I miss a lot of good stuff while school’s in session, but this was worth not leaving behind:
A United Nations investigator has demanded that the US publish classified documents regarding the CIA’s human rights violations under former President George W. Bush, with hopes that the documents will lead to the prosecution of public officials.
Documents about the CIA’s program of rendition and secret detention of suspected terrorists have remained classified, even though President Obama’s administration has publicly condemned the use of these “enhanced interrogation techniques”. The US has not prosecuted any of its agents for human rights violations.
UN investigator Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, said that the classified documents protect the names of individuals who are responsible for serious human rights violations.
“Despite this clear repudiation of the unlawful actions carried out by the Bush-era CIA, many of the facts remain classified, and no public official has so far been brought to justice in the United States,”Emmerson said in a report to the UN Human Rights Council, according to Reuters.
Kept in secret prisons around the world, the CIA’s detainees were subjected to torture including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and various other interrogation techniques that violate human rights. The detainees were often subjected to clandestine transfers to secret prisons known as CIA ‘black sites’.
“There is now credible evidence to show that CIA ‘black sites’ were located on the territory of Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Romania and Thailand, and that the officials of at least 49 other states allowed their airspace or airports to be used for rendition flights,” Emmerson said, describing how suspected terrorists were often detained without being charged for any crimes, receiving extradition procedures or having access to lawyers.
Emmerson has urged the US to prosecute any public official who was involved in setting up the CIA “black sites” at which human rights or legal violations occurred. Even though the Obama administration has condemned those who promoted the use of such facilities for inhumane procedures, the administration has taken no steps to punish any of its public officials. Attorney General Eric Holder has said that the Justice Department would not take legal actions against those who “acted in good faith” and followed the guidelines provided by the Office of Legal Counsel during the Bush era.
But without names and details about the involvement of US officials at CIA black sites, the government is maintaining a level of secrecy and “perpetuating impunity for the public officials implicated in these crimes,” Emmerson said. A Senate committee led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) previously investigated the CIA’s interrogation program and may have had complete access to classified information about it.
Emmerson has called for this information to be published “without delay, and to the fullest extent possible.”
He ain’t the only one. I spent long years here during the reign of Bush the Lesser, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington, Yoo, and my freshman hall counselor, Jim Haynes, calling for the people responsible for ordering torture and other crimes against humanity (including the unilateral military invasion of Iraq, a country with which we were not legally at war, in violation of both ratified treaties and U.S. statutes) to be investigated, indicted, tried where appropriate and punished as needed. In the case of torture or other crimes against humanity that result in the death of another human being, the punishment is execution. And I’ve been a tough-on-crime conservative my whole life.
And I’ve been consistent. I called for Obama’s impeachment barely more than a year after his inauguration when it became clear that he intended to target U.S. citizens for extrajudicial assassination, an intent on which he has acted successfully since.
A war criminal is a war criminal. A murderer under international laws of human rights is a murderer under international laws of human rights. The Constitution makes our legal priorities plain: It itself and our ratified treaties, which define these crimes, constitute the Supreme Law of the Land. So hang ‘em all, and let God sort ‘em out.
But that’s only where it should start. If we deserve to be called free and self-governing people, we also need to look in the mirror and figure out how and why we let these crimes happen — because many, if not most, could have been prevented if we as a body politic had taken our responsibilities as citizens seriously. Instead, we knew of torture at least six months before the 2004 election and did nothing. The New York Times knew about warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens in criminal violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act a year before the 2004 election and held its story. When Democrats retook Congress in 2006, Speaker-apparent Nancy Pelosi took impeachment “off the table,” and the voters let them do it. And President Obama and Attorney General Holder have repeated their desire to “look forward, not back,” and the voters have let them do THAT, too.
Imagine the people of Germany, circa 1946, claiming that intent and ask yourself how we would have responded. And we had conquered them by force and yet wanted to rehabilitate West Germany as a bulwark against communism. How much easier should it have been, how much less should we have needed to worry about the tender sensibilities of the Washington establishment and its courtiers in the press, than it was to punish individual Germans while keeping Germany on our side?
The UN is by no means a perfect organization. But the U.S. is by no means a perfect country. Let us follow the facts and the law — which, remember, we willingly signed and ratified — wherever they lead us, and let us act as the law obliges us to act. If you want an omelette, you need to break a few eggs. In this case, incontrovertibly, if we want to restore our own honor as a free and self-governing people, we need to break a few necks.