Today marks the 12th anniversary of a Bush Administration Military Order accepting the advice of counsel that the Geneva Conventions would not apply to the conflict with Al Qaeda and that detainees are not legally entitled to humane treatment. This decision to violate international law would open the door to one of the darkest chapters in recent U.S. history: years of torture that we are still grappling with today.
Much of the abuse of detainees in the “War on Terror” has been documented, most recently by the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a 6,000-plus-page report on CIA interrogation and detention after 9/11. The report purportedly shows that the CIA’s use of torture was ineffective in obtaining intelligence or thwarting any attacks, and also that the CIA lied to Congress about the interrogation and detention programs.
This report is not public; the committee will likely soon vote to declassify and release part or all of the report. The CIA has slowed down this process, apparently embarrassed by the report’s content. It has even kept from the Senate Intelligence Committee the results of an internal review of these programs done under former CIA Director Leon Panetta, despite multiple requests. The U.S. military underwent a similar process, with the Senate Armed Services Committee releasing its review of the military’s post-9/11 interrogation and detention, which, according to former Defense Department General Counsel and current Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson, only made the U.S. military stronger.
Vice President Joe Biden, Jeh Johnson, and even former CIA Acting General Counsel John Rizzo (who approved many of the torture methods used by the CIA) have all called for the report’s release. But President Obama, who, on his second day in office signed an executive order barring the use of torture and has spoken repeatedly about the United States turning away from Bush Administration decisions like the Military Order of February 2002, has not weighed in on releasing the Senate report or asked the CIA to comply with the Intelligence Committee’s requests.
With the 12th anniversary of the Bush Administration’s military order—which signaled the United States’ turn away from its international law obligations and its respect for basic human rights and dignity—President Obama should help ensure that the United States never returns to the practice of torture. He should push for the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA interrogation and detention.