U.S. government sanctioned torture after 9/11: report
Think-tank contends Bush White House bears responsibility
NEW YORK — An independent review of the U.S. government’s anti-terrorism response after the 9/11 attacks reported Tuesday that it is “indisputable” the United States engaged in torture and the George W. Bush administration bears responsibility.
The report by the Constitution Project, a non-partisan Washingtonbased think-tank, is an ambitious review of the Bush administration’s approach to the problems of holding and interrogating detainees after the attacks.
The report says brutality has occurred in war before, “but there is no evidence there had ever before been the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after September 11, directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.”
John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under president George W. Bush, called the report “completely divorced from reality” and stressed that the procedures were “lawyered, and lawyered again, and lawyered again.”
“The whole point of the Bush administration’s review of the techniques was so that no one would be tortured,” he said. “The intention was precisely the opposite.”
The report is the product of a twoyear study based on evidence in the public record. It was conducted by a bipartisan task force of 11 experts from a broad range of ideological perspectives and professions. The Constitution Project appointed both former Republican and Democratic policy-makers and members of Congress, retired generals, judges, lawyers and academics.
Among them was co-chairman Asa Hutchinson, Bush’s undersecretary for border and transportation security at the Department of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005. The other co-chairman was former Rep. James R. Jones, a Democrat.
Much of the legal justification for what was called “enhanced interrogation” was drafted by John Yoo, at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
The Constitution Project report cites Alberto Mora, the general counsel of the navy, as being one of the senior officials troubled by the expanded interrogation techniques, and quotes him as asking Yoo whether the president could lawfully order a detainee to be tortured.
“Yes, the president could authorize torture, he said was Yoo’s response,” according to the report.
A call for response to Yoo, who now teaches at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law, was not immediately answered. The Constitution Project said he did not participate in the preparation of its report.
As a result of the Bush administration’s green-lighting of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” the report says, “U.S. forces, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel con- ducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved ‘cruel, inhuman, or degrading’ treatment.”
“Both categories of actions violate U.S. laws and international treaties. Such conduct was directly counter to values of the constitution and our nation,” the Constitution Project report said.
Former vice-president Dick Cheney, the most vocal defender of the Bush administration’s antiterrorism policies, said in 2011 he had “no regrets” about the harsh interrogation policies pursued following Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“There are, nonetheless, strong assertions by some former senior government officials that the use of those techniques did, in fact, yield valuable intelligence that resulted in operational and strategic successes. But those officials say that the evidence of such success may not be disclosed for reasons of national security,” the report noted.
“History shows that the American people have a right to be skeptical of such claims, and to decline to accept any resolution of this issue based largely on the exhortations of former officials who say, in essence, ‘Trust us’ or ‘If you knew what we know but cannot tell you,’ ” the Constitution Project said.