By Al Miller
The Task Force on Detainees Treatment web site (detaineetaskforce.org) and the report of The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment provided
information for this article.
“The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment is an independent, bipartisan, blue-ribbon panel charged with examining the federal government’s policies and actions related to the capture, detention and treatment of suspected terrorists during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. The project was undertaken with the belief that it was important to provide an account as authoritative and accurate as possible of how the United States treated, and continues to treat, people held in our custody as the nation mobilized to deal with a global terrorist threat.”
The Task Force released its longawaited report on April 16, 2013. And in spite of its sobering findings that it “is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture,” and that our “nation’s highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of torture,” not very much media coverage or analysis followed.
Since the conduct and actions spelled out in this 602 page report were all done “in our name” by the people we collectively elected and the officials they appointed, and especially since both President Obama and the post-Bush Congresses have failed to investigate and seek any accountability for the illegal acts done in the post 9/11 years, we all need to understand the contents and implications of The Report of The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment.
Unless we do something to demand change, the conduct, actions, and policies described in this report will forever be considered as acceptable to Americans, in spite of what it says in
our Constitution and code of laws. Now, reading all 602 pages may be a stretch for most of us, but the writers of the report have made it easier for us by starting their report with what amounts to an Executive Summary. A Statement of the Task force is included in pages 1 to 8, and their Findings and Recommendations with some explanatory comments are covered in pages 9 to 24.
The complete report can be down loaded at http://www.detaineetaskforce.org. You can also down load the Statement and the Findings as separate chapters at this site.
What follows is a sample from the Statement to “whet your appetite.”
Statement of the Task Force
This report of The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment is the result of almost two years of intensive study, investigation and deliberation.
The project was undertaken with the belief that it was important to provide an accurate and authoritative account of how the United States treated people its forces held in custody as the nation mobilized to deal with a global terrorist threat.
The events examined in this report are unprecedented in U.S. history. In the course of the nation’s many previous conflicts, there is little doubt that some U.S. personnel committed brutal acts against captives, as have armies and governments throughout history.
But there is no evidence there had ever before been the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after September 11, directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.
Despite this extraordinary aspect, the Obama administration declined, as a matter of policy, to undertake or commission an official study of what happened, saying it was unproductive to “look backwards” rather than forward.
In Congress, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont introduced legislation to establish a “Truth Commission” to look into the U.S. behavior in the years following the September 11 attacks. The concept, successful in South Africa, Guatemala and several other countries, is predicated on recognizing the paramount value to a nation of an accurate accounting of its history, especially in the aftermath of an extraordinary episode or period of crisis. But, as at the White House, Congress showed little appetite for delving into the past.
These responses were dismaying to the many people who believed it was important for a great democracy like the United States to help its citizens understand, albeit with appropriate limits or legitimate security concerns, what had been done in their name.[Emphasis added]
Finally, in the Task Force’s opinion:
“Perhaps the most important or notable finding of this panel is that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture.
“The second notable conclusion of the Task Force is that the nation’s highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of torture.”
Anyone who does not have access to the Internet but would like copies of the 24 pages recommended for reading may contact Al Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-526-4874). Please leave your name and address and he will get the pages to you.