US detention post-9/11: Birth of a debacle

Lisa Hajjar writes:

Days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration started making decisions that led to the official authorisation of torture tactics, indefinite incommunicado detention and the denial of habeas corpus for people who would be detained at Guantánamo, Bagram, or “black sites” (secret prisons) run by the CIA; kidnappings, forced disappearances and extraordinary rendition to foreign countries to exploit their torturing services.

While some of those practices were cancelled when Barack Obama took office in January 2009, others continue to characterise US detention policy in the “war on terror”. Even the cancelled policies continue to stain the record because there has been a total failure to hold the intellectual authors of these illegal practices accountable or to provide justice for the victims of American torture and extraordinary rendition.

This five-part series traces the detention policy debacle as it has evolved over the last ten years.

Part 1: Birth of a debacle

Initially, the driving force behind the Bush administration’s post-9/11 decision-making was the legitimate need to compensate for the dearth of intelligence about al-Qaeda, which had perpetrated one of the most deadly and destructive terrorist attacks in history, and to acquire information about possible future attacks. President George W Bush decreed the attacks an act of war, and responded in kind.

On September 14, 2001, Congress passed the Authorisation to Use Military Force (AUMF), which granted the president the authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorised, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks, or who harboured said persons or groups. The AUMF did not delineate any territorial specificity or geographical limits.

As is common in asymmetrical wars when states fight non-state groups, the need for information about al-Qaeda elevated the importance of gathering “actionable intelligence” through interrogation of captured enemies. But the decision to endorse the use of violent and degrading methods (even before anyone had been taken into custody) was a choice, not a necessity. [Continue reading…]

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2 thoughts on “US detention post-9/11: Birth of a debacle

  1. Norman

    10 years on, evidence gathers no moss, we are seeing that indeed, there is a conspiracy to cover up the truth of what really happened that day long ago. By continuing to refuse to bring those responsible for the actions that this story as well as every other that is presented, then that makes today’s political so called leaders culpable too. This may be a simpleton thought process, but it seems cut & dried to me. What a dark legacy this is leaving for the people of the U.S.A. to deal with in the days ahead. Too much information is coming to the forefront to be continually covered up. Perhaps if the next P.O.T.U.S. is more than just a cover story, then perhaps the truth will finely win out.

  2. Ian Arbuckle

    “al-Qaeda, which had perpetrated one of the most deadly and destructive terrorist attacks in history, ”

    If one starts with an erroneous and unsubstantiated assumption one inevitably arrives at the wrong conclusion.

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