Category Archives: Torture

In Historic Ruling, Bush Officials Can Be Sued for Post-9/11 Roundups

Nadia Prupis reports for Common Dreams:

Victims of post-9/11 racial profiling, illegal detention, and abuse in the U.S. may have the chance to sue high-level Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft, a U.S. federal court ruled on Wednesday in what the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) called an “exceedingly rare” decision.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday [17th June] found that Ashcroft, former FBI director Robert Mueller, and former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Commissioner James Ziglar, who are all defendants in the case of Turkmen v. Ashcroft,“exceeded the bounds of the [U.S.] Constitution in the wake of 9/11″ by profiling, detaining, abusing, and deporting numerous Arab, Muslim, and South Asian men based on nothing more than their race or religion.

“[T]here is no legitimate governmental purpose in holding someone as if he were a terrorist simply because he happens to be, or appears to be, Arab or Muslim,” the three-judge panel wrote in its decision. “We simply cannot conclude at this stage that concern for the safety of our nation justified the violation of the constitutional rights on which this nation was built.”

CCR, which brought the case in 2002, said the ruling was historic and served as a reminder that “the rule of law and the rights of human beings, whether citizens or not, must not be sacrificed in the face of national security hysteria.”‘

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Torture is a war crime the government treats like a policy debate

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

GUANTANAMOThe Senate commendably passed an amendment “outlawing” torture by a wide margin on Monday, but given that torture is already against the law – both through existing US statute and by international treaty – what does that really mean?

The bill, a response by lawmakers to last year’s devastating CIA torture report that exposed the agency’s rampant illegal conduct and subsequent cover-up in the years after 9/11, would force all US agencies – including the CIA, finally – to comply with the Pentagon’s rulebook on interrogations. It would also forbid any of the Pentagon’s interrogation rules from being secret and give the Red Cross access to all detainees held by the US, no matter where.

One would’ve thought pre-9/11 that it would be hard to write the current law prohibiting torture any more clearly. Nothing should have allowed the Bush administration to get away with secretly interpreting laws out of existence or given the CIA authority to act with impunity. The only reason a host of current and former CIA officials aren’t already in jail is because of cowardice on the Obama administration, which refused to prosecute Bush administration officialswho authorized the torture program, those who destroyed evidence of it after the fact or even those who went beyond the brutal torture techniques that the administration shamefully did authorize.

Since the Senate’ report reinvigorated the torture debate six months ago, Obama officials have continued to try their hardest to make the controversy go away by stifling Freedom of Information Act requests for the full report and, in many cases, refusing to even read it. And Bush-era law-breakers were even given the courtesy of having their names redacted from the report, sparing them of public shaming or criticism, despite clear public interest to the contrary.’

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CIA torture appears to have broken spy agency rule on human experimentation

Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian:

cia human experimentation illustrationThe Central Intelligence Agency had explicit guidelines for “human experimentation” – before, during and after its post-9/11 torture of terrorism detainees – that raise new questions about the limits on the agency’s in-house and contracted medical research.

Sections of a previously classified CIA document, made public by the Guardian on Monday, empower the agency’s director to “approve, modify, or disapprove all proposals pertaining to human subject research”. The leeway provides the director, who has never in the agency’s history been a medical doctor, with significant influence over limitations the US government sets to preserve safe, humane and ethical procedures on people.

CIA director George Tenet approved abusive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, designed by CIA contractor psychologists. He further instructed the agency’s health personnel to oversee the brutal interrogations – the beginning of years of controversy, still ongoing, about US torture as a violation of medical ethics.

But the revelation of the guidelines has prompted critics of CIA torture to question how the agency could have ever implemented what it calls “enhanced interrogation techniques” – despite apparently having rules against “research on human subjects” without their informed consent.’

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As Chicago Pays Victims of Past Torture, Police Face New Allegations of Abuse at Homan Square: Interview with Spencer Ackerman

‘More victims have come forward to detail recent abuse inside Homan Square, a secret compound used by Chicago police for incommunicado interrogations and detentions which some have described as the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site overseas. Exclusive video obtained by The Guardian shows a Chicago man named Angel Perez being taken inside a “prisoner entrance.” Perez says police handcuffed his right wrist to a metal bar and then sexually assaulted him with a metal object, believed to be a handgun barrel. Perez says the officers also threatened to “go after” his family members, including his father who is battling cancer. Perez is now the 13th person to describe his detainment at the secret police site to The Guardian. Like many detainees, he apparently was never formally arrested — neither booked, nor permitted access to an attorney, nor charged. Now, Perez and four others have filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department. We are joined by the reporter who broke the Homan Square story, Spencer Ackerman, national security editor at The Guardian.’ (Democracy Now!)

The United States Considers Itself a Human Rights Champion. The World Begs to Differ.

Jamil Dakwar writes for the American Civil Liberties Union:

UN Building; Photo Source: Jamil DakwarStarting Monday, the United States’ human rights record will be subject to international scrutiny by the U.N. Human Rights Council. It may just be the perfect catalyst for the Obama administration to make good on past and present wrongs that should never be associated with a liberal democracy predicated on respect for human rights.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is part of a regular examination of the human rights records of all 193 U.N. member countries and will be the second review of its kind for the U.S. since 2010.  The review comes at a critical time when the U.S. human rights record has been criticized for falling short of meeting international human rights standards. From racially biased policing and excessive use of force by law enforcement to the expansion of migrant family detention and from the lack of accountability for the CIA torture program to the use of armed drones abroad, the U.S. has a lot to answer for.’

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Bahrain is ruthlessly crushing dissent and torturing its own citizens, yet Britain is heaping it with praise

Daniel Wickham writes for The Independent:

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond met with the Crown Prince of Bahrain earlier this week. He was there to discuss their “shared regional and strategic goals” and “reaffirm the UK’s commitment” to strengthening their ties with the Gulf monarchy.

Just a day earlier, a Bahraini court had extended the detention of one of the country’s most prominent human rights activists, Nabeel Rajab, for another two weeks. His alleged crime? Tweeting about torture and the war in Yemen.

Hammond has previously told the House of Commons that Bahrain, a long-standing ally and former protectorate of the UK, is “a country which is travelling in the right direction” and “making significant reform”. Last April, the Foreign Office even went as far as to predict that the country’s “overall trajectory on human rights will be positive” due to the “judicial and security sector” reforms being implemented. Delighted by the assessment, pro-government media in Bahrain repeated the Foreign Office’s claims with approval.

A year later, Amnesty International have published a report which points to a much bleaker picture of Bahrain’s alleged progress in implementing reform. Their research finds that, contrary to the Foreign Office’s predictions, “the human rights situation today remains dire and little has changed in practise”.’

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Endless War: As U.S. Strikes Tikrit and Delays Afghan Pullout, “War on Terror” Toll Tops 1.3 Million

‘As the United States begins bombing the Iraqi city of Tikrit and again delays a withdrawal from Afghanistan, a new report has found that the Iraq War has killed about one million people. The Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and other groups examined the toll from the so-called war on terror in three countries — Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The investigators found “the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around one million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan. Not included in this figure are further war zones such as Yemen. The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware. … And this is only a conservative estimate.” The true tally, they add, could be more than two million. We are joined by two guests who worked on the report: Hans von Sponeck, former U.N. assistant secretary-general and U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, who in 2000 resigned his post in protest of the U.S.-led sanctions regime; and Dr. Robert Gould, president of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.’ (Democracy Now!)

Chilean accused of murder, torture taught 13 years for Pentagon

Marisa Taylor and Kevin G. Hall reports for McClatchy:

‘A member of the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s brutal secret police who’s been accused of murder taught for more than a decade at the Pentagon’s premier university, despite repeated complaints by his colleagues about his past.

Jaime Garcia Covarrubias is charged in criminal court in Santiago with being the mastermind in the execution-style slayings of seven people in 1973, according to court documents. McClatchy also interviewed an accuser who identified Garcia Covarrubias as the person who sexually tortured him.

Despite knowing of the allegations, State and Defense department officials allowed Garcia Covarrubias to retain his visa and continue working at a school affiliated with the National Defense University until last year .’

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Chinese police to film interrogations as government promises end to torture following miscarriages of justice

Jamie Fullerton reports for The Independent:

The announcement of major new reforms of the police force in China has sparked hopes that police torture and corruption are to be curbed and further miscarriages of justice avoided.

Public support for the police and judiciary system is at rock bottom here after a series of high-profile murder convictions based on confessions allegedly given under duress have been overturned.

A hundred new measures will be rolled out from now until 2020, with areas covering law enforcement, domestic security, administration and personnel. Top priority will be the increased accountability of officers.’

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CIA Torture Whistleblower John Kiriakou: Wake Up, You’re Next

American police brutality, exported from Chicago to Guantánamo

Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian:

Police brutality updatedWhen the Chicago detective Richard Zuley arrived at Guantánamo Bay late in 2002, US military commanders touted him as the hero they had been looking for.

Here was a Navy reserve lieutenant who had spent the last 25 years as a distinguished detective on the mean streets of Chicago, closing case after case – often due to his knack for getting confessions.

But while Zuley’s brutal interrogation techniques – prolonged shackling, family threats, demands on suspects to implicate themselves and others – would get supercharged at Guantánamo for the war on terrorism, a Guardian investigation has uncovered that Zuley used similar tactics for years, behind closed police-station doors, on Chicago’s poor and non-white citizens. Multiple people in prison in Illinois insist they have been wrongly convicted on the basis of coerced confessions extracted by Zuley and his colleagues.’

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‘Guantanamo of the East': Ukraine Locks Up Refugees at EU’s Behest

Maximilian Popp reports for Spiegel:

Most asylum seekers trying to make their way to Europe take the dangerous route...‘[…] The European Union has provided Ukraine with €30 million ($34 million) in funding, which Kiev is using to build and renovate migrant detention centers, along with other facilities where they are housed temporarily. The International Organization for Migration received several million euros to support Ukrainian authorities in such areas as the internment of undocumented migrants. Brussels is apparently hoping that the system will reduce the number of asylum seekers in Europe — without attracting too much attention.

In 2010, the human rights organization Human Rights Watch criticized the EU for investing millions to divert flows of refugees from Europe toward Ukraine, while neglecting to take sufficient steps to ensure the humane treatment of refugees in Ukraine.

The refugee crisis along the eastern edge of Europe could now escalate in the course of the Ukraine conflict. The government in Kiev has its hands full caring for almost a million internally displaced persons fleeing the fighting between government troops and rebels in eastern Ukraine. It is hardly capable of providing for asylum-seekers from the Middle East and African countries, as well, warns Ilya Todorovich, the UNHCR representative in Ukraine.’

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Obama: Transparency Helps Terrorists

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

gitmo prisonersThe Obama administration, self-described Most Transparent Administration in History™, is currently engaged in a multi-pronged legal battle to prevent an iota more transparency related to illegal torture. If there was any lingering hopes that the President might use the last two years of his final term in office to bring some accountability to the despicable actions of the CIA or the US military, it appears that he will instead continue to use the power of the office to fight to keep them hidden.

Later today [Feb 4th], the government will showcase its latest suppression effort, as the Justice Department will urge a federal judge in New York to keep secret hundreds of photos of torture from Abu Ghraib prison from almost a decade ago. President Obama once promised to release the photos, only to reverse himself months after coming into office – and he’s since been fighting for years to keep them secret.’

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Freed CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou Says “I Would Do It All Again” to Expose Torture

Editor’s Note: Below are excerpts from John Kiriakou’s interview with Democracy Now! You can listen to the full 45 minute interview here.

CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou released from prison, torture practitioners yet to enter

John Kiriakou, the CIA whistleblower who exposed the agency’s use of torture and the only person to have gone to prison for the scandal, was released from a federal corrections facility on Tuesday. Government transparency advocates have long blasted the former spy’s sentence as the persecution of a hero who exposed massive agency wrongdoing, while also pointing out the hypocrisy of those who actually undertook the torture remaining free. Jesselyn Radack, author of “Traitor,” discusses with RT’s Ben Swann.’ (RT America)

Human Rights Watch: Rise in Extremisim Linked to War on Terror

DW reports:

Human Rights Watch Kenneth RothThe US and Great Britain “largely shut their eyes” to the persecution of the Sunni minority under former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the New York-based watchdog organization said. The situation was additionally burdened by the abuses in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and the security vacuum following the ousting of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

“There has been a tendency, particularly in the Middle East, to play shortsighted security concerns over principled support for human rights”, said HRW executive director Kenneth Roth while presenting the 660-page 2015 HRW report Thursday.

According to Roth, many governments “appear to have concluded that today’s serious security threats must take precedence over human rights.”

“In this difficult moment, they seem to argue, human rights must be put on the back burner, a luxury for less trying times,” Roth said.’

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How Guantanamo Became America’s Interrogation ‘Battle Lab’

Jason Leopold writes for VICE News:

‘[…] According to a new report, there was an ulterior motive for setting up Guantanamo: It was the ideal long-term interrogation facility, a “battle lab” where detainees would be subjected to untested interrogation methods and “exploited” for their intelligence value in what turned out to be a massive “experiment.”

The claims in the 66-page report, “Guantanamo: America’s Battle Lab,” prepared by Seton Hall Law School Center for Policy & Research and shared with VICE News, aren’t new. In 2009, the Senate Armed Services Committee released the findings of its investigation about the treatment of detainees in custody of the US military and reached similar conclusions.

But the Seton Hall study, co-authored by the university’s adjunct professor and senior research fellow Joseph Hickman, a former Guantanamo guard who challenged the military’s narrative surrounding the June 2006 deaths of three detainees – the government called them suicides, Hickman came to believe they were murders – makes a much stronger case. The report relies exclusively on internal government and military documents and statements public officials have made since Guantanamo opened 13 years ago to show how the detention facility “was covertly transformed into a secret interrogation base designed to foster intelligence’s curiosity on the effects of torture and the limits of the human spirit.”‘

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Chris Hedges on Roots of Terrorism, Free Speech Hypocrisy & Translating #JeSuisCharlie

Editor’s Note: The interview with Chris Hedges begins at around 8:07.

Will France Repeat America’s Mistakes After 9/11?

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern writes for Consortium News:

First, a hat tip to Elias Groll, assistant editor at Foreign Policy, whose report just a few hours after the killings on Wednesday at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, included this key piece of background on the younger of the two brother suspects:

“Carif Kouachi was previously known to the authorities, as he was convicted by a French court in 2008 of trying to travel to Iraq to fight in that country’s insurgent movement. Kouachi told the court that he wished to fight the American occupation after viewing images of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.”

The next morning, Amy Goodman of Democracynow.org and Juan Cole (in his blog) also carried this highly instructive aspect of the story of the unconscionable terrorist attack, noting that the brothers were well known to French intelligence; that the younger brother, Cherif, had been sentenced to three years in prison for his role in a network involved in sending volunteer fighters to Iraq to fight alongside al-Qaeda; and that he said he had been motivated by seeing the images of atrocities by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib.’

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A Brief History of the CIA’s Unpunished Spying on the Senate

Conor Friedersdorf writes for The Atlantic:

This is the story of John Brennan’s CIA spying on Congress and getting away with it.

Last March, Senator Dianne Feinstein accused the CIA of spying on the Senate intelligence committee as it labored to finalize its report on the torture of prisoners. “I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution,” she said. “I have asked for an apology and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by its oversight committee was inappropriate. I have received neither.”

CIA Director John Brennan denied the charge. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “We wouldn’t do that. That’s just beyond the scope of reason in terms of what we’d do.” It would be months before his denial was publicly proved false. “An internal investigation by the C.I.A. has found that its officers penetrated a computer network used by the Senate Intelligence Committee in preparing its damning report on the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program,” The New York Times reported. “The report by the agency’s inspector general also found that C.I.A. officers read the emails of the Senate investigators and sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department based on false information.”‘

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Irony 101: Study Ethics with Legal Ace Who Sanctioned NSA Wiretapping, CIA Torture

Ken Silverstein writes for The Intercept:

Waterboarding: Yes or no? It’s OK to selectively violate the Geneva Convention, right? Spying on Americans is illegal, but aren’t rules made to be broken?

The world is a confusing place and it’s hard for young people to answer complicated questions like these on their own. Fortunately, students at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, have Professor Robert Deitz to help them navigate the contemporary moral morass. “All of us are familiar with basic ethical notions,” he writes in the syllabus for his Spring 2015 course, Ethical Challenges in Public Policy. “We learn from childhood the idea that some conduct is right and other conduct is not right.”

How’d Deitz get so smart about ethics? He’s magna cum laude from Harvard (like President Obama) and then spent eights years as General Counsel at the National Security Agency, serving as the official Yes Man for General Michael Hayden, and after that three years as his Senior Councillor at the Central Intelligence Agency until 2009. At the former post Deitz rubber-stamped NSA surveillance. At the latter, he sought to derail an independent investigation by then-CIA Inspector General John Helgerson into the agency’s torture and rendition of terrorism suspects.’

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The CIA Didn’t Just Torture, It Experimented on Human Beings

Lisa Hajjar reports for The Nation:

‘[…] The “war on terror” is not the CIA’s first venture into human experimentation. At the dawn of the Cold War, German scientists and doctors with Nazi records of human experimentation were given new identities and brought to the United States under Operation Paperclip. During the Korean War, alarmed by the shocking rapidity of American POWs’ breakdowns and indoctrination by their communist captors, the CIA began investing in mind-control research. In 1953, the CIA established the MK-ULTRA program, whose earliest phase involved hypnosis, electroshock and hallucinogenic drugs. The program evolved into experiments in psychological torture that adapted elements of Soviet and Chinese models, including longtime standing, protracted isolation, sleep deprivation and humiliation. Those lessons soon became an applied “science” in the Cold War.

During the Vietnam War, the CIA developed the Phoenix program, which combined psychological torture with brutal interrogations, human experimentation and extrajudicial executions. In 1963, the CIA produced a manual titled “Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation” to guide agents in the art of extracting information from “resistant” sources by combining techniques to produce “debility, disorientation and dread.” Like the communists, the CIA largely eschewed tactics that violently target the body in favor of those that target the mind by systematically attacking all human senses in order to produce the desired state of compliance. The Phoenix program model was incorporated into the curriculum of the School of the Americas, and an updated version of the Kubark guide, produced in 1983 and titled “Human Resource Exploitation Manual,” was disseminated to the intelligence services of right-wing regimes in Latin America and Southeast Asia during the global “war on communism.”

In the mid-1980s, CIA practices became the subject of congressional investigations into US-supported atrocities in Central America. Both manuals became public in 1997 as a result of Freedom of Information Act litigation by The Baltimore Sun. That would have seemed like a “never again” moment.

But here we are again.’

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Why The Guardian Censored One of Its Top Journalists: Interview with Nafeez Ahmed

Editor’s Note: Nafeez Ahmed recently launched a crowdfunding drive in order to support his great journalism and with the hopeful aim of creating his own investigative journalism collective. Please support him in any way you can. You can find links to more of his work here.

Abby Martin interviews investigative journalist, Nafeez Ahmed, about what was not discussed in the torture report and his claims of censorship at the Guardian newspaper, where he used to work.’ (Breaking the Set)

9/11 Commission Based on Torture

Editor’s Note: The below interview was conducted by Democracy Now in February 2008. Philip Zelikow served as executive director of the 9/11 Commission, Robert Windrem is an investigative journalism who co-authored an analysis on the 9/11 Commission Report, and Michael Ratner is the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. You can view the full uninterrupted interview here.

They Said ‘No’ to Torture: The Real Heroes of the Bush Years

Jon Wiener writes for The Nation:

‘Hidden in the Senate torture report are stories of some heroes—people inside the CIA who from the beginning said torture was wrong, who tried to stop it, who refused to participate. There were also some outside the CIA, in the military and the FBI, who risked careers and reputations by resisting—and who sometimes paid a heavy price. They should be thanked and honored.

But President Obama hasn’t mentioned them. Instead, he praised the CIA officials who presided over the torture regime as “patriots.”

We should “celebrate the ones who stood up for what was right,” says David Luban of the Georgetown University law school, author of Torture, Power and Law. Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, author of the definitive book on Bush administration torture, The Dark Side, calls them “the real torture patriots.”

The opposition to torture within the CIA was so strong, Mayer reports, that the CIA Inspector General, John Helgerson, “conducted a serious and influential internal investigation.” That led the Justice Department to “ask the CIA to suspend the torture program”—at least “until it could be reconciled with the law.”’

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What the Torture Report Isn’t Telling You

‘Why is the corporate media turning torture into a debate? Abby Martin discusses the media’s reaction to the Senate torture report and why torture has suddenly turned into a partisan debate.’ (Breaking the Set)

CIA First Planned Jails Abiding by U.S. Standards

Matt Apuzzo and James Risen report for The New York Times:

Just six days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Bush signed a secret order that gave the Central Intelligence Agency the power to capture and imprison terrorists with Al Qaeda. But the order said nothing about where they should be held or how the agency should go about the business of questioning them.

For the next few weeks, as the rubble at ground zero smoldered and the United States launched a military operation in Afghanistan, C.I.A. officials scrambled to fill in the blanks left by the president’s order. Initially, agency officials considered a path very different from the one they ultimately followed, according to the newly released Senate Intelligence Committee report on the C.I.A.’s harsh interrogation program.

They envisioned a system in which detainees would be offered the same rights and protections as inmates held in federal or American military prisons. Conditions at these new overseas prisons would be comparable to those at maximum-security facilities in the United States. Interrogations were to be conducted in accordance with the United States Army Field Manual, which prohibits coerced, painful questioning. Everything at the prisons would “be tailored to meet the requirements of U.S. law and the federal rules of criminal procedure,” C.I.A. lawyers wrote in November 2001.

The C.I.A.’s early framework for its detention program offers a glimpse of a possible alternative history. As the country grapples with new disclosures about the program, the Senate report tells a story of how plans for American-style jails were replaced with so-called “black sites,” where some prisoners were chained to walls and forgotten, froze to death on concrete floors and were waterboarded until they lost consciousness.’

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Proposed Senate Bill Would Make Future CIA Torture Prosecutable

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press today [Sunday 14th December], Sen. Ron Wyden (D – OR) a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has promised to introduce a new bill next year which would make any future incidents of CIA torture prosecutable.

Sen. Wyden expressed concern that in CIA Director John Brennan’s Thursday defense of past torture, he left open the possibility that the CIA would do so again in the future.’

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Former CIA Director Michael Hayden: Rectal Rehydration Necessary

Dick Cheney On The Torture: “I’d Do It Again In A Minute”