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General Topic Areas

Rendition (35)
legalProceedings (41)
Human Rights Groups (45)
Coverup (48)
Impunity (21)
Prisoner deaths (20)
High-level decisions and actions (131)
Indications of Abuse (36)
Statements/writings about torture
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Types of abuses performed by Americans

Use of dogs (11)
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Mental abuse (7)
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Qala-i-Janghi massacre (20)

US Bases and Interrogation Centers

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People who have been detained

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Shafiq Rasul (20)
Rhuhel Ahmed (21)
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Sahim Alwan (3)
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Faysal Galab (3)
Yahya Goba (3)
Yaseinn Taher (3)
Abdul Jabar (1)
Mullah Rocketti (1)
Mohammed Ahmed al-Kandari (1)
Thamir Issawi (0)
Haydar Sabbar Abed (1)
Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri (1)
Jan Baz Khan (1)
Unnamed prisoners (42)
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Torture, rendition, and other abuses against captives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere

 
  

Project: Prisoner abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

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1998

       Walter Schumm, a retired Army Reserve colonel, writes a piece in the Military Review making the observation that few military officers understand the legal requirements for handling prisoners. In one part of the essay he notes, “It only takes one improperly trained soldier among a thousand to commit an offense against the Geneva Conventions that would cause our nation considerable embarrassment.” [USA Today, 5/13/2004]
People and organizations involved: Walter Schumm
          

November 5, 2001

       Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter writes: “We can't legalize physical torture; it's contrary to American values. But even as we continue to speak out against human rights abuses around the world, we need to keep an open mind about certain measures to fight terrorism, like court-sanctioned psychological interrogation. And we'll have to think about transferring some suspects to our less squeamish allies, even if that's hypocritical. Nobody said this was going to be pretty.” [Newsweek, 11/5/2001]
People and organizations involved: Jonathan Alter
          

November 5, 2001

       In conjunction with the Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation publishes a legal paper that appears to reflect much of the thinking at this time of prominent White House and Justice Department lawyers. The paper espouses the use of military commissions, arguing that this will offer the government several advantages. “In particular,” the paper's authors argue, “trials before military tribunals need not be open to the general public and they may be conducted on an expedited basis, permitting the quick resolution of individual cases and avoiding the disclosure of highly sensitive intelligence material, which would have to be made public in an ordinary criminal trial.” The disadvantage of a normal trial would be that they would be limited by constitutional rules with regard to “what can be done to protect classified information.” In addition, in “federal district courts, the government has an obligation under Article III and the Sixth Amendment to conduct a ‘public trial’ and present to the jury, in open court, the facts on which it is relying to establish a defendant's guilt.” But the authors do acknowledge that “[t]he use of military commissions with respect to individuals not regularly enrolled in a military force, represents a clear departure from normal legal processes and some of America's most fundamental judicial traditions.” Surprisingly, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 are not mentioned even once. Almost in passing, the authors suggest an option that is to become reality. “[I]t is likely,” they write, “that the Supreme Court would allow the trial overseas by military commission of al-Qaeda members captured in Afghanistan, regardless of how it would treat defendants in this country.” [The Heritage Foundation, Legal Memorandum, Executive Summary, No. 3, 11/5/2001; The Heritage Foundation, Legal Memorandum, No. 3, 11/5/2001] It is an indication that by this time the government contemplates using the US Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, which is formally on Cuban soil, to accommodate suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees.
          

November 8, 2001

       The Los Angeles Times publishes an op-ed piece by Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz arguing that the use of torture should be permissible in situations where an imminent large-scale threat against human life can be averted by forcibly obtaining intelligence from an uncooperative suspect. Dershowitz reasons that in such “ticking bomb” scenarios, a judge should be able to provide “torture warrants,” giving the FBI authorization “to employ specified forms of non-lethal physical pressure to compel” a suspect, who has been granted immunity from prosecution, to talk. He also says that since there is no doubt that torture would be used in such cases anyways, it should be regulated. “If we are to have torture, it should be authorized by the law,” he writes. [Los Angeles Times, 11/8/2001]
People and organizations involved: Alan M. Dershowitz
          

September 26, 2002

       Cofer Black, then director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, speaks about US interrogation policy during a joint hearing of the House and Senate intelligence committees. “This is a very highly classified area, but I have to say that all you need to know: there was a before-9/11 and an after-9/11. After 9/11 the gloves came off.” [Newsweek International, 5/24/2004]
People and organizations involved: Cofer Black
          

January 2003

       In an interview with the Guardian, Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz says that he has heard from former agents that torture “was done and ... is done.” He also says that he believes the US “freely subcontracts its torture to Jordan, Egypt, and the Philippines.” Dershowitz identified himself shortly after the September 11 attacks as a proponent of using torture in the war on terrorism when he argued that it should be permissible by law in certain cases (see November 8, 2001). According to William Goodman, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who is also interviewed by the Guardian, “Dershowitz is not a lone voice. He speaks for a segment of the population, and there is clearly some thought being given to this.” He adds, “It is as American as apple pie,” although he also points out the law clearly prohibits torture. [Guardian, 1/25/2003]
People and organizations involved: Alan M. Dershowitz
          

(March 3, 2003)

       An unnamed US law enforcement official tells the Wall Street Journal, “[B]ecause the [Convention Against Torture] has no enforcement mechanism, as a practical matter, ‘you're only limited by your imagination.’ ” A detainee “isn't going to be near a place where he has Miranda rights or the equivalent of them,” the official says. “God only knows what they're going to do to him. You go to some other country that'll let us pistol whip this guy.” [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004; The Wall Street Journal, 3/4/2003]
          

May 6, 2004

       Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh dismisses photos taken of prisoners at Abu Ghraib saying, “It is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation.” [Newsweek, 5/13/2004]
People and organizations involved: Rush Limbaugh
          


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