"This report reminds us once again that the character of our country has to be measured in part not by what we do when things are easy, but what we do when things are hard. And when we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line."
- President Obama, August 1, 2014
On December 9, 2014, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) released a declassified executive summary and the conclusions and findings of its inquiry into the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation and detention program.
The Senate report proves that after 9/11 the CIA engaged in a sophisticated program of calculated, aggressive, and egregious state-sanctioned torture and lied about how the program operated and the utility of the information obtained. High-level government officials authorized, justified, and covered up these monstrous crimes. This was torture, plain and simple. President Obama himself publicly admitted so as did prominent members of congress. In June 2015, unclassified information detailing the CIA's torture of CCR client Majid Khan was made public for the first time by Reuters. This information goes beyond what is included in the Senate Report, revealing even more evidence of CIA savagery and treachery.
However, the Department of Justice has failed to investigate new evidence that has emerged since the release of the report, making it all the more critical that we continue to demand that U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch prosecute those individuals responsible for the torture program. It is important to send a message to future officials, to the world, and to the victims of these policies, that the United States will not condone or accept torture and war crimes committed by its highest authorities. We must look back, in order to look forward—the United States as a nation should not – and the victims of its policies cannot – move forward without holding those responsible for torture, war crimes and other serious violations accountable. Prosecutions can provide a measure of justice for the survivors and victims of torture and abuse. No executive order, policy change or corrective legislation will provide such a lasting deterrence.
According to U.S. domestic law and international human rights treaties, like the Convention Against Torture (CAT), by which the U.S. is bound, torture is illegal and can—and must—be prosecuted.
"No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." - CAT, Article II
The culture of violence, secrecy, dehumanization of perceived enemies and impunity that became formalized in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 continues. To date, not a single high-level official has been held accountable for these crimes within the United States. Consequently, CCR has brought cases against high-level government officials to foreign courts—Germany, France, Canada and Spain— under principles of universal jurisdiction. The principle of “universal jurisdiction” allows national authorities of any state to investigate and prosecute people for certain serious international crimes—like torture—even if they were committed in another country because they are of such exceptional gravity that they affect the fundamental interests of the international community as a whole.
Relevant Torture Laws
Torture Statute—18 U.S. Code Chapter 113C
War Crimes Statute—18 U.S. Code Chapter 118
American Convention on Human Rights
Convention Against Torture (CAT)
Geneva Conventions, Common Article 3
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC)
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
New York Times Editorial Board, A Detainee Describes More C.I.A. Torture (June 5, 2015)
Democrazy Now!, "These are War Crimes": Shocking Details Emerge of U.S. Resident Majid Khan's Torture by CIA (June 4, 2015)
David Rhode, Exclusive: Detainee alleges CIA sexual abuse, torture beyond Senate findings, Reuters (June 2, 2015)
Vincent Warren, No Justifications, No Exceptions, US News & World Report (December 15, 2014)
MSNBC's Melissa Harris Perry, Critical questions face the torture debate--Vince Warren, Frances Fox Piven, Earl Catagnus Jr. and Dr. Sandeep Jauhar discuss what American values are when it comes to enhanced interrogation techniques (December 13, 2014)
MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes, Torture, black sites, and the CIA -- Baher Azmy, a lawyer for tortured CIA prisoners, and a veteran of the CIA's Clandestine Services discuss the methods exposed in the Senate Intelligence Committee's torture report (December 9, 2014)
Baher Azmy, To prevent torture, prosecute torture, MSNBC (December 8, 2014)
Matt Eisenbrandt and Katherine Gallagher, Canada should investigate Dick Cheney for war crimes, Toronto Star (October 29, 2013)
Katherine Gallagher, Damn Right, George Bush Should Face Criminal Proceedings for Waterboarding, The Guardian (November 17, 2012)
Katherine Gallagher, "Universal Jurisdiction in Practice: Efforts to Hold Donald Rumsfeld and Other High-level United States Officials Accountable for Torture,"Journal of International Criminal Justice (November 2009),
Michael Ratner, Why There Should Be a Case Against George W. Bush under Torture Law, CNN (February 19, 2011)
Michael Ratner, The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: A Prosecution by Book (2008)
CCR’s Longstanding Accountability Efforts
CCR has led a number of efforts to call for transparency and hold accountable U.S. officials responsible for the 9/11 torture program:
- Seeking the release of records pertaining to secret detention and extraordinary rendition through FOIA, Amnesty, et al. v CIA, et al.
- Representation of Majid Khan, a former ghost detainee currently held in Guantanamo Bay
- Representation of Mohammed al-Qahtani, victim of the Pentagon’s “First Special Interrogation Plan”, a regime of “aggressive interrogation techniques” amounting to torture, authorized by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
- Bringing cases in France, Spain, Canada and Germany under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction against top U.S. officials for their role in the post-9/11 torture program
- Publicly releasing the "Preliminary Bush Torture Indictment," which can be used to urge national authorities abroad to file a criminal investigation against forner President Bush for his role in authorizing and overseeing his administration’s well-documented torture program
- Seeking accountability for the deaths of two men at Guantanamo Bay in 2006, Al-Zahrani v. Rumsfeld is a civil action brought against the United States and 24 federal officials, including former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, for their role in the arbitrary detention, torture and ultimate deaths of Yasser Al-Zahrani of Saudi Arabia and Salah Al-Salami of Yemen
- Called upon the United Nations Human Rights Council to demand the United States appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute U.S. officials responsible for creating and implementing the Torture Program