Apr 20, 2009
Facing a deadline in a Freedom of Information lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Obama administration released four secret legal memos written by Bush administration lawyers authorizing the use of torture.
The documents made explicit that the Bush administration approved the systematic use of torture methods by the CIA, including waterboarding, the slamming of detainees into walls and prolonged sleep deprivation. Obama condemned the Bush policies as “a dark and painful chapter in our history.” But then he quickly added he intended NOT to pursue an investigation: “Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”
In protecting the lawyers Obama thus protected those who gave the orders to torture: Bush and Cheney. This refusal to hold anyone to account was in keeping with the stance Obama had earlier taken on torture. With a lot of fanfare, he announced in January that he had ordered the closing of Guantanamo and of the CIA’s secret prisons, the halting of military commission trials, and the restriction of CIA interrogators to Army Field Manual techniques, which was taken to mean an end of torture.
But later, behind the scenes, in testimony to Congress, Obama’s solicitor general and his CIA director revealed that the U.S. would continue to use “extraordinary rendition,” that is, the transfer of prisoners, including U.S. citizens, to other countries where military regimes regularly employ torture. Furthermore, according to CIA director Leon Panetta, if the approved army interrogation techniques were not “sufficient,” other methods, i.e. torture, could be used. Prisoners would continue to be held “indefinitely” without charges.
Prosecuting Bush and Cheney might have set a nasty precedent when the nefarious activities of the Obama administration come to light a few years from now.