Torture Report at One Year: Unread, Unpunished, and Still Up for Debate
For the White House to look the other way while the investigation is possibly buried, 'sets a dangerous precedent by excusing major crimes like torture and forced disappearance.'
In the one year since the Senate Intelligence Committee released its account of the Central Intelligence Agency's brutal torture regime, the perpetrators have gone unpunished and the report remains unread, while—at least for some presidential candidates—torture still remains a topic for discussion.
On December 9, 2014, the 525-page executive summary of the Senate torture report was published, amid great controversy and fanfare. At the time, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who had led the campaign for the investigation, said: "I hope this report is the catalyst CIA leaders need to acknowledge that torture did not work and close this disgraceful chapter in our country’s history."
However, one year later, "there has been no accountability for these crimes," as noted by Widney Brown with Physicians for Human Rights on Wednesday, and instead the supposed viability of torture has reappeared in mainstream discourse.
As The Hill reported on Wednesday, "Talk of returning to the days of waterboarding and 'stress positions' has erupted on the campaign trail, with some candidates calling for a return to the 'enhanced interrogation' techniques that critics condemn as torture."
Of course, leading this charge is Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who notoriously said he'd approve waterboarding "in a heartbeat."
Trump's GOP competitors have also indicated their openness to such techniques. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush stated in August that "there’s a difference between enhanced interrogation techniques and torture." And Sen. Marco Rubio has openly opposed the recently-enacted torture ban, saying: "I do not support telegraphing to the enemy what interrogation techniques we will or won’t use, and denying future commanders in chief and intelligence officials important tools for protecting the American people."
What's more, the full 6,300-page Senate report remains classified due to a May court ruling in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
As The Intercept's Murtaza Hussain reported on Wednesday, it appears that no one in the Obama administration, including in the Department of Justice, has even read the full investigation. In fact, in the wake of the November 13th attacks in Paris, the White House seems even more inclined to "bury" its findings.
Elizabeth Beavers, a policy coordinator focusing on torture at Amnesty International, told Hussain that administration officials "appear to be taking a 'see no evil, hear no evil' [stance] with regards to the proof of criminal acts it may contain." But, she added, "for the administration to not even to read the whole report, and to look the other way while it is possibly buried or even destroyed, sets a dangerous precedent by excusing major crimes like torture and forced disappearance."
Marking the anniversary of the report summary's release, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) published a paper (pdf) Wednesday decrying the lack of accountability for torture perpetrators, particularly contracted psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen who developed the program.
"One year later, transparency and accountability—let alone redress to victims—remain stalled," the paper states. "Torture is absolutely prohibited under domestic and international law, and the United States’ failure to reject impunity has come at a very high cost. CIA torture has damaged the lives of its victims, the integrity of health professionals who were complicit in these crimes, the integrity of democratic institutions, and hard-worn norms prohibiting torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment."
PHP states that the U.S. "has an obligation under international law to conduct speedy, transparent investigations into allegations of torture in CIA detention centers, and, where evidence is found amounting to individual criminal responsibility, to prosecute alleged perpetrators in a court meeting international fair trial standards."
Last week, Human Rights Watch issued a statement demanding that President Obama launch a full criminal investigation of former President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and all U.S. officials behind the torture program, saying that otherwise the president's " legacy will forever be poisoned."