CIA tortures: Will US be held accountable?

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Sen. Christopher Bond © Jonathan Ernst
There is a likelihood the CIA will sooner or later be brought to justice in the US and internationally for its brutal interrogation techniques, Ben Davis a member of the Advocates for US Torture Prosecutions told RT.

Several letters from the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have been revealed by WikiLeaks. In one of them vice chairman Christopher Bond suggests that agencies should be able to use any interrogation means available to them, without waiting for explicit approval. Bond also suggests methods which should be prohibited.

READ MORE: Leaked documents from CIA director’s email reveal thoughts on torture, Iran, Afghanistan

RT: These letters go back several years. What do they tell us about the way interrogations have been conducted?

Ben Davis: What they tell us is that at the time - which is 2008 - the Senate minority, Senate Republican members of the committee were still believing what was being said by the CIA head, Michael Hayden and the Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell – that torture was effective. And after all that had come out, after all the criticism that had happened they started this letter by saying that. I think it is really unconscionable that as late as that, in 2008…I assume at that time [Senator Christopher Bond] was fully aware of what’s going on in the CIA interrogation process, and also that in the role of the oversight person he might have been a little bit more critical of what was being said by the CIA people and testing those hypotheses. But he seems to accept it, as we say in the US hook, line, and sinker – that is the first thing.

The second thing – the problem here is that basically the proposal he put on the table was to only have certain techniques prohibited , which would leave open the possibility of anything that was not on that list to be done to somebody - sort of giving ‘flexibility.’ There are several problems with that approach. The first of them - there is a rule in international law to make case called the S.S. Lotus, which says basically: “what is not prohibited is permitted.” Therefore, the approach which started with word ‘prohibited’ - essentially saying: long as this doesn’t fit neatly into those boxes, then anything else is fair game.

So this creates a number of difficulties, because essentially you can have combinations of all kinds of things that can be done. That A: “they weren’t prohibited – so I’m permitted to do it.” At least that would be the argument that someone would do. And there are plenty of ways to find to torture people. The second thing about it that is a problem - is that the techniques that it actually lists [as those that] should be prohibited – they use certain terms like ‘waterboarding’ or the thing known as waterboarding to take an example of something we all know as torture. We found out most recently that in fact there are not just three people who received the water treatment, so to speak, but there were another 12 who were what were called water dowsed - it is not called waterboarding, but it is called water dowsing. This kind of legalistic distinction that is tried to be made, I would be certain, would be done within 19 or whatever particular techniques that were prohibited...This could open up a much broader spectrum for techniques to be used by just renaming them.

© Toru Hanai

RT: Last year a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee found the CIA tortured suspected terrorists in a "brutal" and "ineffective" way that produced little valuable intelligence. Your organization has called for the agency involved in torture to be brought to justice. Is there any likelihood of that happening?

BD: Yes, I continue to think there is likelihood - domestically and internationally. I think you may be aware that the principal person in the CIA who let Khalid El-Masri – a German [citizen] sent for torture in [Afghanistan] – that a criminal complaint has been filed against [Alfreda Frances Bikowsky] in Germany recently. So a process is going forward for prosecution there…

In addition of course we have the cases before the European Court of Human Rights… where there were conclusions, condemnations for Poland and Lithuania for their enabling of torture. For the US domestically it’s long slow slog to get the accountability there, but I’m confident it will happen.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.