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:

No Appetite for Prosecution: In Memoir, Bush Admits He Authorized the Use of Torture, But No One Cares

Bush's BookBy Andy Worthington

With just days to go before George W. Bush’s memoir, Decision Points, hits bookstores (on November 9), and with reports on the book’s contents doing the rounds after review copies were made available to the New York Times and Reuters, it will be interesting to see how many media outlets allow the former President the opportunity to try to salvage his reputation, how many are distracted by his spat with Kanye West or his claim that he thought about replacing Dick Cheney as Vice President in 2004, and how many decide that, on balance, it would be more honest to remind readers and viewers of the former President’s many crimes — including the illegal invasion of Iraq, and the authorization of the use of torture on “high-value detainees” seized in the “War on Terror.” 

Read more...

US Mid-Term Elections: The Death of Hope and Change

ObamaBy Andy Worthington

To be brutally honest, those of us concerned with “national security” issues (indefinite detention without charge or trial at Guantánamo and elsewhere, trials by Military Commission and accountability for the Bush administration’s torturers) and foreign policy (the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) could tell by May 2009 that “hope” and “change” were dead in the water.

Whereas Barack Obama had never disguised his desire to step up the military occupation of Afghanistan, while scaling down operations in Iraq, he had promised — or had seemed to promise — a thorough repudiation of the detention policies at Guantánamo and Bagram, and the coercive interrogations and torture that had stalked their cells and interrogation rooms.

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Report on the Berkeley Says No to Torture Week

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redstarphoto.net

By Stephanie Tang and Curt Wechsler

"Berkeley Says No To Torture" Week was one of those special moments people will remember for a long time to come.

It began as a local grassroots project, yet it turned into the largest, most diverse gathering of anti-torture experts and activists in one mega-event since the Bush Regime began its 'War on Terror' nine years ago.  For seven days straight, this team brought the truth about torture out into the light of day, drawing serious, eager audiences to all our dynamic forums, protests, and cultural events.

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Petraeus and the Wolf Brigade: Torture Built into US War Strategy

By Gareth Porter

A newly released WikiLeaks document on Iraq and the new political alignment between Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki both provide fresh evidence that Gen. David Petraeus’s war against Shi’ite militias in 2007-2008 was a futile exercise.

The WikiLeaks document is an intelligence report identifying the Shi’ite commander who Petraeus said was the Iranian-backed rogue militia leader behind the kidnapping and killing of five U.S. troops in Karbala in January 2007. In fact, according to the leaked document, it was a Mahdi Army commander.

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In Omar Khadr’s Sentencing Phase, US Government Introduces Islamophobic “Expert” and Irrelevant Testimony

By Andy WorthingtonOmar Khadr

This has been a very poor week for American justice. On Monday, the Obama administration secured a plea deal in the trial by Military Commission of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, who was 15 years old when he was seized by US forces in July 2002. As a result, the United States has become the first supposedly civilized country since the Second World War to secure the conviction of a former child prisoner, even though, under the terms of the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which the US ratified in December 2002, signatories are obliged to “[r]ecogniz[e] the special needs of those children who are particularly vulnerable to recruitment or use in hostilities,” and are to ensure “the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict.” To make it absolutely clear, the Optional Protocol deals with the treatment of juvenile prisoners — those who are under 18 at the time that their alleged crimes take place.

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“Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week: Day Five – Humanizing Torture Victims and Fighting for the Soul of America (+ Videos)

Andy WorthingtonBy Andy Worthington

In the five years that I have spent researching Guantánamo and writing about it, my aims have been simple: to close Guantánamo (with the remaining 174 prisoners either released or put forward for federal court trials), to make sure no experimental prison like Guantánamo is ever allowed to exist again, and to hold accountable those who conceived it, and who attempted to justify its existence and its use for arbitrary detention, coercive interrogation and torture.

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“The Giant John Yoo Debate” at “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week, October 12, 2010

By Andy Worthington

Just up on YouTube (and posted here) are three edits of “The Giant John Yoo Debate,” which took place last Tuesday as part of “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week. This excellent piece of political theater involved a group of legal experts and activists, introduced by Stephanie Tang of the World Can’t Wait, and led by Sharon Adams of the National Lawyers Guild (San Francisco), responding to filmed statements and interviews with John Yoo, the UC Berkeley law professor who wrote the notorious “torture memos” in August 2002, which purported to redefine torture so that it could be used by the CIA (and then by the US military).

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Torture @ Guantanamo: Effects on Detainees & Soldiers

The Guantanamo Files: Stories of the 774 Men in American's Illegal Prison

By Debra Sweet

The Berkeley Says NO to Torture Week began Sunday October 10 with a book talk by Andy Worthington who wrote The Guantanamo Files:The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison, and Justine Sharrock, author of Tortured: When Good Soldiers Do Bad Things.  Even for people who have followed the US detention of men at Guantanamo, the stories of the real people involved; both those detained, and those who were part of the functioning, are eye-opening and heart-breaking.

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Bush Official Gave Legal Cover to Detainee Experimentation Program

 By Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye 

 
In 2002, as the Bush administration was turning to torture and other brutal techniques for interrogating "war on terror" detainees, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz loosened rules against human experimentation, an apparent recognition of legal problems regarding the novel strategies for extracting and evaluating information from the prisoners.
 
Wolfowitz issued his directive on March 25, 2002, about a month after President George W. Bush stripped the detainees of traditional prisoner-of-war protections under the Geneva Conventions. Bush labeled them "unlawful enemy combatants" and authorized the CIA and the Department of Defense (DoD) to undertake brutal interrogations.

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About

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.