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Thomas Buergenthal, 81, was for ten years a judge on the International Criminal Court (ICC). Last July he said the architects of systematic torture in the G.W. Bush Administration, particularly Dick Cheney, will eventually be prosecuted. President Obama admitted last year that “we tortured some folks,” which he knows is both a federal crime under the Federal Torture Act and a violation of the Convention Against Torture.
Judge Buergenthall told Newsweek that “some of us have long thought that Cheney, and a number of CIA agents who did what they did in those so-called black [sites], should appear before the ICC.” As if to taunt the Fates, Cheney has said about waterboarding, “I’d do it again in a minute.”
Additionally, according to two Senate reports, one in 2009 from the Armed Services Committee, and one in 2014 from the Intelligence Committee, the America Psychological Association (APA) acted in the Bush/Cheney torture program as enablers. Singled out by name were the psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen who designed US military and CIA torture methods and “were instrumental in persuading the CIA to adopt stress positions, temperature and dietary manipulation, sleep deprivation and waterboarding in interrogations,” the Guardian reports.
The APA asked US attorney David Hoffman to investigate complaints by some of its members over “collusion with the Bush administration to promote, support or facilitate” torture. The APA’s strict code of conduct forbids its members from aiding in the torture, although the rules permit involvement with military interrogations. In July, Hoffman completed his report, and the APA’s ethics chief Stephen Behnk -- who stifled internal dissent over the collusion, nixed ethics complaints, and manipulated membership resolutions and voting – quickly resigned.
Another APA member, former US Army Reserve Major John Leso, was investigated by the APA itself for his participation in the torture of Mohammed al-Qahtani at Guantanamo Bay. The abuse included forcible intravenous hydration that continued until Qahtani urinated on himself.
The government knows who committed the crimes – and who destroyed video tape evidence -- but not only has Obama ignored them, but his administration stands accused of actively hampering investigations into secret CIA torture sites. Poland says the US has repeatedly snubbed its requests for critical documents, including the Senate Intelligence Committee report, about a “black” site run there. In another CIA dungeon, Majid Khan, captured in 2003, was hung naked from a bean for three days, submerged in an ice bath, and suffered anal rape in what interrogators called “rectal feeding.” Ammar al-Baluchi was nicked in Pakistan and moved to a secret CIA prison where agents held his head under water, repeatedly beat him with a truncheon, and slammed his head against the wall. The Senate found that 26 prisoners were tortured this way but had no ties to terrorism.
The only CIA officer ever prosecuted in this ongoing scandal was John Kiriakou, the whistleblower who divulged the CIA torture in 2007, and who was imprisoned for two years. Both Kiriakou and Jihad Amed Mujstafa Diyab are owed official pardons by Obama. Diyab is a Syrian who’s been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay since 2002; he was cleared for release (without being accused of a crime) in 2009, but is still there.
Diyab is being brutalized, like many others there, with the infliction of “force-feeding” because of his long-lasting hunger strike. Steven Miles, a U of M Professor of Medicine, told the New York Times that being strapped into a restraint chair and having a tube pushed into your nose and down to your stomach is painful to endure. Dr. Miles says the prison has turned force feeding into “a penal strategy dressed up to look a medical procedure.” A lawyer for Diyab, Eric Lewis, told a federal court last October that the force-feeding constitutes torture because it inflicts “additional and gratuitous suffering” in order to compel prisoners to stop protesting.
The UN Human Rights Committee has called for further investigations into the US’s “unlawful killings and the use of torture in overseas operations.” The UN Committee Against Torture has raised grave concerns over the US’s current interrogation rules, its failure to fully investigate allegations of torture, and the “draconian system of secrecy” and indefinite detention without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay.
A full accounting and criminal investigation of the torture regime must be made, including disclosure of video tapes of CIA interrogations under Bush and of force-feeding under Obama. There is no other way to demonstrate that US presidents are bound by law, to ensure that such crimes aren’t repeated, to recover the right to condemn torture by other states, and to reduce the chances that captured US soldiers won’t be tortured using the same sickening rationale that Cheney still spews on Sunday talk shows.