US admits torture charter

On 6 September, US President Bush shamelessly confirmed what has long been known – that for the past five years the CIA has been operating a network of secret torture camps across Europe and the Middle East. At the same time he announced that 14 ‘top level Al Qaida terrorists’, having been subjected to ‘tough’ interrogation, would now face military commissions at Guantanamo Bay concentration camp. These commissions are simply a new name for the military tribunals banned by the Supreme Court in July 2006 and will continue to deny rights to the defendant and permit evidence obtained by torture. Far from being closed down, Guantanamo is being revamped.

The Supreme Court also ruled that Article III of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits ‘outrages upon personal dignity’ and ‘humiliating and degrading treatment’ applies to Taliban and Al Qaida suspects. In 2002 Bush had stated that they were exempt. With the risk that CIA operatives could now face prosecution as war criminals, Bush brokered a deal whereby he would nominally accept Article III, while retaining the right, as Commander in Chief, to breach it if ‘necessary’. In the same vein, the Pentagon issued a watered-down version of its field manual for interrogation techniques. For example, water boarding (partial drowning), included in earlier drafts, no longer appears.

However, George Bush and Dick Cheney have fought tooth and nail against ‘anti-torture’ proposals put forward by Republican Senator John McCain, threatening to veto them and attempting to exempt the CIA from their provisions.

Whatever is written on paper, George Bush has made it clear that the US administration will continue to use torture in its arsenal of terror against its opponents. m
Cat Wiener

FRFI 193 October / November 2006