Human rights groups hailed President Obama’s decision to remove the CIA from interrogation of detainees in the so-called “war on terror” and to create a new White House unit that spurns torture methods such as “waterboarding” in questioning prisoners.
The White House announced Aug. 24 creation of the so-called HIG unit, strictly bound by the guidelines of the U.S. Army Field Manual. The same day, a newly declassified CIA document revealed that CIA interrogators threatened to kill the children of a Sept. 11 suspect. The document released Monday by the Justice Department says that an interrogator told Khalid Sheik Mohammaed that if any further attacks are launched against the U.S. “We’re going to kill your children.”
Another interrogator allegedly told another terror suspect that his mother would be sexually assaulted in front of him. The new disclosures come just days after a report by the CIA Inspector General revealed gruesome new details of torture by the CIA and subcontractors including Blackwater.
The Rev. Richard Kilmer, Executive Director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture told the World in a phone interview, that the Inspector General report “is absolutely horrific. We’re calling for the creation of a Commission of Inquiry and asking the Attorney General to undertake an investigation of these crimes.”
As if in anticipation, Attorney General, Eric Holder, announced Aug. 24 that he will appoint a prosecutor to examine a dozen or more cases in which CIA interrogators and contractors, violated anti-torture laws in questioning detainees. Kilmer praised the administration’s creation of the new interrogation unit. “We’re pleased,” he said. “We’re glad this is happening, especially in light of the CIA Inspector General report. The report goes beyond what has previously been released to describe CIA agents threatening death and carrying out mock executions. It also describes the use of waterboarding and other methods of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.”
He added, “Our country will not end this sordid chapter of American history until we understand the full nature of U.S.-sponsored torture and put safeguards in place to make sure that U.S.-sponsored torture never happens again. Torture is always immoral and illegal.”
Stacy Sullivan, Director of Human Rights Watch’s Terrorism Task Force told the World, “We’re very relieved that the administration has announced that no additional guidance is needed other than the Army Field Manual for the interrogation of detainees.” She explained that the human rights movement had long demanded that the Army Field Manual be the “single standard of interrogation, across the board, with no exceptions.” The manual spells out what kind of techniques are permissible. “It forbids torture such as waterboarding. We were worried that the Obama administration like the Bush administration would authorize ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’”
Sullivan said the administration has not moved as quickly as Human Rights Watch had hoped to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center. “The administration has not made much progress in repatriating 98 detainees” still held at the prison infamous for torture methods employed on several hundred prisoners. Many have been held there for years without criminal charges. “We are urging people to contact their congressional representatives and the Attorney General to ask him to appoint a prosecutor to investigate the abuses by the previous administration. We know that there was a policy of abuse of detainees that was planned at the highest levels of the Bush administration yet only a few low-ranking military personnel have been held accountable.”