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 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. ( 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:

Egypt: A Common Destination for U.S. Torture Victims

Interview with Marjorie Cohn by Amanda Bronstad Torture victims

On Feb. 11, outgoing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned, leaving the country's government under military rule and its hopes for democracy uncertain. Also unclear is whether the country's history of human rights abuses and torture will continue in Egypt, according to Marjorie Cohn, editor and co-author of The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse. The book, published last month, is a collection of essays on torture in various countries, including Egypt.

Cohn, who is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past president of the National Lawyers Guild, talked to The National Law Journal about her new book's relevance in light of the recent events in Egypt. This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

NLJ: Why did you decide to publish this book?

MC: I had been researching and writing and speaking about the policy of torture and abuse that came to light during the Bush administration. So I collected a number of people from different disciplines to write chapters that would shed light on different aspects of this problem of torture and the U.S. involvement in it. Unfortunately, people don't get the full picture from the mass media about what the United States is doing — the policy of cruel treatment set during the Bush administration and the history of U.S. involvement in torture, which goes way back.


Guantánamo: Obama Returns to the Days of Bush’s Kangaroo Courts and Worthless Tribunals

By Andy Worthington  Close Guantanamo Now

Those of us who have been studying Guantánamo closely were not surprised when, on March 7, President Obama announced that he was lifting a banon trials by Military Commission at Guantánamo, which he imposed on his first day in office in January 2009.

On that day Obama also issued an executive order establishing a periodic review of the cases of prisoners recommended for continued indefinite detention without charge or trial by the Guantánamo Review Task Force, a group of 60 officials and lawyers, from government department and the intelligence agencies, who reviewed all the Guantánamo cases in 2009.


Peace Prize Torture

By Margaret Kimberley Free Brad Manning

The United States, governed by a Nobel Peace Prize winner, tortures political prisoners. That truth is on display for all the world to see, in the treatment of Wikileaks defendant Private Bradley Manning, who is stripped naked every night in an effort to crush his psyche.
“The enemy is anyone, anywhere who dares to consider revealing the truth about how this country actually conducts itself around the world.”


The Sustained Torment of Bradley Manning

By libbyliberal  Bradley Manning

(Excerpted from an article that first appeared on the site Corrente)
The placement of human beings in solitary confinement is not a measure of their depravity. It is a measure of our own.
-Lynn Parramore
Bradley Manning is being tortured for our sins.
For the sins of us American citizens, many of us of limited courage, conscience and/or consciousness.
He is also being tortured -- the torturous “killing of the messenger” -- for the appalling and vast sins of the amoral rulers of this country, who are responsible for gratuitous (although they don’t consider them gratuitous if there are corporate profits involved) massive deaths and massive suffering of human beings around the globe.
The powers that be who abandoned honor and morality long ago. The ones who think that might not only makes “right” but also should protect them from any millisecond of “embarrassment” or “unease” on being called on their corrupt cronyism, narcissism, violence, venality, and so often grotesque incompetence.


Obama: Military Trials Again at Guantanamo; Indefinite Detention Now Official US Policy

Gitmo flag

By Kenneth J. Theisen

The Obama administration announced on Monday, March 7th that it will resume kangaroo trials at the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This ends a two-year ban imposed by President Obama the day after he took office. Back then he also announced that he was ordering the closure of Gitmo which in the eyes of the world had come to symbolize torture and the abuse of due process for the prisoners held in the U.S. war of terror. Of course Gitmo is still open and the atrocities it came to represent continue there and at other U.S.-run hellholes such as the expanded prison at Bagram, Afghanistan.


Spanish Court Gives Go-Ahead for Guantánamo Torture Investigation to Continue

Torture is a crimeBy Andy Worthington

On Friday, the Spanish National Court (Audiencia Nacional) gave hope to those seeking to hold accountable the Bush administration officials and lawyers who authorized torture by agreeing to continue investigating allegations made by a Moroccan-born Spanish resident, Lahcen Ikassrien, that he was tortured at Guantánamo, where he was held from 2002 to 2005.


Spanish Judges Rule Case on US Torture Can Continue

Received from the Center for Constitutional Rights:

Center for Constitutional Rights Hails Major Victory for Accountability
Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

February 25, 2011, New York – In response to news that the full panel of Judges of the Audencia Nacional (Spain’s High Court) rejected a Spanish prosecutor’s effort to stop an investigation into the role of  US officials for torture on Guantanamo, the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has submitted many papers in this and a related case in Spain, released the following statement:


First US Film Festival Date: “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” Screens at the D.C. Independent Film Festival, March 5

By Andy Worthington Guantanamo

I’m delighted to report that, on March 5, 2011, at 3 pm (venue to be announced), the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (which I co-directed with filmmaker Polly Nash) will be shown at the D.C. Independent Film Festival, which runs from March 3 to 13 at various venues in the D.C. area. Although the film was released 18 months ago, this is its first screening as part of a US film festival.

The timing could not be more appropriate, as, despite promising to close Guantánamo within a year, President Obama spectacularly failed to do so, and is now presiding over a prison that may never close, as either the administration itself, or Congress or one particular branch of the judiciary (the D.C. Circuit Court in Washington D.C.) has made sure that it is almost impossible for any of the 172 prisoners currently held at Guantánamo to be released, even if, as with 89 of them, they were approved for release by a special interagency Task Force convened by the President.


Cables: FBI trained Egypt’s state security ‘torturers’

"Thousands" of protesters may have been tortured: report

By Daniel Tencer

Egypt's secret police, long accused of torturing suspects and intimidating political opponents of President Hosni Mubarak, received training at the FBI's facility in Quantico, Virginia, even as US diplomats compiled allegations of brutality against them, according to US State Department cables released by WikiLeaks.


Guantánamo Prisoner Dies After Being Held for Nine Years Without Charge or Trial

In GuantanamoBy Andy Worthington

The Second World War lasted for six years, and at the end of it prisoners of war were released to resume their lives. At Guantánamo, on the other hand, the prison has just marked the ninth anniversary of its opening, and on Thursday the Pentagon announced that Awal Gul, a 48-year old Afghan prisoner, who had been held for nine years without charge or trial and was scheduled to be held forever, died in a shower after suffering a heart attack. Gul had never been held as a prisoner of war, and despite the US government’s assertions that he could be held forever, no one in a position of authority — neither President Bush nor President Obama — had ever adequately demonstrated that he constituted a threat to the United States.



World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.