Senate Armed Services Committee Report Underscores Need for Prosecution

On April 22, 2009, the Senate Armed Services Committee issued the declassified version of its full report on the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody, particularly in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan. The report’s Executive Summary was released in December, and the release of the full 250-page report provides yet another striking example of the approval and authorization of torture and war crimes at the highest levels of the Bush administration. It further illustrates the severe harm that government officials and private contractors have done to men, women, and children held in U.S. custody through the use of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The report makes clear that these crimes were not committed by a “few bad apples,” but that officials at the highest levels of the Bush administration, including former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Department of Defense General Counsel William Haynes, planned and authorized torture and war crimes. Furthermore, it vividly illustrates just how integral the psychologists, physicians, and lawyers were to our government’s policy of torture. This bipartisan Senate committee joins the chorus of voices offering proof that these professionals played key roles in designing illegal torture tactics, supervising and ordering their implementation, and then providing medical and legal cover for criminal activity.

Coming on the heels of the release of torture memos written by former Department of Justice attorneys Jay Bybee (now a federal judge), John Yoo, and Stephen Bradbury, as well as the numerous documented revelations of the involvement in torture, war crimes, and other criminal activities of former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, former CIA Director George Tenet and many other high-ranking officials, including former President Bush himself, this report only adds urgency to the need for action.  The Senate’s investigation has yielded even more evidence of the urgent need for a full investigation, the appointment of a special prosecutor, and criminal prosecutions of those officials responsible for torture and war crimes. We cannot allow high government officials to violate the law and the Constitution with impunity. We must demand that our justice officials hold them accountable for their crimes.  We must send a clear message to both future officials and to the victims of torture that these actions are criminal and that the United States will prosecute those who ordered torture to the fullest extent of the law.

The Center for Constitutional Rights reiterates its call for prosecutions of Bush administration officials and for torturers and war criminals to be held accountable for their actions. CCR’s website on prosecutions and accountability has resources and information about the need for prosecutions.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has made the report available for download on its website.

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Last modified 

December 18, 2009