Torture and Detention

Frequently Asked Questions (scroll down for article archives and further resources)

"If anyone acts like they don't know their government is torturing people on a widespread and systematic scale, they are choosing NOT to know. We have to continue to lead people to act against this -- going out to people, into classes, to institutions, and on worldcantwait.org. Too many people have learned to accept this, there is not nearly enough opposition to the revelations about these top level torture meetings -- but this is something that can change quickly if a beginning core acts with moral clarity..." -Debra Sweet, Director of World Can't Wait

Indefinite Detention and Torture Under ObamaDownload this flier

Torture + Silence = Complicity!

Act Now to Stop Torture!

Has Obama put an end to torture, rendition, and indefinite detention? Facts you need to know:

1. Obama admits Bush officials tortured, but refuses to prosecute them.

Cheney has bragged about authorizing water boarding of detainees. In January 2009, Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, that he believed water boarding was torture. Torture is a violation of Geneva Conventions. The Obama administration is, therefore, not only morally, but legally, required to prosecute Bush Regime officials for torture.

2. Under Obama, the U.S. is still holding detainees without charges or trial.

During the campaign Obama declared habeas corpus to be “the foundation of Anglo-American law.”Habeas corpus is your right to challenge your detention. It is a 900-year- old right. Without habeas corpus there are no restraints on a government’s powers to detain and punish.

Contrary to his rhetoric, the Obama administration is continuing the Bush Regime’s policies of denying prisoners habeas corpus rights and has even adopted the same arguments made by Bush. In February 2009, the Obama administration declared in Federal Court that it would not grant habeas corpus rights to detainees in U.S. custody in Bagram, Afghanistan.

In March 2009 Obama’s Justice Department claimed that Guantanamo prisoners who were detained before June 2008 had no habeas corpus rights. On May 21, 2010 the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Obama administration, holding that three prisoners who are being held by the U. S. at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan cannot challenge their detention in U.S. courts.

3. Don’t be fooled just because Obama isn’t using the term “enemy combatant”

The Obama administration will no longer use the term “enemy combatant,” but it’s a change in name only: in the same court filing in which it made this announcement, Obama’s Justice Department made clear that it would continue to detain prisoners at Guantanamo without charge. As the NY Times put it:

[T]he [Obama] Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, Obama’s executive orders do not ban indefinite detention. In addition, at his confirmation hearing, Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder said: “There are possibly many other people who are not going to be able to be tried but who nevertheless are dangerous to this country… We’re going to have to try to figure out what we do with them.” Holder suggested prisoners could be detained for the length of their war of terror which, as we know, has no set end point.

4. Guantanamo is still open. The prison at Bagram is growing and torture is being committed.

According to Reuters, abuse of prisoners worsened shortly after the election of Obama:

Abuses began to pick up in December 2008 after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.”

Earlier this year Scott Horton reported in Harper’s Magazine on three murders of detainees in 2006 at Guantanamo that the military tried to cover up as suicides. More is coming out about torture at Bagram Detention Center in Afghanistan. Recently Andy Worthington reported on the detention and torture of three teenagers in his article, “Torture and the ‘Black’Prison,” or What Obama is Doing at Bagram (Part One).”

On June 7, 2010 Chris Floyd of Empire Burlesque wrote that under the Bush Regime medical personnel experimented on detainees to prove that the techniques used did not constitute torture. The chilling history of Nazi medical experimentation on those in concentration camps lurks in this revelation. (http://chris-floyd.com/articles/1-latest-news/1976- echoes-of-mengele-medical-experiments-torture-and- continuity-in-the-american-gulag.html)

This is a violation of Geneva Conventions and there is evidence that these experiments are going on under Obama.

5. Obama is continuing rendition.

During his confirmation hearing, new CIA director Leon Panetta made it clear the Obama administration will continue rendition. Rendition is the practice of kidnapping somebody in one country and shipping them to another country for detention. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), said “Rendition is a violation of sovereignty. It’s a kidnapping. It’s force and violence…Once you open the door to rendition, you’re opening the door, essentially, to a lawless world.”

Obama supporters have attempted to draw the distinction between this practice and “extraordinary rendition,” defined as the practice of transferring somebody to another country knowing that they will be tortured. During his confirmation hearing, Leon Panetta said that under the Bush administration, “There were efforts by the CIA to seek and to receive assurances that those individuals would not be mistreated.” So Panetta is embracing the practices of the Bush Regime by continuing rendition!

Panetta then added, “I will seek the same kind of assurances that those individuals will not be mistreated.” (emphasis added)

Articles on Torture and Detention:

New & Urgent Campaign to Save Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo

Debra Sweet | November 24, 2014

SandyWe Stand With Shaker is a new campaign calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, a legal British resident, with a British wife and four British children, who is still held at Guantánamo, even though he has twice been approved for release by the US authorities -- under President Bush in 2007 and under President Obama in 2009. In addition, the British government has been calling for his return since 2007.

Read more...

Would you think it was the job of psychologists or journalists to expose criminal activity?

Debra Sweet | November 18, 2014

After many years of protest from within the organization, the American Psychological Association says it will review the organization's role in facilitating “enhanced interrogation” by the CIA and the U.S. military.

Or as the world knows it — torture.

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Humor, Humanity from Guantanamo Prisoners

Debra Sweet | November 11, 2014

Illustration by ​​James BurgessVice, the youth-oriented news/culture site, has broken new ground this week in featuring a series on Guantanamo. Extradordinary, because it gives voice to prisoners and disaffected former guards.  See "What Happens When I Try to Give My Guantánamo Guards Presents" by prisoner Enad Hassan, and My Time as a Guantanamo Bay Guard by Terry Holdbrooks.

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The Torture Issue Won't Go Away - We Won't Go Away Either

Debra Sweet | October 29, 2014

As 12 Nobel Peace Prize winners call on Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama to release the long-awaited report on torture that the Senate conducted, and the Obama administration debates codifying key aspects of Bush doctrine which allowed torture on foreign soil, it's worthwhile to analyze why this has continued to be such a unsolvable problem for the rulers of the U.S.

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Connection Between Honorable Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, Supreme Court of Canada, Berkeley Law Dean Sujit Choudhry and Berkeley Law faculty member John Yoo

Omar Khadr

Sharon Adams | September 14, 2014

The Facts:

Constitutional scholar Sujit Choudhry represented Omar Khadr, a 15-year old boy removed from Afghanistan* and rendered to Guantanamo in 2002, in a case heard by Justice Abella and the other Justices of the Canadian Supreme Court. John Yoo is infamously known for writing the legal memos stating that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to so-called "enemy combatants" detained in Guantanamo and other black sites outside of the United States.

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The Nazis Had Their Law Professors Too, John Yoo

Debra Sweet | September 2, 2014

Intense world events have again eclipsed news of the Guantanamo prisoners, meaning that their situation grows worse. No wave of releases has followed Obama's promise in May 2013 to once again close it. Andy Worthington reported Friday in Guantanamo Violence: Prisoners Report Shaker Aamer "Beaten," Another Man Assaulted "For Nearly Two Hours":

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John Yoo and The Senate Torture Report

Ralph E. Stone | August 22, 2014

John Yoo authored the Torture Memos used to justify torture of human beings by the Bush Administration

Professor John Yoo stepped away from his lectern at the UC Berkeley School of Law to send an e-mail to the San Francisco Chronicle criticizing the forthcoming Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) torture report saying that if "torture was used and it didn't work, she [Senator Dianne Feinstein] is flat wrong." Yoo claimed the report failed to maintain "bipartisanship" that "will undermine its conclusions."

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Detainees Held at Bagram Air Base Without Charge for Ten Years Transferred to Yemen

International Justice Network | August 26, 2014

New York, NY. The International Justice Network (IJN) is delighted to announce that two of its clients,Fadi al-Maqaleh and Amin al-Bakri, have been released from Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, were they had been imprisoned without charge for over a decade. On the evening of August 25, 2014, the U.S. government transferred the two Yemeni nationals to the custody and control of the Yemeni government.  The transfer is the first time that a detainee has been transferred from U.S. military custody to Yemen since 2010.

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NEWS FLASH: Obama Admits the Obvious

Dennis Loo | August 2, 2014

Yesterday Obama admitted that the US government “tortured some folks.” Obama’s comments are sparking alarm among reactionaries and praise from liberals that he’s admitted what virtually the whole world already knows.

As Amanda Carpenter, Ted Cruz’s speechwriter, for example, tweeted:

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Six Reasons Why UC Berkeley Should Investigate John Yoo Instead of Honoring Him - Or, Silence is Complicity

Sharon Adams | July 22, 2014

John YooJohn Yoo, currently on the faculty of the Berkeley Law school at the University of California, is the primary author of the torture memos. Yoo is less well known as the sole author of legal memos authorizing the President's Surveillance Program (PSP), allegedly justifying warrantless wiretapping of US citizens.

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