CIA torturers must face trial

by Daphne Liddle

THE UNITED States is reeling after the publication of a landmark report into the CIA interrogation of detainees — in Guantanamo and many other less well-known centres around the world — after the attacks on New York and the Pentagon on 11th September 2001.

The Senate Intelligence Committee released a 528-page summary of the complete 6,000-page report — which remains classified — last Tuesday. It accused the CIA of going far beyond the “enhances techniques” authorised by the Justice Department and of lying at every turn about what was being done.

The published summary of the still secret full report also concludes that the torture used did not produce any significant or useful information. As the CIA knew well, when people are in agony they will say anything to stop the pain.

But these methods did induce some desperate people to give names of anyone they could think of, leading to a whole lot more innocent people being rounded up and tortured in their turn. In a normal court of law evidence obtained under torture is not allowed because it is more than likely just not true but that did not stop the CIA.

This begs the question, why did they keep on doing it? The real purpose is to strike fear and terror into potential rebels and revolutionaries fighting US imperialism around the world. And in that sense the document released on Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee might be expected to add to that effect.

“The CIA’s actions are a stain on our values and on our history,” the committee’s chair, Senator Dianne Feinstein, proclaimed on the floor of the Senate.

Outside of the US many left-wing political activists will be concerned that the report gives the impression that CIA torture is a new phenomenon since 9/11.

But the CIA has been up to its armpits in the gore of torture victims since long before that, including through the notorious School of the Americas (SOA). Founded by the United States in 1946, the SOA was initially located in Panama, but in 1984 it was kicked out under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty and moved to the army base at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Its curriculum includes courses in psychological warfare, counterinsurgency, interrogation techniques, and infantry and commando tactics. Presented with the most sophisticated and up-to-date techniques by the US Army’s best instructors.

The School of the Americas (SOA) has been given other names -- “School for Dictators”, “School of Assassins”, and “Nursery of Death Squads”. And, countries with the worst human rights records send the most soldiers to the School.

Graduates of the SOA have been among the most repressive tyrants in Latin America, and their actions have been some of the most cruel and violent.

And in the 1960s and 70s the US supervised the puppet South Vietnamese government in constructing the notorious “tiger cages” — cramped pits covered with a metal grill into which National Liberation Front prisoners were flung and tortured and in which many died.

Our own government is far from innocent. The British Empire had been torturing insurgents for centuries before the US began. And even now the Gibson report into the involvement of British MI6 intelligence officers in breaches of the Geneva conventions, “rendition” and turning a “blind eye” to the torture of detainees in foreign jails of terror suspects was halted after producing a damning interim report.

It was abandoned in January last year amid dramatic, first-hand evidence of MI6 involvement in the rendition of two prominent Libyan dissidents, Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi.

Despite promises by David Cameron and the former Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, that investigations would be continued by an independent, judge-led inquiry, the Government told the Commons that it had handed over the task to the Intelligence and Security Committee of selected MPs and peers. In other words the Gibson inquiry has been buried. We must join with other progressives around the world in demanding that torturers on both sides of the Atlantic are brought to justice, preferably at the Court of Human Rights in The Hague. As long as this does not happen the authority of that court is undermined.

In the meantime both the US and Britain have no place in accusing any other country of human rights abuses.