Highest-level Bush Administration Officials Approved, Discussed U.S. Post-9/11 Torture Program


Esther Wang, [email protected]

April 10, 2008, New York, NY – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement on the accountability of top Bush administration officials for the U.S. government’s torture program post-9/11:

“According to an ABC News story that came out yesterday, the most senior officials of the Bush administration held dozens of secret meetings to discuss the torture of detainees held in CIA custody. These officials apparently provided explicit approval of specific techniques to be used on individual detainees, including waterboarding, as well as the use of abusive interrogation techniques in combination.

Those officials include: Vice President Dick Cheney, current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, then-CIA director George Tenet, and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The ABC News story reported that officials at the highest levels of government were intimately and directly involved with the creation, approval, and specific details of the U.S. torture program post-9/11. It was not, as the administration has stated, simply a few bad apples and low-level soldiers who bear the ultimate responsibility for the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo, in CIA secret prisons, and in other U.S. detention centers around the globe.

American torturers must not go unpunished.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has, since 2006, been pursuing high-level Bush administration officials in national courts across Europe for their program of torture and coercive interrogations. We have filed legal challenges in Germany and France against Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, and other high-ranking Pentagon officials for their creation and approval of torture tactics; we have also charged former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Bush administration attorneys John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and William Haynes for their legal memos that, by ignoring and distorting relevant legal precedents, facilitated and justified the use of torture and other unlawful coercion.

CCR represents men who were tortured while held in U.S. custody: as disclosed in public versions of his court filings, Majid Khan, one of the CIA ghost detainees, was brutally tortured while held in secret CIA custody for three years. And Mohammed al Qahtani, who has been at Guantanamo since 2002, was subjected to a brutal interrogation program – specifically authorized by Donald Rumsfeld – that included 20-hour interrogations, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and severe sleep deprivation, among other tactics. The government is seeking the death penalty against al Qahtani based on evidence that was likely obtained through torture.

It is truly chilling to imagine that these officials – Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, and others – would mire themselves in the grim details of any unlawful interrogations.

According to the ABC News article, Ashcroft himself acknowledged the suspect nature of their meetings, saying, ‘History will not judge this kindly.’

But for those whose torture was explicitly approved in these top-level secret meetings, the future condemnation of the torture program’s architects is not sufficient.

These men, and the hundreds of other men and women who were tortured by the U.S. post-9/11, deserve justice. The Bush administration officials must be prosecuted for their criminal acts. While our country may not try them in our courts, CCR will continue to pursue the architects of the U.S. torture program in courts around the world.”

Read the ABC news article.

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.


Last modified 

August 9, 2011