The information in the report on the CIA’s torture program contradicts the claim by the U.S. that it sets the standard for democracy, according to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which commented on the information related to Bush-era events. Experts think that only the current perpetrators will be held responsible, but not the former president himself, who, according to Western media, knew about the torture.
On Thursday, Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, said the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s torture program confirms the systematic violation of human rights by American authorities.
“The released information is further proof of systematic, gross violation of human rights by American authorities. The fact that these inquisition-like tortures were implemented by CIA agents outside U.S. territory doesn’t waive responsibility for these deliberate actions,” Dolgov said in a statement published on the Russian Foreign Ministry website. “At the same time, it raises the question of involvement in these crimes by the governments of the countries that agreed to host the secret prisons on their territory,” Dolgov added.
He also noted that the Russian Foreign Ministry reviewed the 528-page version of the report on the CIA’s torture program in secret prisons, but the largest and most substantial part of the document, more than 6,700 pages, remains classified, and the U.S. government does not yet intend to disclose that information. Nevertheless, the part of the report that has been publicized, and “which was, as is well-known, previously edited by the Obama administration, contains shocking information.”
“During interrogations water boarding was widely used as well as other brutal techniques of getting evidence, which were often used toward innocent people,” Dolgov said. “This dark page of history has not yet been turned over, with the special prison at Guantanamo Bay still operating, where many prisoners have been kept for 13 years without charge or trial, and where new tragic episodes surface periodically. This state of affairs is at variance with the United States claiming the status of a ‘standard of democracy.’ This is far from reality.”
‘It Will Not Damage Moral Authority’
The release of the Senate torture report has obvious practical consequences. Thursday night, the U.S. Defense Department announced the closure of its last prison in Afghanistan on the military base in Bagram. According to a Pentagon representative, the last detainees were transferred to other prisons. One of these detainees is Tunisian Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is suspected of having ties to al-Qaida, and who is named in the Senate committee report.
The RIA-Novosti news agency, citing the report, noted that the CIA used several torture techniques on al-Nashiri, including water boarding, isolation in complete darkness, and detention in the cold. The prisoner was forced to eat spoiled food, listen to music 24 hours a day, and was kept tied and hung by his hands for 22 hours for several days.
The reaction of the U.S. State Department is curious. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday that the U.S. Senate report on brutal interrogation techniques used by CIA agents would not damage the moral authority of Washington.
‘Bush Knew about the Tortures’
As our newspapers have already noted, the report published by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, which immediately caused a strong reaction around the world, describes the abuse of the George W. Bush-era CIA.
An article published on Tuesday quoting The Times in Britain states that according to U.S. intelligence agency representatives, “Bush knew everything about the torture … Brutal and systematic torture of terrorism suspects during the ‘war on terror’ was sanctioned by the White House,” says the publication. CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani told The Times that it was part of the president’s directive, coordinated by the White House.
The Senate report dealt with the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects. The program ran from approximately 2002 to 2006. The techniques were officially outlawed by the Obama administration in 2009.
In a 2009 speech, President Obama mentioned the “brutal methods” and “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA. However, that same year, the U.S. president stated in a written statement, “The U.S. intelligence special agents, who in accordance with the previous U.S. administration used enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorists and those suspected of having ties to them, will not be prosecuted.”
‘Inefficient Interrogation Method’
It turned out, among other things, that former CIA Director Michael Hayden provided Congress with inaccurate information about the torture of captured terrorists.
Acting CIA Director John Brennan did not hesitate to speak out in defense of the methods used by his subordinates. According to Brennan, in spite of the errors committed by the intelligence agencies, this technique of interrogation helps prevent new attacks, obtain information to catch the criminals and save lives, the BBC reported.
Republican senators supported Brennan, although not unanimously — which is not surprising since it “cast a shadow” over the Republican Bush.
Senator John McCain, leaving aside the issue of morality, complained about the low efficiency of this method of interrogation. “The whole world already knows that we tortured prisoners and subjected them to other methods of influence,” he said. What he found surprising is “how little these actions have helped our efforts to bring to justice those involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, and prevent terrorist attacks today and tomorrow.”
‘But This Is a Crime’
Admissions by U.S. authorities did not go unnoticed by the world.
Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, urged the punishment of those involved in torture in the United States.
Emmerson said that the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report confirmed the international community’s suspicion that officials in the former Bush administration admitted “systematic and gross violations of international human rights protection,” Deutsche Welle reported.
“Today’s release once again makes crystal clear that the U.S. government used torture. Torture is a crime, and those responsible for crimes must be brought to justice,” said Stephen Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA.
Similarly, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said: “The Bush Administration decided to respond to various terrorist threats by using torture. They didn’t call it torture, of course, but the euphemism was used to cover up completely illegal actions.”
‘Torture Is Always Wrong’
China called on Washington “to rethink and correct” its abusive treatment of prisoners. Answering the question of whether British agents participated in torture with their American colleagues, British Prime Minister David Cameron said, “Let us be clear: torture is always wrong.” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called the use of torture by the CIA a “serious mistake” by the United States. “The methods used then to deal with Islamic terrorists were unacceptable. Such gross violation of our freedom, democratic values should not be repeated,” the foreign minister said.
Earlier, Prime Minister of Lithuania Algirdas Butkevičius called on the Lithuanian Parliament to re-open the investigation of a secret CIA prison presumably on its territory. According to the head of the Lithuanian government, the investigation conducted in 2009 was based on available information, and when it was no longer available, “could not move forward,” reports Tass. In 2012, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said that the investigation was stalled because of the reluctance of the U.S. to share information.
President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani condemned CIA agents who tortured the suspects. “A number of CIA officers and contractors violated all principles of human rights adopted by the international community and legislated by the United States,” President Ghani said, according to the French press agency AFP.
Amid this criticism, Estonia emerged as the most loyal to the U.S. On Thursday, Taavi Rõivas, prime minister of this Baltic state, expressed the opinion on the torture report during the Atlantic Council visit to the United States: Estonia treats the United States as its “most important ally,” and finds it impossible to interfere with its internal affairs, he said.
‘This Is Also a Blow to Republicans’
“Regardless of what they say about it being a thing of the past, I have no doubts that it will be investigated, there will be hearings and the guilty will be punished,” said Director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexei Arbatov. “Moreover, those who sanctioned and gave orders will be punished first and then those who, with particular zeal, carried them out.” If only the perpetrators are punished, the public will be outraged, saying that ”only scapegoats and small-timers were punished, but those who directly gave criminal orders got away with it!” said the expert. “The perpetrators can object that they were only carrying out the orders, but after the Nuremberg trials, it is no longer accepted as a lawful excuse,” noted the source. “One cannot ignore the fact that it is also the Democrats’ backlash against Republicans in the light of the upcoming 2016 presidential election,” said the analyst. “I don’t want to say that everything just comes down to this. There was a bipartisan Senate investigation for the sake of justice, but the fact that it exploded right now and has received such wide publicity has to do with the party struggle. Democrats will push this further.”
It is unlikely that they will be able to bring the investigation to a sentence; this process is very long and complicated, the issue politically intense, “but by that time, apparently, the Republicans will come to power,” added Arbatov. He admitted that more scandalous exposures and shocking facts might come out, in which case it could affect the elections. Americans are people with an innate sense of justice; they do not like it being violated even if the unlawful acts are committed against terrorists. Americans are used to asking questions, which they by now have in their DNA: “Today, against terrorists; tomorrow, against those suspected of terrorism; and then, against anyone the government doesn’t like?”
‘Dick Cheney’s Past Can Be Held Against Him’
George W. Bush himself is unlikely to be punished, the political scientist said. “But the people around him, especially the zealous perpetrators and those who pushed the case through, for example, former Vice President Dick Cheney, can find themselves in danger,” said the analyst. He reminded us that Cheney was previously subject to investigation.
It is not only about the Halliburton revenue overstatement, but also the investigation concerning corruption in the penal system. Namely, in 2008, the then vice president was pressed with “organized crime” charges; the grand jury of Willacy County, Texas initiated the investigation of human rights violations in private prisons after the death of a prisoner in one of these prisons. The prosecution believed that Cheney “speculated on the restriction of the freedom of people”: the vice president had commercial ties to the prison business, especially through investment company Vanguard Group.
Back then, the case was covered up, notes Arbatov. “And now, there’s a possibility that it might come up,” concluded the expert.
Allies Will Remain Allies
Now, not just the CIA secret prisons all over the world, but also the tortures themselves are being condemned. “It will cause the snowball effect. I am sure that eventually the prisons and their legal status will be questioned. Everything is closely interconnected,” says Arbatov.
“If America, like any other country, could freely torture and kill people with no trial, no record, there would not be any need for these foreign illegal or mobile prisons,” continues the expert, but they have very strict laws. “To use these methods they had to set up supporting bases outside their territory.”
However, the CIA torture scandal does not pose any threat to the relations between the United States and the countries with the secret prisons on their territory, thinks the expert. “The governments of the pro-American countries that host secret prisons will definitely condemn them as outrageous and illegal,” said Arbatov. “But it is only rhetoric.”
They have voiced their disagreement, but in reality, nothing will change in the relations of these countries with the United States. He explained that the countries with close ties to the United States — take Afghanistan for example — “are very much dependent on it.”
‘There Are a Lot of Things that Are Better Left Unmentioned’
Director of the “Moscow Carnegie Center” Dmitri Trenin believes that “there won’t be any public hearings, investigations and punishments,” he said in an interview with Vzglyad newspaper. George W. Bush’s policy “has been and will always be criticized. A lot of things in his credentials will always be held against him, especially by the members of the opposite party,” said the expert, but added that he doesn’t expect any charges against the former president.
The secret prisons will remain. They will just become more secret. He added that the secret services of the countries fighting against terrorism “have to deal with things that seem unpleasant for a common citizen; they have a lot of secrets and a lot of things they don’t want to talk about publicly,” said the expert.
The source noted that the governments of the countries with secret prisons on their territory allowed it from the very beginning. “Maybe it’s not convenient for them to admit it, but there’s no secrets for them in this situation. The government knew about the nature of this cooperation, as well as their voters and the entire international community,” said the analyst.
Which is why the situation has been highly publicized, but the attention “will not last long.”
“There’s nothing new in the report. Everything has been known for many years. Those criticizing American policy will use it as a pretext to further criticize,” the expert summed up.