MINNEAPOLIS (Dec. 9, 2014) — Tackling Torture at the Top, the T3 Committee of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) issued a statement Tuesday saying it is gratified to finally witness the release of a redacted summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Report.
Our “T3” committee of anti-torture activists was founded more than a decade ago when the first reports of torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo began to surface. Our nation has had a long wait for real investigation, truthfulness, and accountability for one of the most egregious type of war crimes – termed a “jus cogens” crime because there is no possible legal justification for torture under the rule of law. This 6,000-page report has taken six years to be released, costing taxpayers more than $40 million. We trust this will inspire the important national discussion and public debate, which, if allowed to develop, may prevent a recurrence of such horrific war crimes perpetrated in the name of the U.S.
Pandora’s Box was opened. It’s difficult to put the evil back inside, but that is what must be done. We underscore former Vice President Walter Mondale’s wisdom: Torture should not be “like a loaded gun laid on the table for anyone to come along and use.” He’s repeated this warning over several years when hosting national security experts, many of whom were former government officials who witnessed how the box of evils was opened after Sept. 11, 2001.
We believe the Senate Committee was especially intelligent to realize they needed to demonstrate how the use of torture tactics are not merely unethical and illegal, but also how such tactics are totally ineffective and unwise as a matter of policy. The use of torture not only failed to obtain timely and accurate intelligence information, but actually resulted in false confessions that were used to gin up launching the unjustified and illegal war upon Iraq. Additionally, the blowback from U.S. use of torture has increased recruitment of terrorist groups and resulted in the deaths of numerous soldiers and other U.S. citizens because terrorists and insurgents could then point to the U.S. as having itself destroyed the previously well-ingrained rule of law and international prohibition upon use of torture.
Our T3 Committee’s concerns remain, however. This Report alone, since it deals mostly with relatively low-level (usually called “rogue”) instances of torture by CIA contractors, will not effectively ferret out the orders and “legal” architecture coming from “the Top” – from the politicians who granted the “green light” to those on the lower levels of the CIA and military hierarchies who then actually committed the war crimes. Already the news is full of Bush Administration officials strategizing as to whether to “circle the wagons” or to “throw CIA operatives under the bus” in an attempt to avoid blame. There are even reports that former Vice President Dick Cheney (the main torture architect) is voicing indignation that former President Bush is attempting to distance himself from the orders to commit torture.
It must also be noted that a Minnesota connection exists. Apparently many of the early so-called “torture memos” of the Bush Administration were authored by Robert Delahunty, who currently teaches law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and his then Office of Legal Counsel colleague John Yoo. The “torture memos” attempted to create a “get out of jail free” defense for the politicians who ordered torture. Bush Administration officials believed, if and when their having ordered acts of torture and cruel and inhumane abuse was discovered, they might point to this series of memos. The post-9/11 OLC memos claimed the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the “war on terror” and most were based on the notion that the President possessed unlimited unilateral “Commander in Chief” war presidency powers to override normal Constitutional law.
In addition to calling for more truthfulness about the responsibility of those at the top who gave the orders and concocted spurious “legalization” of torture defenses, our T3 Committee points to the analysis and recommendations recently set forth at “Just Security,” entitled “Disappearing People and Disappearing the Evidence: The Deeper Significance of the SSCI Report” (http://justsecurity.org/14054/ guest-post-disappearing- people-disappearing-evidence- deeper-significance-ssci- report/) written by Katherine Hawkins, the main investigator for the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment. Significantly, Hawkins writes, and our T3 Committee agrees with, the following:
On August 12, in response to these developments, twenty public interest organizations sent a letter to President Obama asking him to take three concrete steps:
1.Replace John Brennan as CIA Director;
2.Declassify the CIA Inspector General’s report on the CIA’s searches of Senate computers;
3.Remove the excessive redactions of the Executive Summary of the Senate torture report, and declassify the full report.
We expect that the first of these requests will receive the most attention. But the other two are every bit as important. The problem did not begin with John Brennan, nor will it end with him, even if he resigns or is fired. The problem is that no bureaucracy can be trusted with the power to disappear people, torture them, and then disappear the evidence of these abuses.
As our Committee name indicates, we believe that, in order to fully put the evil back into the box, torture and other war crimes must be “tackled at the top.”