Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Open America's dark chapter to scrutiny

  • Print

Thanks to the Obama administration and belated action by Congress, the Central Intelligence Agency is no longer in the business of torturing suspected terrorists in order to obtain information. But the United States still hasn't fully come to terms with what President Obama called a "dark and painful chapter in our history."

It's increasingly clear that such a reckoning will not come in a court of law. U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has accepted a career prosecutor's recommendation that criminal charges not be filed in the deaths of two suspected terrorists in U.S. custody. Earlier, the prosecutor, John Durham, had recommended closing the investigation of other allegations CIA employees had violated Justice Department interrogation guidelines, which themselves were shockingly tolerant of cruel and degrading treatment, including waterboarding.

In the case of the two deaths, Holder explained "the department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt."

We're in no position to argue with that conclusion, and we recognize prosecutions shouldn't be brought simply for purposes of political closure. But Holder's decision is only the latest dismaying example of the inability or unwillingness of the legal system to hold accountable those who engaged in torture or provided a legal rationale for it.

That pattern may persist if there is a criminal investigation of a new report by Human Rights Watch that the U.S., during the George W. Bush administration, tortured members of an Islamist group seeking to overthrow then-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. (That doesn't mean the report shouldn't be investigated by the Justice Department.)

The fact allegations of torture haven't produced criminal charges makes it easier, in Obama's words, to "look forward, not backward." So does the fact that revelations about "enhanced interrogation" techniques led to changes in the way the CIA and the military interrogate terrorism suspects.

In 2005, Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act, which prohibits the "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" of detainees. For his part, Obama ordered the CIA to abide by the provisions of the Army Field Manual, which bans waterboarding, extended solitary confinement, the use of dogs to intimidate prisoners and the placing of hoods over inmates' heads.

Yet neither the inconclusiveness of criminal investigations nor changes in the law justify official amnesia about torture. Although much is known about how, in the panic after 9/11, the Bush administration resorted to tactics impossible to reconcile with the Geneva Conventions and alien to American values, a complete picture has yet to emerge. That is why it is essential that the Senate Intelligence Committee make public the results of its investigation of the CIA's interrogation program.

It is also why Obama should support the creation of a public commission that would examine the torture policies of the Bush era with the same rigor and access to information that informed the report of the 9/11 Commission. By illuminating the past, such a national inquest could make it less likely that a future administration would succumb to the temptation to pursue security at the cost of humanity.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 18, 2012 A6

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Jets defencemen ready to face adversity

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local/Standup- BABY BISON. Fort Whyte Centre's newest mother gently nudges her 50 pound, female bull calf awake. Calf born yesterday. 25 now in herd. Four more calfs are expected over the next four weeks. It is the bison's second calf. June 7, 2002.
  • A female Mallard duck leads a group of duckings on a morning swim through the reflections in the Assiniboine River at The Forks Monday.     (WAYNE GLOWACKI/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) Winnipeg Free Press  June 18 2012

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

With the Canadian junior team off to such a great start, will you be watching the World junior hockey championship?

View Results

Ads by Google