President Obama has admitted that the US has tortured people. He likely did this because the release of the US Senate report, even in redacted from, is expected to state unambiguously that the government tortured people and he wants to get ahead of the story.
The United States tortured al Qaida detainees captured after the 9/11 attacks, President Obama said Friday, in some of his most expansive comments to date about a controversial set of CIA practices that he banned after taking office.
“We tortured some folks,” Obama said at a televised news conference at the White House. “We did some things that were contrary to our values.”
Addressing the impending release of a Senate report that criticizes CIA treatment of detainees, Obama said he believed the mistreatment stemmed from the pressure national security officials felt to forestall another attack. He said Americans should not be too “sanctimonious,” about passing judgment through the lens of a seemingly safer present day.
People in government do criminally wrong things, the government denies that they were done at all, then later acknowledges that they lied and did indeed do those thongs, but refuses to take action against those who did the wrong things.
Jonathan Turley says that Obama seems to feel that merely acknowledging publicly that the US has tortured people is enough. It is not. [My emphasis-MS]
First, torture is a war crime and the United States has insisted that it was at war. We have an obligation to investigate and prosecute any officials responsible for torture. Instead, both the Bush and Obama Administrations threatened countries like Spain and England for even investigating aspects of these crimes. Saying that we “tortured some folks” is not compliance with these law – either domestic or international.
Second, it does not matter if we are “afraid” or angry under international law. These treaties clearly reject defenses like “just following orders” or justified torture.
Third, Obama has yet to explain his promise to the CIA employees after taking office. After his election, various high officials said that Obama told them privately that no Bush or CIA officials would be prosecuted. His staff denied the stories but he then soon thereafter told the CIA staff precisely that.
Finally, not only has the United States refused to hold our own officials to the same standards that we impose on other countries, but those responsible for our torture program are giving interviews and writing books in plain sight. In the meantime, the Administration has successfully blocked torture victims from seeking judicial review or relief in our courts.
Of course anyone other than the most jingoistic has known that the US has been brutally torturing people for a long, long time. What has happened is that they have become more brazen about it and have got caught. By acknowledging it but not taking action to punish those who did it, what Obama has done is send a signal those who do wrong things that they can do more and even worse wrong things and will not be punished as long as it is what the president wants.
And what is it with this ‘folks’ business? I have noticed that Obama uses that word (and also drops the ‘g’ at the end of words) when he wants to minimize the seriousness of some action by sounding down-home. Those who were tortured were not ‘folks’, they were people. And what is this vague ‘some folks’ language? What we need to know is who was tortured, how many times, in what way, and by whom.
The fact that Obama has not fired CIA director John Brennan or DNI James Clapper for outright lying may be due to the fact that they know that Obama is also culpable in its actions, as Conor Friedersdorf suggests. So by protecting them, he is protecting himself.