Report: Justice Department To Re-Open Nearly a Dozen Prisoner-Abuse Cases

holdererictorture -abu ghraibThe Justice Department appears close to re-opening nearly a dozen prisoner abuse cases that were all but buried by the Bush Administration. The move comes after a recommendation of the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility. The Obama Administration, however, is still blocking any investigation into war crimes and the torture program. I discussed the appointment of Mr. Durham in <a href="“>this segment of Countdown.

The Justice Department is expected to release details on prisoner abuse this week, which will add pressure for re-opening these cases. The Bush Administration rejected any prosecution after sending the cases to the Eastern District of Virginia. The Eastern District has had a number of controversial terrorism cases and has been criticized for extreme views of the law. Critics charged that the office effectively buried the cases.

This announcement also comes with the disclosure that the CIA officers used mock executions and a power drill to interrogate detainees, here.

The cases include the controversy over the death of Manadel al-Jamadi, who died in 2003 in C.I.A. custody at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. While prosecutors dismissed the case by saying that he probably suffered the wounds in his capture, Navy seals who captured him deny that.

Rather than proceed on this piecemeal approach, the Obama Administration should simply appoint a special prosecutor with full authority to investigate the torture program and all detainee abuse –without limitations. Instead, Attorney General Holder appears to be struggling to game the system to protect officials for any war crimes prosecution — a politically difficult move for the Obama Administration.

For the full story, click here.

89 thoughts on “Report: Justice Department To Re-Open Nearly a Dozen Prisoner-Abuse Cases”

  1. Jill, thanks for the post. It just goes to prove that despite the common perception of mutual distrust between lawyers and physicians, the Bush administration was able to bring the two professions together in a cooperative effort. Lawyers provided the opinions delineating lawful methods for abusing human beings and physicians implemented them. Perhaps there is even a handy reference manual somewhere in the bureaucracy, something with a catchy title like “The Schlegelberger and Mengele Handbook on Legal Torture Protocols.”

  2. This is an important story:

    “Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) charges that “The extent to which American physicians and psychologists violated human rights and betrayed the ethical standards of their professions by designing, implementing, and legitimizing a worldwide torture program is greater than previously known.”

    A team of PHR doctors authored the new white paper, “Aiding Torture: Health Professionals’ Ethics and Human Rights Violations Demonstrated in the May 2004 Inspector General’s Report.”

    The report details how the CIA relied on medical expertise to rationalise and carry out abusive and unlawful interrogations. It also refers to aggregate collection of data on detainees’ reaction to interrogation methods.

    “PHR is concerned that this data collection and analysis may amount to human experimentation,” the report says.

    “Medical doctors and psychologists colluded with the CIA to keep observational records about waterboarding, which approaches unethical and unlawful human experimentation,” says PHR Medical Advisor and lead report author Scott Allen, MD.”

  3. Just saw this info:

    The Obama administration may circumvent the spirit of a judge’s order to disclose hundreds of documents relating to the CIA’s Bush-era interrogation program, delivering instead generic descriptions of the documents and legal arguments for continued nondisclosure.
    Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

    Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

    While the CIA inspector general’s 2004 report on torture was released Monday, a tranche of hundreds of supporting documents sought by an ongoing American Civil Liberties Union court case remain unseen. Those include 129 documents that provide some of the source material for the inspector general’s report; 138 other documents from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel about the interrogation program; and a Sept. 17, 2001 presidential order from George W. Bush authorizing the CIA to set up unacknowledged detention facilities around the world. The Justice Department released additional supporting documents earlier this week in addition to the inspector general’s report.

    On July 20, Judge Allen Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the government needed to complete a review of the documents for declassification in response to an ACLU Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Monday, Aug. 31. “As to the remaining 318 remanded CIA documents, the Government shall complete its processing of those documents by August 31, 2009, such that, on or before that date, the Government shall produce to the plaintiffs any portions of those 318 documents that are appropriate for release under [the Freedom of Information Act],”Hellerstein wrote in an order filed the following day.

  4. Caught you and your tan on KO earlier, JT. Good on ya…

    I agree that Holder’s mandate for an initial investigation seems very odd but have also been speculating, for months, how the Feds would go about identifying and then defending even the baddest actors, as promised previously by former Director Casey. And also if the insurance policies several officers felt compelled to purchase out of their own pockets provide no duty to defend with an exclusion for ‘illegal acts’ without qualification.

    I must admit to not being privy to the contracts, so I’m not versed in how they read.

    Even though you and I agree ALL torture is criminal, despite the pass invented by the made up ‘legal’ memos to cover this scenario, the only way to clarify the issue and determine who may be entitled to coverage to pay for defense is to separate and define the ‘categories’, particularly where CIA operatives clearly surpassed the so called ‘legal’ memos.

  5. I agree with Jt’s final paragraph and continue to urge all to contact their state members in Congress, Attorney Generla Holder and the White House and state your expectations. We are past arguing whether torture is okay or not.

    Despite newly designated ‘untouchable status’, which I can dispute, and Jeremy Scahill’s popular appearances with respect to Blackwater etc, he has yet to actually touch foot on Guantanomo.

    What he has written about Gitmo comes from others who have represented prisoners since the Bush era and have nothing to do with Obama. Obama having issues a signing statement the day after his inauguration, had a crew there with in three weeks of his being sworn in..

  6. Jill,
    thanks for the Greenwald cite. I am also hoping that the dam of resistance against a torture investigation is beginning to crack. Holder’s action is a small start, but combined with the IG report it could eventually push the WH to do the right thing and follow the law.

  7. Glenn Greenwald has an updated entry concerning the IG report. It clearly shows agents were very worried about being tried for war crimes. He also covers what was done to our fellow people in this world. Here’s is a portion of his writing:

    “Perhaps worst of all, the Report notes that many of the detainees who were subjected to this treatment were so treated due to “assessments that were unsupported by credible intelligence” — meaning there was no real reason to think they had done anything wrong whatsoever. As has been known for quite some time, many of the people who were tortured by the United States were completely innocent — guilty of absolutely nothing.

    Manifestly, none of this happened by accident. As the IG Report continuously notes, all of these methods were severe departures from long-standing CIA guidelines (if not practices). This all occurred because the officials at the highest levels of the U.S. Government pronounced that this was permissible, the protections of the Geneva Conventions were “quaint,” obsolete and inapplicable, and the U.S. was justified in doing anything and everything in the name of fighting Terrorists. As stomach-turning as these individual acts of sadism are, it is far worse to consider that only low-level interrogators will suffer consequences while those who were truly responsible — the criminally depraved leaders and lawyers who ordered and authorized it — will be protected.

    The historical record of what the U.S. did during this period is clear and growing. The only question that remains is what, if anything, we will do now that we are seeing the full picture.”

  8. Mespo72^3 and Mike A,

    Thanks. I’m really hoping that you guys are correct. I feel like this whole thing needs to snowball so that it becomes politically untenable to stand in its way so we could get prosecutions (I agree with whoever said it above that I’d even be okay with the guilty being pardoned as long as they admitted their guilt). Hopefully the CIA report being released today will be another significant step toward the damn breaking on this issue.


    I’m piling on with everyone else. Great post!

  9. Roland,

    Your parsimonious statements captured the pure and simple essence of the argument against torture.

  10. Jill, thanks for the continuing posts on this issue. I am hopeful that this will eventually become like Watergate, much too big for the AG’s office to control. I believe that supporters of torture policy are unhappy even with Holder’s limited investigation because they fear that he won’t be able to contain it. The Bush administration was filled with lawyers who acted essentially as co-conspirators, like many of the lawyers in the Nixon administration. We don’t remember Nixon’s lawyer/sycophants, but we do remember Leon Jaworski, Archibald Cox, Elliot Richardson and Judge John Sirica.

  11. Chris,

    In addition to what Gyges said, your hypothetical is wrong because it assumes that torture is the best means of obtaining intelligence from a suspect when in fact it was shown to be the worst means of obtaining intelligence in the case of the first high-value target we detained (I can’t recall his name right now, but the guy who gave us KSM). According to the congressional testimony of his FBI interrogator, he was giving information under conventional interrogation when the CIA took over and began torturing him he clammed up and the CIA brought the FBI interrogators in again and he resumed cooperating – after a few rounds of this he was so compromised (and consider for a minute what that means) that we could no longer get any viable information from him. And you think that we should consider using this technique that is so clearly as unsound from a pragmatic point of view as it is from a moral one? (And that doesn’t even consider the effect our torture programs have on our enemy’s recruiting programs…)

  12. Chris,

    By the way, “leftist?” If you’re going to claim to be moderate, you really shouldn’t use rhetorical language from the extremes.

  13. There’s this to consider in the calculation as well. From Jeremy Scahill: “Remember: the IG report is from 2004… torture continued well after that. At gitmo, it continued after obama was sworn in.”

  14. Roland, I think you could give Chris a lesson in real “pragmatism.” You nailed it. It’s no secret that in the waning days of World War II, German soldiers could hardly wait to surrender to U.S. troops rather than face capture by the Russians.

  15. IS, yes, I do. But I believe that the reality of what is uncovered will exceed expectations, not because of any inherent evil on the part of the participants, but because when people are given license to abuse others, they will inevitably cross the line due to the intoxicating combination of fear and power. And I also believe that once graphic information starts coming out, the outcry will tend to mute Republican criticism. Of course there will be continuous criticism by those who think that the public can’t handle the truth.

  16. As a Military (Retired) Veteran I was always afraid of what our enemies would do to our side when captured. We don’t torture because we don’t want it done to our boys when they are captured. It’s harder to ask for mercy when we show none and its harder to convince the enemy to surrender when they know torture is what awaits them.

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