From: Inside Story America

The false promises of the United States

Is there a growing acceptance and institutionalisation of US human rights abuses and impunity?

“This goes back to history, it goes back to Dick Cheney in the shadow of 9/11, [who] said do what we have to do, we have to go to the dark side, and these CIA officers were operating under that assumption, and that went right up to the point where they were destroying the tapes … This is about the CIA destroying evidence and obstructing justice.” 

– Carlos Warner, attorney for 11 detainees in Guantanamo Bay 

It seems a long time since US President Barack Obama’s first day in office, when he declared that he would close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Some four years on, however, and the Pentagon has requested nearly $200m more for infrastructure upgrades – a clear sign, if any were needed, that the facility is here to stay.

Meanwhile, prisoner anger and discontent at Guantanamo appears to be spreading. 

An increasing number of inmates are now on a desperate hunger strike, protesting the lack of any prospect for release and increasingly invasive searches they are forced to undergo.

All this is taking place as the CIA promotes to acting head of its clandestine service an officer who helped run the extraordinary rendition programme that ferried kidnapped prisoners to Guantanamo, and who herself was once in charge of a black site where torture was used on inmates.

“I think that if you want to ensure that this kind of behaviour doesn’t happen again, you need to have prosecutions, and whether that is individual CIA officers, I’m not sure that that would necessarily be the best. But you need to have prosecutions of the high level officials, who sanction this behaviour.

– John Knefel, independent journalist 

The officer is also described as “one of the main drivers” of the destruction of more than 90 videotapes that documented the CIA’s use of torture – tapes that the agency was legally bound to hand over as evidence at the 9/11 commission and several court cases.

But when such news is greeted with barely any of the protest seen during George W Bush’s presidency, is it a sign of the growing acceptance and institutionalisation of US human rights abuses and impunity?

And how bad are conditions at the prison camps? 

To discuss this Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Glenn Carle who is the CIA’s former deputy national intelligence officer for transnational threats; Carlos Warner, attorney for eleven of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay; and John Knefel an independent journalist who writes on justice issues for Rolling Stone magazine. 

“I am not sure I know [the promoted CIA officer], and if I did I couldn’t say of course.  But the way her nomination, her qualifications, were described were based on two things: one, the fact that she is a woman and that for diversity is a homerun … but diversity as much as I support it is not a qualification for any job. Then more importantly [she is] someone who was one of the two people implicated in the executions of waterboarding and gas interrogation, not someone simply involved in the process, as many were, as I was, but one of those who actually signed off, and pushed through the programmes. I think [it] sends the wrong message when we should be repudiating these practices. These were – I hope – an aberration, and not something that Americans should embrace.”

– Glenn Carle, served in the CIA for 23 years