Obama's Mixed Messages on Torture & Abuse

The President on counterterrorism policy, after 100 days in office: No more torture, or loopholes galore? Important symbolic steps, or stalling tactics? Heading in the right direction, or Barack “Dubya” Obama?

Pundits are coming at President Obama from all sides, but after 100 days in office, what’s really going on?

Well, one important way to judge is on the basis of international human rights law–including the U.N. Convention Against Torture–and on that standard it’s clear: President Obama has a lot more to do. Scratch that. President Obama has a lot more he is legally obligated to do.

Read all about it in Amnesty International’s new report, “Mixed Messages: Counter Terror and Human Rights–President Obama’s First 100 Days.” OK, it’s a long report so here’s the take away, President Obama needs to:

  • Charge Guantanamo detainees and give them fair trials in US federal courts, or release them;
  • Respect the rights of detainees at other US facilities, like Bagram in Afghanistan;
  • Ensure that the US will never again resort to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment–as defined by international law;
  • Ensure accountability for torture and other human rights violations through: an independent commission of inquiry; prosecutions where warranted; and redress and remedy for victims.

Our message isn’t mixed: President Obama must respect and protect human rights. It’s up to us to make sure it happens.

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6 thoughts on “Obama's Mixed Messages on Torture & Abuse

  1. Greetings Zeke the crusader, how you doin?

    I have a few theories that might explain President Obama's lack of enthusiasm and the absence of complete and total appeasment to the charge or release the detainee crowd, the investigate and prosecute the Bush Administration crowd and the investigate and prosecute the CIA crowd.

    1. Now that he is actually in office he is responsible for more then being popular and winning votes. He now knows more about the men detained at GTMO and isn't about to order the release of dangerous enemy combatants and members of al-qaeda (regardless if the "evidence" withstands the scrutiny of a federal trial). He should stop campaigning now and start serving as the Pres and the Commander-In-Chief. His number 1 priority should be the safety and security of our Nation. I believe that is begining to sink in to him.

    2. I believe he is reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the formerly known as "global war on terrorism" is real and not some war mongers excuse to flex U.S. muscle. Can we agree the global war on terrorism is real? I assume we can. Just as in all U.S. Armed Conflicts in the past I would argue the criteria/burden of a federal conviction is irrelevant. Just because you can't convict some of these guys for a crime doesn't make them any less a threat and any less an enemy combatant. In which case…the U.S. Gov't is perfectly within its authority to continue to detain. The increase in Afghanistan suggests to me he reckognizes this is a war. I just wonder what guidance the administration will put out in regards to the scores of enemies sure to be captured from this point forward? A federal trial for each one? Is that what you are advocating? A nation at war passing constitional rights and a federal trial to every single captured detainee during our armed conflict?

    3. Though controversial and certainly uncomfortable for the likes of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — CIA enhanced interrogation techniques (waterboarding, hot and cold temperatures, sleep deprevation, stress positions, using scary bugs and caterpillars etc) … were approved for use. Your Congress and your Senate knew it AND in most cases either signed off or turned a blind eye. NOW after the fact, after 8 years of living terror-free, after useful information was revealed, after terrorist acts were avoided…is not the time to criminalize those who followed lawful orders and did the job. If he wants to change the rules moving forward, he is the President and if he says no waterboarding so be it.

    When we capture Osama Bin Laden I'm sure the first thing we should do is read him his miranda rights, assign him a team of ACLU attorneys, get him a room at the marriott, make sure he is well fed and rested, ask him if he needs anything and then politely ask him some questions.

    Later Zeke,

    U.S.A. Terror Free Since 9-11-2001

  2. Greetings Zeke the crusader, how you doin?

    I have a few theories that might explain President Obama’s lack of enthusiasm and the absence of complete and total appeasment to the charge or release the detainee crowd, the investigate and prosecute the Bush Administration crowd and the investigate and prosecute the CIA crowd.

    1. Now that he is actually in office he is responsible for more then being popular and winning votes. He now knows more about the men detained at GTMO and isn’t about to order the release of dangerous enemy combatants and members of al-qaeda (regardless if the “evidence” withstands the scrutiny of a federal trial). He should stop campaigning now and start serving as the Pres and the Commander-In-Chief. His number 1 priority should be the safety and security of our Nation. I believe that is begining to sink in to him.

    2. I believe he is reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the formerly known as “global war on terrorism” is real and not some war mongers excuse to flex U.S. muscle. Can we agree the global war on terrorism is real? I assume we can. Just as in all U.S. Armed Conflicts in the past I would argue the criteria/burden of a federal conviction is irrelevant. Just because you can’t convict some of these guys for a crime doesn’t make them any less a threat and any less an enemy combatant. In which case…the U.S. Gov’t is perfectly within its authority to continue to detain. The increase in Afghanistan suggests to me he reckognizes this is a war. I just wonder what guidance the administration will put out in regards to the scores of enemies sure to be captured from this point forward? A federal trial for each one? Is that what you are advocating? A nation at war passing constitional rights and a federal trial to every single captured detainee during our armed conflict?

    3. Though controversial and certainly uncomfortable for the likes of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — CIA enhanced interrogation techniques (waterboarding, hot and cold temperatures, sleep deprevation, stress positions, using scary bugs and caterpillars etc) … were approved for use. Your Congress and your Senate knew it AND in most cases either signed off or turned a blind eye. NOW after the fact, after 8 years of living terror-free, after useful information was revealed, after terrorist acts were avoided…is not the time to criminalize those who followed lawful orders and did the job. If he wants to change the rules moving forward, he is the President and if he says no waterboarding so be it.

    When we capture Osama Bin Laden I’m sure the first thing we should do is read him his miranda rights, assign him a team of ACLU attorneys, get him a room at the marriott, make sure he is well fed and rested, ask him if he needs anything and then politely ask him some questions.

    Later Zeke,

    U.S.A. Terror Free Since 9-11-2001

  3. Greetings MSG,

    I am a recent Army Vet, served 14 years and had three trips to the desert, including Iraq in 2003. I have 3 people I served with now buried at Arlington, and a reservist that served with me in Germany in 2000 was killed on 9/11 in one of the world trade towers. I understand what you say and I, as much as anyone, want safety and security in the good ol' USA.

    How our country goes about safety and security is where you and I go separate directions.

    Your underlying premise is "[President's] number 1 priority should be the safety and security of our Nation." You justify all of your bulleted arguments because each, supposedly, supports your premise. In other words, it’s okay for Americans to use harsh interrogation techniques (torture) because it gave us "8 years of living terror-free, after useful information was revealed, after terrorist acts were avoided." (whether useful information was revealed to avert terror is something I strongly contest).

    But your premise is wrong. The President's number 1 priority is not safety and security, but rather the President along with each military service member makes an oath to: "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same."

    The greatness and power of our nation is the Constitution, which is a delicate balance of powers: the powers of three branches of government; the powers of the nation and each state; and, most importantly the balance of powers between the government and the individual.

    I understand that the Bill of Rights does not apply to combatants on the battlefield in a foreign county; however, even our country’s most vile enemy enjoys limited individual rights under international law. One of these rights is the right to be free from torture, which the United States agreed to subject itself pursuant to the Convention Against Torture.

    Because the Constitution, which you and the President swore to defend, makes treaties and conventions the supreme law of the law when ratified by the Senate, the President and each military member swore to uphold CAT. It is the law and it applies to all persons wherever located in the world. It even applies to terrorists. Further, CAT requires, not recommends, but requires, the investigation and prosecution of all people responsible for torture. When the President announced the other day that water boarding is torture, he obligated himself to investigate and prosecute those responsible for water boarding.

    What distinguishes our country from terrorists is the law. If our leaders and the military set aside the law in the name of “safety and security,” then we no longer distinguish ourselves from our enemies. This, MSG, diminishes our security; it does not improve it.

  4. Greetings MSG,

    I am a recent Army Vet, served 14 years and had three trips to the desert, including Iraq in 2003. I have 3 people I served with now buried at Arlington, and a reservist that served with me in Germany in 2000 was killed on 9/11 in one of the world trade towers. I understand what you say and I, as much as anyone, want safety and security in the good ol’ USA.

    How our country goes about safety and security is where you and I go separate directions.

    Your underlying premise is “[President's] number 1 priority should be the safety and security of our Nation.” You justify all of your bulleted arguments because each, supposedly, supports your premise. In other words, it’s okay for Americans to use harsh interrogation techniques (torture) because it gave us “8 years of living terror-free, after useful information was revealed, after terrorist acts were avoided.” (whether useful information was revealed to avert terror is something I strongly contest).

    But your premise is wrong. The President’s number 1 priority is not safety and security, but rather the President along with each military service member makes an oath to: “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

    The greatness and power of our nation is the Constitution, which is a delicate balance of powers: the powers of three branches of government; the powers of the nation and each state; and, most importantly the balance of powers between the government and the individual.

    I understand that the Bill of Rights does not apply to combatants on the battlefield in a foreign county; however, even our country’s most vile enemy enjoys limited individual rights under international law. One of these rights is the right to be free from torture, which the United States agreed to subject itself pursuant to the Convention Against Torture.

    Because the Constitution, which you and the President swore to defend, makes treaties and conventions the supreme law of the law when ratified by the Senate, the President and each military member swore to uphold CAT. It is the law and it applies to all persons wherever located in the world. It even applies to terrorists. Further, CAT requires, not recommends, but requires, the investigation and prosecution of all people responsible for torture. When the President announced the other day that water boarding is torture, he obligated himself to investigate and prosecute those responsible for water boarding.

    What distinguishes our country from terrorists is the law. If our leaders and the military set aside the law in the name of “safety and security,” then we no longer distinguish ourselves from our enemies. This, MSG, diminishes our security; it does not improve it.

  5. Well, like I said, when we capture UBL the "lawful" thing to do would be for the Pres to ensure the CIA doesn't waterboard him or put him in a confined space with scary bugs. Wouldn't want that guy to be waterboarded regardless of the potential information.

    I'm sure in some peoples minds the release of top-secret CIA memos for the world to see doesn't diminish our security. I'm sure in some peoples minds banning enhanced interrogation techniques (those with no harmful physical effects) doesn't diminish our security. I'm sure threatening the CIA with independent investigations with a view towards prosecution couldn't hurt anything huh?

    Thanks for your service. I lost a Sergeants Major in Iraq and a friend in Afghanistan and my Nephew escaped unhurt in an ambush in which two of his closest buddies were killed. I've been most fortunate to have only served one year in Afghanistan and was never close to anything serious.

    We will have to agree to disagree…I'm sorry my heart doesn't bleed for radical jihadist that want to kill us. I'm sorry I don't consider enhanced interrogation techniques to be torture. Sorry I don't believe enemy combatants are entitled to U.S. Constitutional Rights and those detained during an Armed Conflict need a federal prosecution in order for the U.S. to continue to lawfully detain them.

    Continued peace and blessings, thanks again for your service, and bless those you've lost and there families.

    U.S.A. Terror-Free Since 9-11-2001 (I hope I'm going to be able to continue saying that!)

  6. Well, like I said, when we capture UBL the “lawful” thing to do would be for the Pres to ensure the CIA doesn’t waterboard him or put him in a confined space with scary bugs. Wouldn’t want that guy to be waterboarded regardless of the potential information.

    I’m sure in some peoples minds the release of top-secret CIA memos for the world to see doesn’t diminish our security. I’m sure in some peoples minds banning enhanced interrogation techniques (those with no harmful physical effects) doesn’t diminish our security. I’m sure threatening the CIA with independent investigations with a view towards prosecution couldn’t hurt anything huh?

    Thanks for your service. I lost a Sergeants Major in Iraq and a friend in Afghanistan and my Nephew escaped unhurt in an ambush in which two of his closest buddies were killed. I’ve been most fortunate to have only served one year in Afghanistan and was never close to anything serious.

    We will have to agree to disagree…I’m sorry my heart doesn’t bleed for radical jihadist that want to kill us. I’m sorry I don’t consider enhanced interrogation techniques to be torture. Sorry I don’t believe enemy combatants are entitled to U.S. Constitutional Rights and those detained during an Armed Conflict need a federal prosecution in order for the U.S. to continue to lawfully detain them.

    Continued peace and blessings, thanks again for your service, and bless those you’ve lost and there families.

    U.S.A. Terror-Free Since 9-11-2001 (I hope I’m going to be able to continue saying that!)