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"Institutionalist" Panel Confirms US "Indisputably" Engaged in Torture Post-9/11

Report: Never before had there been such discussions "directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on detainees in our custody.”

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

(Photo: Shrieking Trees/ Flickr)

An independent examination of the United States' post-9/11 rendition program released Tuesday concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture.” Though not groundbreaking news, the findings—which were reached by a "cautious, institutionalist" panel—demonstrate new and widespread awareness of our nation's past and perpetual crimes against civilians.

Published by the Constitution Project, the 580-page report (pdf) found that "in the course of the nation's many previous conflicts" never before had there been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.”

Furthermore, the report argues that the use of torture has “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.”

Following the news of the report, many reacted by connecting the findings with Monday's tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon, which many are calling an act of terrorism.

The Board of Directors of the 'bipartisan' group behind the report, The Constitution Project, included such infamous notables as former Republican Congressman and director of the NRA's National School Shield Task Force, Asa Hutchinson; David A. Keene, current President of the NRA and long-time chair of The American Conservative Union; and William Sessions, former director of the FBI under Presidents Reagan and Bush.

Though the report is "not without flaws" and "represents a cautious, bipartisan, institutionalist view," investigative blogger Marcy Wheeler writes that, because it is so is why its conclusions are so valuable.

Dissecting the report, Wheeler pulls out the following: 

Finding #1 U.S. forces, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment. Both categories of actions violate U.S. laws and international treaties. Such conduct was directly counter to values of the Constitution and our nation.

Finding #2

The nation’s most senior officials, through some of their actions and failures to act in the months and years immediately following the September 11 attacks, bear ultimate responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of illegal and improper interrogation techniques used by some U.S. personnel on detainees in several theaters. Responsibility also falls on other government officials and certain military leaders.

Finding #3

There is no firm or persuasive evidence that the widespread use of harsh interrogation techniques by U.S. forces produced significant information of value. There is substantial evidence that much of the information adduced from the use of such techniques was not useful or reliable.

Finding #16

For detainee hunger strikers, DOD operating procedures called for practices and actions by medical professionals that were contrary to established medical and professional ethical standards, including improper coercive involuntary feedings early in the course of hunger strikes that, when resisted, were accomplished by physically forced nasogastric tube feedings of detainees who were completely restrained.

Finding #19

The high level of secrecy surrounding the rendition and torture of detainees since September 11 cannot continue to be justified on the basis of national security.

Finding #21

The Convention Against Torture requires each state party to “[c]riminalize all acts of torture, attempts to commit torture, or complicity or participation in torture,” and “proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.” The United States cannot be said to have complied with this requirement.


The panel also found that the US rendition program "enjoyed widespread international co-operation," writes the Guardian, among countries including the UK, Canada, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Egypt, Syria, Morocco and Jordan.

The Constitution Project study was initiated after President Obama declared in 2009 that he preferred to “look forward, not backward,” declining to to support a national investigation into the post-9/11 counterterrorism programs.

And while the findings namely cover the Bush years, the study is critical of the Obama administration's policies of "excessive secrecy."

As the New York Times reports, the study states that keeping the details of rendition and torture from the public “cannot continue to be justified on the basis of national security” and urges the administration to stop citing state secrets to block lawsuits by former detainees.


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