reverse Attorney General Holder's August 24 decision to re-open the criminal investigation of CIA interrogations....” We are grateful that you dismissed their self-serving and internally inconsistent diatribe, and instead affirmed “that nobody’s above the law.”

On the other hand, your actions in other arenas indicate a troubling willingness to sweep torture under the rug, rather than openly address our nation’s regrettable recent history....

We claim, on the one hand, that our military deployments advance human rights, reflecting our historical legacy as a champion of those issues. But this claim will continue to lack contemporary credibility until robust accountability — and prosecution — dispels the cloud of torture and abuse that unfortunately lingers over U.S. foreign policy.

Beyond the impact such prosecution may have on the intelligence community and our foreign allies and supporters, we also speak on behalf of millions of Americans from all walks of life, demographics, professions, backgrounds, and communities who are appropriately appalled by the CIA’s abuses....

We recognize your understandable desire to look forward rather than back. The ongoing secrecy surrounding evidence of torture, however, amounts to suppression of evidence. You yourself have affirmed that “nobody’s above the law,” even while acting to keep the dark past from being brought to light by pursuing a policy of secrecy.

While Congress has authorized your administration to disregard court orders to disclose photos documenting abuse, the Department of Defense retains—and we request that you exercise — the authority to declassify and release the photos. Torture apologists have concocted the self-serving ruse that releasing the photos would undermine the safety of U.S. troops deployed abroad, ignoring the sad reality that any potential harm to our troops inheres in the criminal conduct depicted in the photos, not their potential disclosure....

Worse yet, the secrecy your administration maintains over torture evidence — much of which appears to have been destroyed by the CIA in an effort to cover its criminal trail — appears to reflect the worst conceivable reason not to enforce the law: deference to a political calculus. The possibility that robust accountability may prove contentious, and potentially interfere with the actualization of your administration’s agenda on unrelated policy matters, is an illegitimate basis on which to resign enforcing the law.

Moreover, failing to investigate those who conceived, planned, and orchestrated violations of international law does not reflect political neutrality. In fact, the current investigation, limited to some junior agents, reflects pre-judgment in favor of alleged torturers. Your administration’s decision to hide torture evidence unfortunately compounds past crimes and further erodes the rule of law.
Please see the link to read the whole letter, which is amply documented with footnotes. Regarding the letter's claim in the penultimate paragraph above, re the CIA's destruction of evidence, see the ACLU's latest release of a "Vaughn Index" of the denied documents in the investigation of the destruction of the CIA torture videotapes, and some wonderful examinations by Emptywheel/Marcy Wheeler (here and here and here) about what that Index might reveal anyway about matters relating to the CIA's crimes.

1 comment:

Spectacle said...


The full interview, describing Omar Deghayes first-hand experience can be viewed online.
Omar Deghayes on Torture and British Intelligence

Human Rights Watch report
‘Cruel Britannia: British Complicity in the Torture and Illegal Treatment of Terror Suspects’

HRW seriously undermine British Government denials of Intelligence service complicity in torture. Testimonials of Pakistani torturers included in the report allege that U.S. and British agents were "perfectly aware that we were using all means possible to extract information."

This corroborates the statements of numerous ex-terror suspects who have come forward about their experiences. Omar Deghayes, former Guantanamo Bay detainee, describes his interrogation by British Intelligence agent, "Andrew' and others while held illegally and subjected to torture in Pakistan and Bagram prison in Afghanistan.

This interview is an extract from the newly released documentary “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo’ (Spectacle 2009, Directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington) which is now available on DVD

“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo’

Other excerpts and extras can be found at:


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