Marjorie Cohn writes:
President Barack Obama declared “nobody’s above the law” in 2009, as Congress contemplated an investigation of torture authorized by the Bush administration. However, Obama has failed to honor those words. His Justice Department proclaimed its intention to grant a free pass to Bush officials and their lawyers who constructed a regime of torture and abuse. US Attorney General Eric Holder announced last week that his office will investigate only two instances of detainee mistreatment. He said the department “has determined that an expanded criminal investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted.” Holder has granted impunity to those who authorized, provided legal cover, and carried out the “remaining matters.”
Both of the incidents that Holder has agreed to investigate involved egregious treatment and both resulted in death. In one case, Gul Rahman froze to death in 2002 after being stripped and shackled to a cold cement floor in a secret American prison in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit. The other man, Manadel al-Jamadi, died in 2003 at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He was suspended from the ceiling by his wrists, which were bound behind his back. Tony Diaz, a military police officer who witnessed al-Jamadi’s torture, reported that blood gushed from his mouth like “a faucet had turned on” when al-Jamadi was lowered to the ground. These two deaths should be investigated and those responsible punished in accordance with the law.
The investigation must also have a much broader scope. More than 100 detainees have died in US custody, many from torture. Untold numbers were subjected to torture and cruel treatment in violation of US and international law. General Barry McCaffrey said, “We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.”