Contextual Content

Torture Accountability Action Day

A day before the Obama administration came out with an executive order, which will allow to incarcerate terror suspects indefinitely, people across the US gathered to demand legal action against senior Bush administration officials for authorizing torture. Produced by Ania Smolenskaia

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Story Transcript

VOICEOVER: On Friday, June 26, the Obama administration came out with "an executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate terrorism suspects indefinitely." (Dafna Lanzer and Peter Finn, "White House Weighs Order on Detention," The Washington Post, June 27, 2009) Just the day before, rallies and marches took place across the United States as part of Torture Accountability Action Day, so designated by a large coalition of human rights groups.

MARJORIE COHN, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD: In fact, the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment says that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, including a state of war, can ever be used as a justification for torture.

KEVIN ZEESE, DIRECTOR, VOTERSFORPEACE.US: And now President Obama hiding the evidence of a widespread torture program so that Americans can be fooled into thinking this just happened in Guant�namo, this just happened at Abu Ghraib. In fact, this was a widespread torture program affecting thousands of people at dozens of bases in Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba, and around the world, and those photos would would have shown that.

ENVER MASUD, FOUNDER AND CEO, THE WISDOM FUND: And Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of 9/11, was waterboarded 183 times. And a transcript released by the CIA just this month shows that he admitted he lied because he was being tortured. He wanted to end the torture, so he said whatever they wanted to hear.

VOICEOVER: The demonstrators then marched to the Department of Justice with an intention to ask Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint an independent prosecutor for torture.

PROTESTER: We were assuming that with the new administration there would be a change. We see no difference.

DAVID SWANSON, AUTHOR, BLOGGER, AND ACTIVIST: There is this idea in recent days and weeks that the push for prosecutions of torture is going to go away because the president is stalling, because Congress is waiting for a report from the Office of Professional Responsibility here and won’t act until that report comes, and it’s likely it’s not [going to] ever come because of that. There’s an idea that it’s all going to go away. The problem with that is that increasingly there are reports of ongoing torture. There are events like this one happening all over the country. There are a couple in California�San Francisco and Pasadena�where formal complaints are being delivered to the Ninth Circuit against Judge J. Bybee, who, of course, worked in the Justice Department under Bush and Cheney and was one of the key lawyers in drafting these memos that facilitated torture, as well as a nice memo legalizing illegal war for any future presidents. I saw a poll today that showed a strong majority of Americans favoring a complete ban on torture complete. But I have yet to see a poll on what percentage of Americans know that torture is banned, that torture is illegal under US law and international law, because there was this grand pretense throughout the Bush-Cheney years that we had to ban torture, that Congress should try to ban torture, and they should make loopholes for the CIA, and then the president would sign-in-statement those partial bans away, and this whole charade happening while the people at the top or writing memos to each other, worrying about the actual laws that were on the books, worrying that we might prosecute them at some point, perhaps now, perhaps later. And yet they went ahead, they pushed through, they put up this grand pretense of legalizing what was patently illegal, and we then came to the point where we had a new regime in power, both in Congress and the White House. And yet we have people putting politics, not even necessarily smart politics, but politics ahead of the rule of law. We have leaders of the Democratic Party who really want the American people to address torture by electing Democrats who might torture less than Republicans, rather than having our laws enforced. Nothing needs to be done to make it illegal. It is, has been for many years, and always will be illegal under our law and international law. Only by prosecuting it can we end that. And I think the American people grasp that, but they’ve been giving this new administration time to mess up. And they are becoming increasingly aware that it is messing up.

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.