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:

Obama’s Justice Department: Covering up Outsourcing of Torture and Death

By Kenneth J. Theisen

For those who thought the Obama administration would make a sharp break with Bush regime policies around extraordinary rendition (the policy of transferring prisoners to U.S. allies for torture and interrogation), the argument made by Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ) on February 9, 2009 must have come as quite a shock. DOJ echoed the Bush regime’s legal claims of "preserving state secrets" in a lawsuit against a Boeing subsidiary, Jeppesen DataPlan, for its role in arranging and providing transportation for CIA-kidnapped subjects in the extraordinary rendition program. (For more details on this lawsuit, see my article on this site: “ACLU Sues Boeing Subsidiary for Complicity in CIA’s “Extraordinary Rendition.”)
Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen was brought on behalf of five victims of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. They were kidnapped and secretly transferred to U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence altagencies overseas, where they were tortured during interrogation. In order to cover itself and its various allies in this illegal program, the Bush administration intervened in the case, asserting the "state secrets" privilege and claiming the case would undermine national security if it was allowed to be heard by the court. The Bush regime also wanted to protect the Boeing subsidiary so that private contractors would continue to cooperate in the various illegal “war on terror” programs initiated by various U.S. intelligence agencies after 9/11. The administration further wished to provide political protection to various foreign governments that participated in the extraordinary rendition program. This case, if allowed to proceed, would expose that the Bush regime was deeply involved in torture and death through its secret rendition program. It may also reveal secrets of the Clinton’s administration use of rendition.


ACLU: Justice Dept Stands Behind Bush Secrecy In Extraordinary Rendition Case


February 9, 2009

NEW YORK – The Justice Department today repeated Bush administration claims of "state secrets" in a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan for its role in the extraordinary rendition program. Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen was brought on behalf of five men who were kidnapped and secretly transferred to U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies overseas where they were interrogated under torture. The Bush administration intervened in the case, inappropriately asserting the "state secrets" privilege and claiming the case would undermine national security. Oral arguments were presented today in the American Civil Liberties Union's appeal of the dismissal, and the Obama administration opted not to change the government position in the case, instead reasserting that the entire subject matter of the case is a state secret.


Hunger Strike at Guantanamo

By Andy Worthington

On January 20, the answer to the question “who’s running Guantanamo” seemed obvious. In his inaugural speech, with George W. Bush standing just behind him, President Obama pointedly pledged to “reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals” — a clear indication that, as he promised in a speech in August 2007, he would dismantle the extra-legal aberrations of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror”:
"When I am President, America will reject torture without exception. America is the country that stood against that kind of behavior, and we will do so again … As President, I will close Guantánamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions … We will again set an example to the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary."
The next day, President Obama requested the military judges at Guantánamo to call a halt for four months to all proceedings in the Military Commissions at Guantánamo (the terror trials conceived by Dick Cheney and his close advisers in November 2001), to give the new administration time to review the system and to decide how best to progress with possible prosecutions.


Right to Secrecy Trumps Human Rights?

World Can’t Wait Asks, “Why Should the U.S. Government’s Right to Secrecy Trump the Right of People Not to be Tortured?

Today, five men who were flown in CIA “extraordinary rendition” and subsequently tortured by third countries are asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the case of Mohamed et al v Jeppesen Dataplan Inc.  In 2008, the Bush administration convinced U.S. District Judge James Ware to throw out the case, on the basis that making the information in the lawsuit public would harm U.S. national security.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union have direct testimony of torture from the five who were transported in CIA sponsored flights by Jeppesen Dataplan, a subsidiary of Boeing, and testimony to show that employees of Jeppesen knew they were planning flights in what has become known infamously as the “Torture Taxi.” Binyam Mohamed, says he was seized by the U.S. in Pakistan and tortured before being flown to Morocco and further tortured. He is now imprisoned at the U.S. interrogation camp in Guantanamo. 



Fire and Disbar John Yoo Campaign Arrives in Southern California



John Yoo, the architect of the infamous torture memo, has arrived in Southern California for the Spring 2009 semester at Chapman University Law School .  Carrying on with the work of the Fire John Yoo group in Berkeley, WCW-LA activists and Code Pink-Orange County joined forces on January 30th to “welcome” Yoo at a Chapman conference, "Lincoln's Constitutionalism in Time of War:  Lessons for the War on Terror?" Within minutes of standing in orange jumpsuits at the conference registration table, we were threatened with arrest for trespassing.  Private property trumps human rights! 



Panetta, Holder, Obama, Torture and Nuremberg

By Dennis Loo

In his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday, Leon Panetta, Obama’s pick for the CIA directorship, “said there is no intention to hold CIA officers responsible for the policies they were told to carry out. CIA interrogators who used waterboarding or other harsh techniques against prisoners with the permission of the White House should not be prosecuted.” (Pamela Hess, “Panetta: Obama won’t ok ‘extraordinary rendition,’” The Daily Transcript, February 5, 2009.)
"Individuals,” Panetta said, “who operated pursuant to a legal opinion that indicated that that was proper and legal ought not to be prosecuted or investigated."
This declaration echoes what Eric Holder, the new U.S. Attorney General said in his Senate confirmation testimony: ‘[W]here it is clear that a government agent has acted in ‘reasonable and good-faith reliance on Justice Department legal opinions’ authoritatively permitting his conduct, I would find it difficult to justify commencing a full-blown criminal investigation, let alone a prosecution.”


How Obama's New Rules Keep Torture Intact: The Torture Ban That Doesn't Ban Torture


The Torture Ban That Doesn't Ban Torture 
By Allan Nairn

If you're lying on the slab still breathing, with your torturer hanging over you, you don't much care if he is an American or a mere United States-sponsored trainee.

When President Obama declared flatly this week that "the United States will not torture" many people wrongly believed that he'd shut the practice down, when in fact he'd merely repositioned it.

Obama's Executive Order bans some -- not all -- US officials from torturing but it does not ban any of them, himself included, from sponsoring torture overseas.



Don't Forget Guantanamo

 By Andy Worthington

With 50 prisoners on hunger strike, including British resident Binyam Mohamed, who is apparently “close to death,” dissent from a military judge, a protégée of Dick Cheney still overseeing the Military Commissions, and doubts about loopholes in President Obama’s Presidential orders regarding “extraordinary rendition” and the use of torture, Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, encourages opponents of Guantánamo and the “War on Terror” to remain vigilant.
At first glance, “Don’t Forget Guantánamo” might seem to be an unnecessary headline, given that Barack Obama has been President for only two weeks, and that one of his first acts was to sign a Presidential order declaring that the notorious “War on Terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay will be closed within a year.
However, I believe it is appropriate, not only because such sweeping statements encourage the general public to believe that the closure of Guantánamo is a fait accompli, but also because it has already become apparent that issuing a Presidential order is not the same as immediately addressing the human rights abuses that have dogged the prison’s history, and that, sadly, continue to this day.



National Call-in Days to Release 17 Chinese Muslims from Guantanamo

World Can't Wait endorsed the 100 Days Campaign to Close Guantanamo.
We received this action alert from Witness Against Torture.



Free the Uighurs Campaign at WhitehouseThe Uighurs are members of an intensely persecuted minority in western China and were sold to U.S. forces by bounty hunters. Most of them were cleared by the military of any offense in 2003. In September 2008, the U.S. government formally acknowledged that none of them is an enemy combatant. At present, all three branches of the government have acknowledged that the Uighurs should be released. All 17 have been exonerated by both military and habeas courts, and members of Congress have called for their release to the only place they can go: the United States.

Holding that their continued imprisonment was unlawful, U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ruled in October 2008 that they should be present in his court for release into the United States with appropriate conditions. Detailed arrangements to welcome and support the seventeen men had by then been made by religious and refugee organizations. Further commitment of support has been provided by the Uighur community of well established U.S. citizens in the D.C. area.


Obama Lawyers Set to Defend Yoo

By Josh Gerstein

In Democratic legal circles, no attorney has been more pilloried than former Bush Justice Department official John Yoo, chief author of the so-called torture memos that Barack Obama last week sought to nullify.

John YooBut now President Obama’s incoming crew of lawyers has a new and somewhat awkward job: defending Yoo in federal court.

Next week, Justice Department lawyers are set to ask a San Francisco federal judge to throw out a lawsuit brought against Yoo by Jose Padilla, a New York man held without charges on suspicion of being an Al Qaeda operative plotting to set off a “dirty bomb.”

The suit contends that Yoo’s legal opinions authorized Bush to order Padilla’s detention in a Navy brig in South Carolina and encouraged military officials to subject Padilla to aggressive interrogation techniques, including death threats and long-term sensory deprivation.


Refuting Cheney’s Lies: The Stories of Six Prisoners Released from Guantánamo


By Andy Worthington
In the Bush administration’s “War on Terror,” the gulf between rhetoric and reality was always pronounced, and never more so than when Vice President Dick Cheney spokealt out. Cheney’s lies and distortions were on open display in the last month before his departure from the White House, as he sought to leave his legacy of fear burnished on the nation’s consciousness, and in a final fling he told Rush Limbaugh, in no uncertain terms, that when it came to Guantánamo, “now what’s left, that is the hardcore.”
Cheney’s statement came just days after Judge Richard Leon, an appointee of George W. Bush, had ruled in the habeas corpus review of one of the supposed “hardcore” prisoners  — a Chadian national called Mohammed El-Gharani, who was just 14 years old when he was seized in a random raid on a mosque in Karachi, Pakistan, and was later sold to US forces — that the government had failed to establish a case against El-Gharani, and ordered his release “forthwith.”
Leon ruled that what purported to be evidence had been supplied by two of El-Gharani’s fellow prisoners whose reliability had been called into doubt by government officials, and when it came to a key allegation, which, in Cheney’s version of reality, ought to have bolstered his claims — an allegation that El-Gharani had been part of an al-Qaeda cell in London in 1998 — Leon was particularly dismissive. “Putting aside the obvious and unanswered questions as to how a Saudi minor from a very poor family could have even become a member of a London-based cell,” he wrote, “the Government simply advances no corroborating evidence for these statements it believes to be reliable from a fellow detainee, the basis of whose knowledge is – at best – unknown.”




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.