CIA Torture Just Got One Step Closer to Facing Accountability

Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, December 11, 2014. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, December 11, 2014. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

“You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” I keep a poster up in my office with this quote from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. To me, it perfectly summarizes Amnesty International’s work of pushing back against the human rights abuses carried out in the name of national security. That’s because we’re fighting against fear and hate, which are powerful, intimidating adversaries. But recent victories have reminded me that there’s something stronger than fear and hate, and that our fight is worthwhile. We may feel sometimes as if human rights rarely win – but this time, they did. And they won big.

In an unprecedented victory for torture accountability, the U.S. Justice Department decided not to block a private lawsuit from going forward, and to actually allow survivors and victims of CIA torture to have their their day in court. This was a shocking development – typically, the U.S. government invokes “state secrets” and blocks these types of lawsuits from ever really going anywhere. For years, Amnesty International has urged the U.S. government not to use “state secrets” to block torture accountability.

Amnesty International members across the U.S. re-iterated that call for accountability this past December. After gathering by webinar to learn about this case, then taking action by flooding the Justice Department with phone calls, emails, and petition signatures, activists urged the Department of Justice not to use “state secrets” yet again in this case to block accountability for torture. It was a natural continuation of work they’d long been doing, because one of the names in this lawsuit was very familiar to Amnesty International activists: Gul Rahman.

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Gul Rahman is one of the victims of CIA torture represented in this case. You can read more about his tragic story here, including how he froze to death in CIA custody. Moved by his story to take action, thousands of Amnesty members have sought accountability from the U.S. government for Gul Rahman’s torture.

Just a few days ago, activists got what they asked for. In a shocking development, the Justice Department decided not to invoke state secrets and not to block the lawsuit from going forward. These survivors and victims of CIA torture will get a day in court. To be sure, there is still a long road to travel as they seek accountability, but for now, they’re still being allowed to push forward. It’s a milestone few thought we would reach.

Amnesty International activists helped this happen. Every phone call, every email, every petition, and every social media post contributed to a wave of activism that refuses to let anyone get away with torture, and refuses to let the world forget about Gul Rahman.

Today, accountability for the American Torture Story is just a little closer within reach. Onward.

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6 thoughts on “CIA Torture Just Got One Step Closer to Facing Accountability

  1. Some will say that they support torturing terrorists, but it makes more sense to say that a government cell with sovereign authority to torture people should at least have to answer to the courts. "In an unprecedented victory for torture accountability, the U.S. Justice Department decided not to block a private lawsuit from going forward, and to actually allow survivors and victims of CIA torture to have their their day in court. This was a shocking development – typically, the U.S. government invokes “state secrets” and blocks these types of lawsuits from ever really going anywhere. For years, Amnesty International has urged the U.S. government not to use “state secrets” to block torture accountability."

    • John a smith south dakota victim wont bring to states atterny or agnolige it extist but aired to several states and asalted by hundrads of public citizens

    • John a smith been torturted for 8 years beaten sexually and economically 24 hours a day by a micro chipp from avera st lukes aberdeen south dakota past taking my life and collapsing from extreme exauhstion and food depervation weeks at a time for 6.5 years

  2. This is good news, but could you please comment on whether this applies to the thousands of individuals tortured abroad by CIA-trained police at SOA as part of CIA-backed coups which installed torturing dictators, such as Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, and many other nations? By focusing only on post 9/11 victims, we miss the opportunity to reveal the full extent of CIA torture that the U.S. spread across the globe last century by instigating or supporting semi-covert coups. The numbers are staggering, far beyond those involved in post 9/11 cases, which of course are just as tragic. I know well the individual who Amnesty International took as their first case in Brazil–and there are thousands like him. When will they get recognition, an apology, and justice?

  3. Hi I am John alexander from south dakota ive been lead into a sex scandal so I could be teararized by my community and state public endangered and other states with avera st lukes micro chip ive been tortured sexually economically work been beaten to taking my life extreme mental and physical collapsing life. threatening levels 24 hours a day for six and half years please come. ForWard its being nationally aired to the public or north and south dakota im in fear for my life.

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