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t r u t h o u t | 10.18
The Torture Time Bomb
Saturday 18 October 2008
Saturday 18 October 2008
by: Philippe Sands, The Guardian
The Bush administration's approval of the abuse of detainees is a toxic legacy for the next
The torture issue's cancerous consequences go deep, and will cause headaches for the next president. New evidence has emerged in Congressional inquiries that throw more light on the extent to which early knowledge and approval of the abuse went to the highest levels. What does a country do when compelling evidence shows its leaders have authorised international crimes?
For three years I have followed a trail which leads unambiguously to the conclusion that the real bad eggs were not Lyndie England or others on the ground in Abu Ghraib, but the most senior officials in the White House, the Pentagon and the department of justice. Over recent months, Congress has been looking into the role of senior officials involved in the development of interrogation rules. These have attracted relatively scant attention; little by little, however, senators and congressmen have uncovered the outlines of a potentially far-reaching criminal conspiracy.
The first hearings were convened before the judiciary committee of the House of Representatives, at the instance of its chairman, Congressman John Conyers, apparently off the back of my book Torture Team. Parallel hearings have been held before the Senate armed services committee.
The evidence that has emerged is potentially devastating. It confirms, for instance, that the search for new interrogation techniques for use at Guantánamo began not with the local military but in the offices of Donald Rumsfeld and his chief lawyer, Jim Haynes. It shows that when the career military expressed objections on legal grounds, Haynes intervened to stop the normal process of review. And it shows a previously unknown interplay between the department of defence and the CIA: a visit to Guantánamo in September 2002 by the administration's most senior lawyers was followed days later by a senior CIA lawyer, to brief on the new techniques. "If someone dies while aggressive techniques are being used," he explained, "the backlash of attention would be severely detrimental."
Last month the Senate armed services committee received new material from Condoleezza Rice, the first cabinet-level official to confirm high-level involvement in discussions on interrogation techniques. "I participated in a number of meetings in 2002 and 2003 ... at which issues relating to detainees in
Buried away in this testimony lies the most dangerous material of all: evidence which may establish that abuses on detainees in Iraq in September 2003, in the period perhaps including the events at Abu Ghraib, were the result of decisions taken at the highest levels of the administration. The administration has long proclaimed it did not allow aggressive interrogations in
I have testified before Congress on these issues, and have been asked if there should be criminal investigations and prosecutions. At the very least, the next
Philippe Sands QC is professor of law at UCL, a barrister at Matrix Chambers and author of Torture Team firstname.lastname@example.org