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Michael Ratner says that leaked portions of the Senate Select Committee Report obtained by Al Jazeera and McClatchy show clear evidence of torture by the CIA and other US officials authorizing it or engaging in it

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ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore. And welcome to another edition of The Ratner Report.

Now joining us is Michael Ratner. Michael Ratner is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and is also a regular contributor and board member of The Real News Network.

Thanks for joining us, Michael.


WORONCZUK: So what do you have for us this week?

RATNER: You know, the last few weeks have just been filled with information about torture, particularly around the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and their report, 6,000 pages on what the CIA did to hundreds, or at least over 100 detainees, from waterboarding to many things we don’t yet know about.

And when I say filled with, that report was finished in 2012. Dianne Feinstein, who’s head of that committee, the senator, has kept it classified. Recently there’s been a push to get at least parts of that report declassified. We know, you know, some of the rough outlines. We know [snip] black sites, which are places where detainees were interrogated in Poland, perhaps in some other places. We knew that people were waterboarded, because some of that was disclosed. But we don’t really know the whole story, and we still don’t, and we may not for a very long time.

But in any case, the report of 6,000 pages was completed in 2012, and in the last few weeks, Senator Feinstein and others have been pushing to have the report declassified. Now, they [incompr.] could declassify it. They don’t need to go to the president for declassification, they don’t need to go to the declassification review board or whatever they call it, because under the speech and debate clause of the U.S. Constitution, they’re immune from any prosecution for anything they publish in the course of their legislative business. But, of course, they never have the courage to do that. So Dianne Feinstein said, okay, we should declassify at least the executive summary, which is some 400 pages, and the 20 or so findings and conclusions of that report.

And so the first thing that happened is she sends it over to the president, and the committee says, we request that the executive declassify those sections of the report. And what’s the first thing that happens? The president, rather than the White House, declassifies it, declassifying the report. What do they do? They send it to the CIA for declassification. And what’s astounding about that is the CIA is the target of this report. It’s the CIA that was involved in the waterboarding. It’s the CIA that was involved in running a black sites. It’s the CIA that was involved in torture. And so the president basically sends the chicken to the fox. And so what do you think the Fox is going to–it’s going to eat the chicken. So what we get out of this declassification will remain to be seen.

The committee asked that it be declassified in 30 days. I won’t say we’ll wait 30 years for whatever we’ll get, but we’re going to wait, I bet, a lot longer than 30 days, and a lot of it is not going to be declassified. It was already—in some way that, executive summary has already been cleaned up by the committee. But even that, as I said, the CIA isn’t going to give us. It’s again a weak-kneed president, Obama, unwilling to take on the CIA, unwilling to take on torture.

And, of course, that just reflects what has gone on now for 60 years or so under President Obama: clear evidence torture by the CIA and other US officials authorizing it or engaging in it. He has refused to prosecute anybody, really, for that, for those crimes. And he has said: I’m ruling it out. So a second real weak-kneed thing by the president.

On top of all of that, you have all these investigations now going on of everyone except a criminal investigation of the people involved in the torture. So CIA has referred the staffers, the people who work for Senator Feinstein and the committee, to the Department of Justice for investigation under the CIA’s what apparently is a [completely] bogus claim, that the staffers somehow took material off of a computer that they were authorized to use for the purposes of this preparation of the report. But the CIA, really as a way of intimidating the committee and Senator Feinstein, has said, we want the Senate staffers investigated. One investigation.

Another one, which has just come out recently, is that somehow–and I think that’s what I want to talk about a bit–is that some of the findings of this report have been leaked, and leaked by McClatchy, leaked by Al Jazeera. And now apparently Senator Feinstein has called for the investigation of how did McClatchy and how did perhaps other newspapers get a hold of the findings of the report or other conclusions of the report? So, instead of going after the CIA, they’re going after the whistleblowers, and arguably the newspapers as well. It’s a very, very sad commentary. Here we have an incredible illegal program that we still haven’t had fully exposed and we haven’t had prosecuted.

What’s interesting to me is some of the leaks that have happened already, and there’s some material that we didn’t know, and it seems like this report is going to be important if and when more of it can be leaked and we can get our hands on more of it.

I hesitate to say–and I do represent, very important publisher of whistleblown documents, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, is that seems to be the default. The only way we’re going to get information out of this government and I and its illegal practices, as we are doing now with the report from the intelligence community is from leakers. So it’s very sad to me that Dianne Feinstein doesn’t recognize that and that that’s the way the American people have to learn about what is occurring.

So let’s talk about some of the findings that have come out. One–and these are from Al Jazeera that I’ve taken these, as well as some other sources. The CIA lied to Congress and to journalists about the results of the torture they carried out on over 100 of these what they called high-value detainees but were not that in fact in many cases. They claimed that the torture resulted in plots being broken up. In other words, the torture works narrative, and it’s completely false. And then they then solve the plots with torture, supposedly. Of course, that’s the story of the film about how they got bin Laden, and part through torture, Zero Dark Thirty, all apparently a pack of lies. So that’s one thing that will be in this report. The CIA apparently took on–I mean, he Senate committee took on these narratives and prove them to be false.

Secondly is the location of black sites. We’ve about black sites in a number of places, never really been publicly revealed in most places. But now there’s a new one, a number of new ones. One is there was a black site at Guantanamo. Yes, Guantanamo was a bad place, torture went on there, but we didn’t suspect it was one of these secret CIA places that was called a black site, where things like waterboarding occurred. But now we know, apparently, from the leaks from this report, that at least ten detainees were held on Guantanamo 2003-2004, and, quote, interrogated, but obviously most of them obviously tortured. They were then sent to Morocco, and after a few years sent back to Guantanamo.

Now, the torture site at Guantanamo, which even though we represent people at Guantanamo at the Center for Constitutional Rights, we didn’t know about it–was either called it was probably called Seven. We’re not sure. But also its referred to in various movies and other revelations as Camp No, Camp N O, I think, or KNOW, but I think Camp /noʊ/, because no one was supposed to know the name. Another article referred to it as camp Echo. That is apparently the black site.

Now, what’s also also interesting about that: was it the same place where the three people who the U.S. claim committed suicide actually were taken and killed? There is a fair chance, in my view, that it’s the same black site. That’s one important piece of information from this Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Secondly, and this happened when I–I remember I took a trip to England or London in 2003 or so. And London owns an island in the Indian Ocean–the U.K. does–called Diego Garcia. The U.S. runs it is a military base. And there were sort of lots of little [rumors] swirling around: is Diego Garcia being used as a black site? It forced the British or the U.K. to say, no, it’s not, we know what’s being done at Diego Garcia, and it’s not a black site for torture. In fact, what this report apparently says is that Diego Garcia was used as a black site, and it was done with full cooperation of the United Kingdom. In other words, we’ve had a pack of lies from our government.

A third site which we’ve known about was Poland, but apparently Poland will not be revealed in the report as a site because the Polish government has insisted that they want to be erased from the site. But at least 20–at least erased from the report, but at least 20 detainees, which was a much bigger number than we suspected, were taken to Poland.

The majority of the hundred who were put into these special black sites were taken to Morocco and Afghanistan. Hopefully, the report will tell us what occurred to them.

Another important revelation in the report was that there were methods used for torture that went beyond what the administration authorized. None of this should have been authorized. It was all illegal, unconstitutional, criminal, a violation of treaties, etc. But even those that were illegal but authorized, quote, by our government, the CIA went beyond those, whether it was in ways of sleep deprivation, number of times waterboarded, putting in cages, other kinds. Again, we have to await more leaks to find out what happened.

For me another really important revelation is that of these, of the people who went through these black sites, 85 are apparently the high majority (the world’s low value), and dozens were wrongfully detained altogether, and they were detained on the basis of the torture of other ones.

So, basically, what we’ve always said at my office and that I’ve said is that when you’re under torture you’ll say anything to stop the torture, and I mean anything, and especially what your torturer wants to hear. So as a result of that, scores of people were wrongfully detained, and of those, at least ten were sent to foreign countries that are unaccounted for, which means we don’t know what happened to them, but apparently they’re presumed dead.

So there you go. You’ve got people tortured, falsely giving the names of people, sent to foreign countries, and then killed in those countries.

So now we wait for that full report to be declassified, which will have us waiting forever, or for whistleblowers to finally put it up on places like WikiLeaks.

I want to say as I close that, yes, transparency here is important, as you can see by the nature of this report and what we’re learning. But as important or perhaps more important is justice. Transparency is not the same as justice. It’s not the same as saying, Condoleezza Rice, George Bush, Dick Cheney, others who were involved in the torture should be prosecuted. And until that happens, we don’t really have a reckoning, real reckoning with torture.

Now, the center, in my final comment here, the Center for Constitutional Rights has been trying to prosecute the tortures since the beginning. We did get a good ruling the other day in Spain. We have a case going against whoever was involved in the Guantanamo tortures. It’s an international justice case. In the Spanish courts. Spain has tried to limit its lawsuits. Our case and other cases have been filed. They did do a limitation the other day, which conceivably could have knocked out our litigation in Spain, but it courageous Spanish judge said, whatever the legislature has done here, it doesn’t affect what’s required by international law, which is that torturers must be prosecuted. They’re international outlaws. So while there’s little hope that our governments going to do much, perhaps the governments of another of other countries may do something as well.

WORONCZUK: Alright, Michael, we’ll be sure to have you on when the full committee report is released. Michael Ratner, thank you so much for joining us.

RATNER: Thank you for having me.

WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Michael Ratner is President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and Chair of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin. He is currently a legal adviser to Wikileaks and Julian Assange. He and CCR brought the first case challenging the Guantanamo detentions and continue in their efforts to close Guantanamo. He taught at Yale Law School, and Columbia Law School, and was President of the National Lawyers Guild. His current books include Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in the Twenty-First Century America, and Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder.

NOTE: Mr. Ratner speaks on his own behalf and not for any organization with which he is affiliated.