The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Brenda Bowser Soder - 202/370-3323,

Senate Report Marks Important Step Forward in Efforts to Learn from Past Prisoner Abuse, Improve National Security


Today, the Senate Armed Services Committee released an unclassified
version of 232-page report on detainee treatment, a document that
reaffirms Human Rights First's assertion that detention and
interrogation practices implemented in the wake of the September 11,
2001 attacks violated U.S. laws and have made Americans less safe.

"This report is an important step towards a fuller public
understanding of how the policies of torture and abuse of prisoners
have weakened our nation," stated Elisa Massimino, CEO and executive
director of Human Rights First. "Now, we must take the next step. The
Obama administration should use this document as the foundation for a
non-partisan inquiry to ensure that we do not repeat this shameful
chapter in our nation's history. We must strengthen the bulwark against
those who continue to press the false choice between security and our

In March 2009, Human Rights First submitted a statement for the
record to the Senate Judiciary Committee calling for the establishment
of an independent commission to examine post-9/11 abuses. The
organization has consistently urged President Obama to lead this effort
and investigate the facts and circumstances of post 9-11 U.S.
government detention and interrogation operations in Iraq, Afghanistan,
and Guantanamo and at secret prison sites throughout the world.

This independent inquiry would be based on the findings of today's
Senate report, which concludes that the use of torture and other harsh
interrogation techniques-authorized at the highest level of the Bush
administration-has damaged U.S. security. The report also reveals these
activities have endangered Americans by complicating the U.S.'s
"ability to attract allies to our side, strengthens the hand of our
enemies, and reduces our ability to collect intelligence that can save

"Only through a comprehensive and independent inquiry can we develop
policies that will restore the reputation of the United States as a
country committed to human rights and end the practices of official
cruelty and arbitrary detention. Without a full appreciation for the
errors of our past, we will not be able to provide interrogators with
the training, clear guidance, and professional support they require to
perform their duties humanely and effectively," said Devon Chaffee,
advocacy counsel for Human Rights First.

In October 2008, Human Rights First released "How to End Torture and Cruel Treatment: Blueprint for the Next Administration,"
a detailed blueprint to the new administration on ending torture and
cruel treatment. Among other recommendations, the blueprint advises
investment in effective and humane intelligence gathering, and the
establishment of a nonpartisan commission to investigate the facts
relating to U.S. government detention and interrogation operations
since September 11.

Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.