Torture and Detention

Frequently Asked Questions (scroll down for article archives and further resources)

"If anyone acts like they don't know their government is torturing people on a widespread and systematic scale, they are choosing NOT to know. We have to continue to lead people to act against this -- going out to people, into classes, to institutions, and on Too many people have learned to accept this, there is not nearly enough opposition to the revelations about these top level torture meetings -- but this is something that can change quickly if a beginning core acts with moral clarity..." -Debra Sweet, Director of World Can't Wait

Indefinite Detention and Torture Under ObamaDownload this flier

Torture + Silence = Complicity!

Act Now to Stop Torture!

Has Obama put an end to torture, rendition, and indefinite detention? Facts you need to know:

1. Obama admits Bush officials tortured, but refuses to prosecute them.

Cheney has bragged about authorizing water boarding of detainees. In January 2009, Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, that he believed water boarding was torture. Torture is a violation of Geneva Conventions. The Obama administration is, therefore, not only morally, but legally, required to prosecute Bush Regime officials for torture.

2. Under Obama, the U.S. is still holding detainees without charges or trial.

During the campaign Obama declared habeas corpus to be “the foundation of Anglo-American law.”Habeas corpus is your right to challenge your detention. It is a 900-year- old right. Without habeas corpus there are no restraints on a government’s powers to detain and punish.

Contrary to his rhetoric, the Obama administration is continuing the Bush Regime’s policies of denying prisoners habeas corpus rights and has even adopted the same arguments made by Bush. In February 2009, the Obama administration declared in Federal Court that it would not grant habeas corpus rights to detainees in U.S. custody in Bagram, Afghanistan.

In March 2009 Obama’s Justice Department claimed that Guantanamo prisoners who were detained before June 2008 had no habeas corpus rights. On May 21, 2010 the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Obama administration, holding that three prisoners who are being held by the U. S. at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan cannot challenge their detention in U.S. courts.

3. Don’t be fooled just because Obama isn’t using the term “enemy combatant”

The Obama administration will no longer use the term “enemy combatant,” but it’s a change in name only: in the same court filing in which it made this announcement, Obama’s Justice Department made clear that it would continue to detain prisoners at Guantanamo without charge. As the NY Times put it:

[T]he [Obama] Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, Obama’s executive orders do not ban indefinite detention. In addition, at his confirmation hearing, Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder said: “There are possibly many other people who are not going to be able to be tried but who nevertheless are dangerous to this country… We’re going to have to try to figure out what we do with them.” Holder suggested prisoners could be detained for the length of their war of terror which, as we know, has no set end point.

4. Guantanamo is still open. The prison at Bagram is growing and torture is being committed.

According to Reuters, abuse of prisoners worsened shortly after the election of Obama:

Abuses began to pick up in December 2008 after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.”

Earlier this year Scott Horton reported in Harper’s Magazine on three murders of detainees in 2006 at Guantanamo that the military tried to cover up as suicides. More is coming out about torture at Bagram Detention Center in Afghanistan. Recently Andy Worthington reported on the detention and torture of three teenagers in his article, “Torture and the ‘Black’Prison,” or What Obama is Doing at Bagram (Part One).”

On June 7, 2010 Chris Floyd of Empire Burlesque wrote that under the Bush Regime medical personnel experimented on detainees to prove that the techniques used did not constitute torture. The chilling history of Nazi medical experimentation on those in concentration camps lurks in this revelation. ( echoes-of-mengele-medical-experiments-torture-and- continuity-in-the-american-gulag.html)

This is a violation of Geneva Conventions and there is evidence that these experiments are going on under Obama.

5. Obama is continuing rendition.

During his confirmation hearing, new CIA director Leon Panetta made it clear the Obama administration will continue rendition. Rendition is the practice of kidnapping somebody in one country and shipping them to another country for detention. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), said “Rendition is a violation of sovereignty. It’s a kidnapping. It’s force and violence…Once you open the door to rendition, you’re opening the door, essentially, to a lawless world.”

Obama supporters have attempted to draw the distinction between this practice and “extraordinary rendition,” defined as the practice of transferring somebody to another country knowing that they will be tortured. During his confirmation hearing, Leon Panetta said that under the Bush administration, “There were efforts by the CIA to seek and to receive assurances that those individuals would not be mistreated.” So Panetta is embracing the practices of the Bush Regime by continuing rendition!

Panetta then added, “I will seek the same kind of assurances that those individuals will not be mistreated.” (emphasis added)

Articles on Torture and Detention:

Why “Torture Doesn’t Work”

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH | May 14, 2018

tortureRackIntro., by Patrice Greanville: The appointment by Donald Trump of Gina Haspel, a CIA official directly involved in supervising torture, as head of the agency, has thrown the world of liberal pretensions and their mouthpieces into turmoil.  Liberals do not mind imperialist crimes as bloody and vicious as they come, provided that a mask of civility and deniability is maintained by the exceptional nation, something impossible in the case of Haspel, whom even some former colleagues find a questionable choice and whose offences remain a matter of record. This is nothing new, of course. This kind of pickle is inherent in the US empire, which requires refined hypocrisy and massive public ignorance—abetted confusion would be a more appropriate term— to conduct its criminal plutocratic agenda.  We are being literal here. Most American politicians earn their epaulettes by learning the craft of imposture, Obama being the most recent example of true mastery of this devious art, but Trump, a non-professional politician, and a clumsy oaf by nature, is incapable of delivering in that regard, his regime inevitably defined by coarse impulsiveness, pervasive chaos, and petulant recklessness, where the true, ugly and sociopathic face of imperial power is often revealed. 


Gina Haspel Should be Prosecuted, Not Confirmed to Run the CIA

Debra Sweet | May 8, 2018

The CIA nominee supervised detainee torture at a “black site” in Thailand 

Gina Haspel arrived to run “Detention Site Green” in late October 2002, after the harsh interrogation of Abu Zubeydah that reportedly reduced attendant personnel to tears. 

She supervised the interrogation of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques during at least four separate periods.

Interrogators at the site sought to make terror suspects talk by slamming them against walls, keeping them from sleeping, holding them in coffin-sized boxes and forcing water down their throats — a technique called waterboarding. 


'This Is Not America. This Is Not Who We Are.' Except It Is.

Curt wechsler | May 3, 2018   

The U.S. "War on Terror" has always been about persecuting Muslims, torture being the modus operandi of a cruel system of institutionalized Islamophobia. The nomination of Gina Haspel to head the Central Intelligence Agency confirmed what we already knew: political impunity thrives in an authoritarian environment. And blaming the subjects of abuse endears you to white supremacists.


Indefinite Detention Is Torture

Curt Wechsler | April 5, 2018

Indefinite Detention Is Torture

Habeas corpus, or the Great Writ, is the legal procedure that keeps the government from holding you indefinitely without showing cause. “The serious physical and psychological harm that results from such detention can constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” charges The Center for Victims of Torture. “These effects are amplified in detainees who have been tortured or experienced trauma prior to commencement of indefinite detention.”     


A Failure of Accountability Made Gina Haspel's Nomination Possible

Curt Wechsler | March 17, 2018

gina-haspel-mgn-thumb-275xauto-2241Few people have paid a professional price for involvement in America's torture program, notes Rogue Justice author Karen Greenberg. John Yoo, the author of the infamous 2002 memos declaring torture legal, remains a tenured professor at Berkeley. Steven Bradbury, who authorized "enhanced" interrogation techniques, now serves as General Counsel of the United States Department of Transportation. Disgraced Attorney General Alberto Gonzales eventually landed a job as Dean of Belmont University College of Law, in Nashville, Tennessee, where he currently teaches Constitutional Law. Former Bush and Obama administrators found senior posts in business and academia (universities, think tanks, foundations, corporations, law firms) and serve to arbiter public opinion on the crimes of the Trump/Pence regime. 


The Guantanamo Bay Reboot, Part of the Vicious “America First” Fascism of the Trump/Pence regime. | February 19, 2018

h-tortureIn his first State of The Union message, Donald Trump announced the signing of a new executive order to keep Guantánamo Bay open to the sound of applause. He said those who didn’t applaud his speech are traitors.. His remarks are a harbinger of new waves of prisoners, staying true to his campaign promise to fill Guantanamo up with “some bad dudes.” He pledged to, “have all necessary power to detain terrorists wherever we chase them down, wherever we find them. And in many cases for them it will now be Guantánamo bay.” He further stated that “Terrorists who do things like place bombs in civilian hospitals are evil. When possible, we have no choice but to annihilate them,” disregarding due process. This is an expression of painful hypocrisy as Trump is a blood-thirsty fascist who bombs whole villages, mosques and schools. The budget proposed by the Trump/Pence regime reflects these vows with a $69 million investment in a Guantanamo reboot.


Guantánamo, Torture and the Trump Agenda

World Can't Wait | January 26, 2018

Andy Worthington on "Guantánamo, Torture and the Trump Agenda" at Revolution Books on January 16, 2018.


A Seminal Moment for the International Criminal Court (ICC)

World Cant Wait | November 17, 2017

Attorney Marjorie Cohn reminds us that despite the American Service-Members Protection Act, U.S. officials are not immune from investigation for war crimes in Afghanistan:

The doctrine of universal jurisdiction permits any country to try foreign nationals for the most egregious crimes, even without any direct relationship to the prosecuting country. That means other nations can bring U.S. leaders to justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity.


'Enhanced Interrogation' Tactics Were No Mistake

World Can't Wait | November 15, 2017

The approval of torture on detainees must be labeled an intentional, calculated decision that resulted from post-9/11 hyper-patriotism justifying the unethical treatment and dehumanization of detainees, who at times held no relevant knowledge regarding terrorism or were completely innocent," writes Claire Oh for International Policy Digest. President Trump's attempts to bury the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture (he has ordered the return of all copies of the report to the Senate vaults) undermine the integrity of the United States' government.


The Building Boom at Guantanamo Bay Heralds a Rise in False Imprisonment

World Can't Wait | October 23, 2017

"Eight years ago, when I wrote a book on the first days of Guantanamo, The Least Worst Place: Guantánamo's First 100 Days, I assumed that Gitmo would prove a grim anomaly in our history," remarks Carol Rosenberg. "Today, it seems as if that 'detention facility' will have a far longer life than I ever imagined and that it, and everything it represents, will become a true, if grim, legacy of twenty-first-century America."


FBI Nominee Denies Involvement with John Yoo's Handiwork

World Can't Wait | July 13, 2017

While Christopher Wray's time as principal associate deputy attorney general coincided with "torture memos" authored by John Yoo, he discounts testimony that he reviewed, let alone approved, content.

"My view is that torture is wrong, it's unacceptable, it's illegal, and I think it's ineffective," Wray responded to questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Senators from both parties were impressed with his answer. "Best of luck to you," offered Al Franken. 



World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.