From 2003 to 2006, the Bush administration quietly tried to relax the draft language of a treaty meant to bar and punish “enforced disappearances” so that those overseeing the CIA’s secret prison system would not be criminally prosecuted under its provisions, according to former officials and hundreds of pages of documents recently declassified by the State Department.
The aim of the global treaty, long supported by the United States, was to end official kidnappings, detentions and killings like those that plagued Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, and that allegedly still occur in Russia, China, Iran, Colombia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. But the documents suggest that initial U.S. support for the negotiations collided head-on with the then-undisclosed goal of seizing suspected terrorists anywhere in the world for questioning by CIA interrogators or indefinite detention by the U.S. military at foreign sites.
Instead of embracing a far-reaching ban on arrests, detentions and abductions of people without disclosing their fate or whereabouts or ensuring “the protection of the law,” the United States pressed in 2004 for a more limited prohibition on intentionally placing detainees outside legal protections for “a prolonged period of time.” At the time, the CIA was secretly holding about a dozen prisoners. [continued…]
With regard to the interrogation of detainees after September 11, it is well established that the path to torture was based on three key decisions. First, on February 7, 2002, President Bush decided that none of the detainees held at Guantánamo would have any legal rights under the Geneva Conventions. Second, starting in July 2002 the administration decided to authorize the use of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” against certain detainees held by the CIA, and obtained legal approval from the Department of Justice, in the form of two now notorious memos signed by Jay Bybee and largely written by John Yoo, with input from Dick Cheney’s legal counsel, David Addington. Third, on December 2, 2002, came Secretary Rumsfeld’s memo approving the use of fifteen techniques on prisoners held by the military at Guantánamo, causing the military to adopt some of the interrogation practices used by the CIA. Each decision was significant. The cumulative effect was devastating, opening the path to the abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. [continued…]