Tuesday, July 5, 2011

No Accounting For Torture

The headline in the New York Times exclaimed Justice Dept. to Widen 2 C.I.A. Inquiries, referring to the continuing investigation of two suspected terrorists who died in C.I.A. custody, one at Abu Ghraib in 2003 and one in 2002 in an Afghan prison.  That's it.  Two token investigations, albeit for two grotesque cases, are subject to inquiry.  Meanwhile, investigation into the deaths of over 100 other detainees are unceremoniously dropped.

As Glenn Greenwald put it, this means there will be no accountability for a Bush regime that "extended to numerous prisons around the world, in which tens of thousands of mostly Muslim men were indefinitely imprisoned without a whiff of due process, and included a network of secret prisons -- "black sites" -- purposely placed beyond the monitoring reach of even international human rights groups, such as the International Red Cross" and no accountability for the 100 detainees who died during U.S. interrogations.

“With the approval of the Bush administration’s most senior officials, the C.I.A. operated an interrogation program that subjected prisoners to unimaginable cruelty and violated both international and domestic law,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the ACLU. “The narrow investigation that Attorney General Holder announced today is not proportionate to the scale and scope of the wrongdoing.

And that, of course, is the problem.  The narrow scope of the investigation focused on low level operatives and not the officials who approved the program.  In addition, as Adam Serwer observes, Obama further undermined the investigation's independence when he "argued that the country needed to 'look forward,' . . . suggesting that criminal investigations should be subordinate to the president’s whim rather than the facts and the law."

And not only have the Bush officials who "sanctioned torture escaped civil and professional consequences," but the Obama Administration, as Greenwald points out, shielded "those responsible for some of the most shameful and inexcusable crimes in the nation's history . . . from all other forms of accountability beyond the criminal realm: invoking secrecy and immunity doctrines to prevent their victims from imposing civil liability, exploiting their party's control of Congress to suppress formal inquiries, and pressuring and coercing other nations not to investigate their own citizens' torture at American hands."

What is so wrong about this is not only that those responsible for torture are being let off the hook.  As Serwer writes, "the absence of strong legal barriers to torture and the deterrent factor of criminal or civil accountability," make if far more likely that torture could again become American policy.  Thus, even assuming the Obama Administration won't sanction torture and violate human rights, what is to stop the next Administration when there has been no true reckoning?


Post a Comment