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:

This Could Have Been Written Yesterday

Curt Wechsler | January 16, 2016

Karen Greenberg has been on Obama's case a long time. As well she should. The author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days reflected: 

"Above all, Obama has refused to punish those who designed, justified, carried out, and covered up torture. Without accountability, there is little to deter future government lawyers from fashioning opinions to suit the exigent needs of their president, as John Yoo did for Bush. Some of those who had a part in building these programs have confessed to me their remorse, and the way their participation keeps them up at night, but this sorrow remains as secret as the programs once were. And all of them, remorseful or not, are free to pursue their careers and, if called upon, to comment, as Dick Cheney and Yoo still sometimes are, to defend torture as a useful weapon in the war on terror."


'Torture Memos' Author John Yoo Belongs in Prison, Not Mentoring the Next Generation of Lawyers and Judges

World Can't Wait, San Franciso Chapter, October 19, 2016

inky yoo protest.jpg2-thumb-250x366-2738Not only is the professor still walking around free, the University of California fawns over law school employee John Yoo, criminal proponent for lawless detention policy that resulted in the torture and death of scores of illegally held prisoners of U.S. war of terror on the Middle East.


None of Us Are Immune to the Violence of This System: Stop Mass Incarceration! Prosecute War Criminals!

World Can't Wait, San Franciso Chapter, October 19, 2016

yoosuperpicket 250 141-thumb-125x70-2750What happens when you fail to prosecute key government contractors for war crimes and crimes against humanity?


Mohamedou Slahi, author of Guantanamo Diary, Arrives home in Mauritania from GTMO

Debra Sweet | October 19. 2016

slahihomeWe got to know Mohamedou Slahi through his persistence, and his writing. He is one of the few men held in Guantanamo who turned himself in to the U.S. in 2002 for questioning, knowing that he was not in support of al-Qaeda. This led to a nightmare of more than 14 years. With his departure, there are now 60 men still held, 20 of which are "cleared" for release.


"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons"

Curt Wechsler of | September 26, 2016

"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons," wrote Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky in The House of the Dead. The cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment — torture — inflicted on disfranchised subjects, from Pelican Bay in California to Bagram, Afghanistan, must not only end; the presumption of American immunity to international law must be repudiated. Dismantling of U.S. torture camps can't wait. And that is up to us.


He Will Never Be Allowed To Tell What They Did To Him

Debra Sweet | August 26, 2016

abu zubaydahAbu Zubaydah is the "poster child for the torture program, and that’s why they never want him to be heard from again,” said Joseph Margulies, his attorney.

Andy Worthington, who has written many articles on Zubaydah over 10 years, summarizes:


Close Guantanamo Never... or Expand It?

Debra Sweet | August 16, 2016

Trump's plan:

Asked about Guantánamo in the past, Trump has said he would like to “load it up with bad dudes.” He wouldn’t specify to the Herald whether as president he would again allow terrorism suspects captured abroad to be transferred to the detention center.


From Please Send in Photos Reminding President Obama that, on U.S. Independence Day, He Has Just 200 Days Left to Close Guantanamo

Debra Sweet | July 5, 2016

closegitmo0605This Sunday, July 3, President Obama will have just 200 days left of his presidency; 200 days, in other words, to fulfill the promise he made, on his second day in office, to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay. On January 22, 2009, he actually promised to close Guantánamo within a year, but although it is now nearly seven and a half years since that promise, it remains important for President Obama’s legacy that he does all he can to fulfill his promise before he leaves office.


New Revelations of CIA Torture—and the Terrible Consequences of U.S. Role in the World

Revolution Newspaper | June 20, 2016

The first and second of Bob Avakian’s “3 Things that have to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better” (May 1, 2016) are (1) “People have to fully confront the actual history of this country and its role in the world up to today, and the terrible consequences of this,” and (2) “People have to dig seriously and scientifically into how this system of capitalism-imperialism actually works, and what this actually causes in the world.”


An Aging Muslim Prisoner, Jailed For 23 Years After FBI Entrapment, Petitions For Presidential Clemency

Carol Dudek | June 21, 2016

Mohammed Saleh was a co-defendant in the 1993 seditious conspiracy case, US v Rahman.  Known as the “landmarks bombing” case, it was the test-trial for the concept of preemptive prosecutions.  The FBI paid over $1 million to an informant, Emad Salem, an Egyptian national, entrap 19 men and create a bombing conspiracy. The government, embarrassed at its failure to prevent the bombing of the WTC months earlier, would rather indict innocent men than allow the possibility of another bombing. See Project Salam’s study on premeptive prosecution 


3 Indications of U.S. "Commitment to Justice & Accountability" Over Torture

Debra Sweet | June 16, 2016

gitmonotclosing1. It's Official: Obama Is NOT Closing Guantanamo

Reuters reported this week that the Obama administration has quietly ceased efforts to Close Guantanamo.



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.