Guard Against the Guardians
by Tom Porteous
28 Apr 09 | HRW
President Obama visited the CIA headquarters this week to try to reassure staff that their intelligence-gathering work would not be compromised by the release of the so-called ‘torture’ memos. But the revelations cast a shadow over the work of the US intelligence service and its allies.
Last week’s release of four top-secret United States Justice Department memos on torture demonstrates the readiness of the new administration to swap the secrecy and lies that have surrounded the treatment of terrorism suspects by the US Government in the past six years for some transparency and truth. But that should not be the end of it. Truth is no substitute for accountability.
It’s true that the memos do not reveal much that is new about the global network of detention and interrogation facilities established by the CIA in the aftermath of 9/11, where terrorism suspects were secretly and routinely subjected to torture for more than six years. The broad outlines, and many of the details, of the Bush administration’s torture policy, implemented at “black sites” in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and in former Soviet-era facilities in Eastern Europe, have been known for some time. They have emerged bit by bit from leaked documents, from the testimony of former and current detainees, from military investigations, congressional hearings, and from the investigative reporting of journalists and human rights organisations.
But the torture memos, released by President Obama in response to litigation under the Freedom of Information Act by the American Civil Liberties Union, provide a chilling sense of the immoral arguments and discussions within the Bush administration, which led to the authorisation of techniques of interrogation that violated international and domestic laws and, in some cases, amounted to torture. >>>