Torture USA

From August 2014: A cartoon that perfectly captured the moment

W.J. Astore

Five years ago, President Obama infamously said, “We tortured some folks.”  And no one was held accountable; indeed, as Tom Tomorrow put it in a cartoon from that time, “The only government official who went to jail for it [John Kiriakou] was the whistleblower who exposed it.”  In the cartoon, Tom Tomorrow has Obama say that, “Still, we must accept responsibility!  Which is to say. we must briefly acknowledge the unpleasantness in the upcoming torture report, and then quickly move on.”

And that’s exactly what America did: quickly move on, without consequences (except for Kiriakou).  And then candidates like Donald Trump emerged, boasting of how much he’d increase the use of torture.  And thus Trump as president could pick Gina Haspel, implicated in the torture regime, as the new head of the CIA.  Well done, President Obama.

Recently, one of my readers alerted me to concerted efforts to “unredact” the redacted CIA report released in December 2014, based on open source research and logical deduction by a number of British researchers, concerning extraordinary rendition and black sites.  Check out this link for further details; the full report (403 pages) can be downloaded as a pdf file at this link:

Here’s the first paragraph of the report, and an excerpt from the executive summary:

CIA Torture Unredacted presents the findings from a four-year joint investigation by The Rendition Project and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism into the use of rendition, secret detention and torture by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its partners in the ‘War on Terror’. We have focused our efforts on understanding the evolution, scope and human impact of the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) programme, which operated between 2001 and 2009. During this time, the CIA established a global network of secret prisons (so-called ‘black sites’) for the purposes of detaining and interrogating terrorism suspects – in secret, indefinitely, and under the most extreme conditions. As a result, scores of men were captured, at locations around the world, and disappeared into the programme for weeks, months or years on end, whereupon they were subjected to sustained torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

This report, and The Rendition Project’s website (, provide, without doubt, the most detailed public account to date of CIA torture.

We are publishing here:

→ A detailed profile of the prisoners held within the torture programme, including
their nationalities; capture locations and dates; detention locations, dates and
treatment; and fate and whereabouts afterwards;
→ The identity of those prisoners held in the black sites in Thailand, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Morocco, and Guantánamo Bay;
→ A detailed reconstruction of the shifting geography of secret detention operations in Afghanistan;
→ A granular account of the complex network of companies which provided aircraft to the CIA for rendition operations;
→ Extensive documentary evidence relating to over 60 rendition circuits by these aircraft, which involved over 120 individual renditions;
→ A detailed overview of complicity by a number of key states, including the United Kingdom and those which hosted the black sites.

CIA Torture Unredacted stands as a comprehensive public account of one of the most disturbing elements of the ‘War on Terror’: a global programme of systematic disappearance and torture, carried out by the world’s most powerful liberal democratic states. In the face of continued obstruction and denial by the governments involved, which refuse to allow for a full accounting of the crimes which took place, we hope that this report will stand as a central reference point for all those who still seek redress and reparations for the victims of CIA torture, as well as some measure of the truth for us all.

14 thoughts on “Torture USA

  1. Bill,

    Great piece and that marvelous Tom Tomorrow political cartoon.

    I did an op ed on Obama’s assertions for the Ithaca, NY Journal or the Santa Monica Daily Press (not sure which) sometime in 2014—and have attached it below. Best,




    1. Hi John: I’m not sure you can “attach” in a comment. Maybe you can provide a link to your op ed?


  2. Obama gave great positive, idealistic speeches with great delivery, but he didn’t always practice what he preached.
    I sent him this message last September 10. I didn’t expect a reply, but I got it off my chest.

    President Obama.

    As a Canadian, I was very happy when you were elected President. I saw that as a hopeful Sign for America and the World.

    You didn’t campaign to inherit the Global Financial Meltdown-Economic Pearl Harbour that happened even before you were elected, in the last months of 8 years of Republicanomics of more to the rich, and fighting Foreign Wars on Credit.
    The Trump Republican Tax Bill they spin as ‘Reform’ is the continuation of those Bush Policies on steroids.

    Watching from CanaDa, the real danger I see, is if there is another Global Financial Collapse due to more US Economic War on more perceived enemies simultaneously than ever before in US history, complemented by more tariffs on US Allies than ever before Americans will have to pay for.

    Removing the few Regulations put in place after the 2008 Global Financial Meltdown-Economic Pearl Harbour to prevent a re-recurrence, the worst possible aspects I would expect you were briefed on at the Time, increases the likelihood what has already happened, could happen again?

    Watching these things, I have to wonder if there is a method to Trump’s madness?

    If there is a sudden, unexpected Global Financial Meltdown-Economic Pearl Harbour like the last one, in the face of the Social Chaos you were warned in 2008 would happen unless you signed onto TARP, it is President Trump who could invoke the use of the worst provisions in the 2012 NDAA you signed into Law.

    That would make Trump, with 2 years to go, the 1st to use the Legal Authority in that 2012 NDAA, to have his Bureaucracy/Military get rid of his ‘opposition’ in some Gitmo/Gulag, by accusing them of being vaguely associated with terrorism as determined by the Trump bureaucracy, in a Time of Social disorder. The right to challenge the government’s ‘suspicion’ in a Court of Law is removed. That’s a very real possibility with Trump’s temperament he has already displayed.

    I always admired the High Ideals in your speeches, hoping and praying Americans would take them to heart. But I also saw you didn’t always practice what you preached. On that score, the whole human Race without exception, is guilty.

    I appreciated your Grace in dealing with a Congress whose Republican Leaders Declared, even before you were sworn in, their sole goal was to destroy your Presidency, and I saw they did everything within their power to do that.
    I hate seeing the Republican hypocrisy/duplicity now that the Pendulum has swung to the other side.

    My deepest personal disappointment in you is, as a Constitutional Scholar, you did not VETO the 2012 NDAA even in the face of the overwhelming VETO-proof majorities in both Houses of Congress.
    At least, you would have started the Real Debate on American Democracy.

    Now that you have entered the Current Political debate, you can still redeem yourself, admitting you made a mistake signing the 2012 NDAA.

    Peace and God Bless you!


    1. I worked hard for Obama in both elections, for free. In fact, it cost me money in train fares, etc. I have no regrets, but of course he didn’t turn out as we hoped. Still better than McCain or Romney!
      TARP fascinates me; it’s sheer illogic. Give banks money they threw away for temporary greed. BNP-Paribas spent 9 BILLION$ on this trash. I asked a BNP exec: “How many private jets do BNP own? 5,6?” I was about right. Then: “Your bank threw away 9B in bonds but never bothered to send a jet over where these McMansions were being BUILT?! No jobs, no roads!”
      Can one imagine making such a colossal investment without investigating it is bizarre!
      When the whole thing crashed in 2008, BNP & others suckered into the scam got bailed out – only because USGov’t bailed out US banks.
      I felt at the time, “Let these fools stay in their house. They lied, the banks knew it, and lied even worse”. It could have worked out: rent out rooms!
      Now we have a homeless problem as the banks got reimbursed for their fraud, and Equity Funds are buying them up cheap – for rentals! High ones!


      1. It’s an old but true saying: The Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules.

        We see that all the time in the good ol’ USA.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. As a Boomer we learned only some wicked looking, smoking Nazi in an SS or Gestpo uniform or some Japanese soldier bayoneting or hacking off heads tortured. Not only did they torture they enjoyed it.

    Another movie after the Korean War – the original Manchurian Candidate gave us a brutal Asian brainwashing American POWS.

    The Movie, The Great Raid released in 2005, depicted the inhumane conditions and treatment in a Japanese prison camp.

    Various movies after the Vietnam War showed us cruel Vietnamese torturing Americans after the war, just because they could and they enjoyed it. Americans movie heroes would eventually free these prisoners.

    The message was clear – Americans do not torture people. Shortly after 9/11, Bush the Younger’s Neo-Cons accepted the idea of torture as a legitimate method of interrogation. The American people gave it silent and some cases vocal approval. It never seemed to occur to the pro-torture people, that if you rounded up 100 Americans off the the street and waterboarded them or worse, they would admit in a short time – They shot President Lincoln.

    As is the custom in the USA whenever law breaking and wrong doing is discovered in high places, we find the lowest person on the totem pole to prosecute. Those at the top have a Get of Jail Card or we have the other American Tradition – > Wrongful acts were committed – Now for the “Good” of the country – We must Move On.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well put, ML. “Mistakes were made.” But we have to look forward … nothing to see here, move along.


  4. Speaking of torture, two stats after another outbreak of mass shootings in the USA: “The shooting in Ohio marked the 31st deadly mass shooting in America this year, defined as those where at least three people are killed by gun violence in a single episode.” Or, alternatively, “Tragically, shootings have become as American as apple pie. Dayton was the 22nd mass killing in America this year, according to an AP/USA Today/Northeastern University mass murder database, which tracks all attacks involving four or more people killed.”

    Only KIA (killed in action) are counted; the wounded (and scarred for life) go unmentioned in these stats.

    A violent society will condone torture. After all, why be defensive about torturing others when we’re so busy killing or wounding our fellow Americans?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Recently, I pulled a book by Cecil Roth on the Spanish Inquisition, written in 1937, off my shelf and read it.

    I expected to find accounts of torture, as the Inquisition felt that to be a perfectly legitimate means of getting confessions, but my jaw dropped when the procedure we know as waterboarding was described from the detailed documentation of the time: put the subject on his (or her) back, force a rag into the mouth then saturate the rag with water. This was one of the two most common methods of torture used by the Inquisition.

    Then I read that it was the norm to have a third party present to be sure that whatever torture was used, it was not bringing the subject to the point of death.

    The Inquisition formally came to an end in 1821, rightly viewed as a horror ever since. That was 197 years ago.

    But in the 21st century the United States, founded by disciples of the Enlightenment, has exactly reproduced that Inquisition torture scene, not just once, but with a program of it.

    The monstrous and thoroughly repudiated Inquisition, reproduced by my own country in the name not of religious orthodoxy but with the claim of protecting liberty and justice for all.

    I stopped reading. I wanted to scream, a cry from my heart. How could this have come to pass, done in the name of the people without their knowledge, let alone their leave, in what is claimed to be a model democracy? Add to it the new role of our president as Assassin in Chief who kills people completely unknown to him in distant lands by drone strike on a regular basis from names on a list, just as the Inquisition had names on a list.

    We have arrived at the brink. In 2020 we must vote to alter course or to move on into the darkness. We have a president that thumbs his nose at us and does as he wishes, while far too many applaud and the rest fume and do nothing to stop him. If the election of 2016 is seen to be a good thing to the point of having it endorsed with re-election by the freely given vote of the people, then the American experiment is over. The strength of democracy is said not to be in electing good people, but in being able to reject the bad. We are about to put it to the test in a choice that could not be clearer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for hitting the nail on the head. Several voices in the desert have been trying to attract attention to the fact that present day waterboarding = inquisition time ‘water torture’. If said often enough, maybe one day it will finally get officially acknowledged. One can always hope…


      1. PS: One of those ‘voices in the desert’ that haven’t given up
        reminding the world that accountability is still lacking. For those who designed the torture (Mitchell & Jessen), those who ‘legalised’ it (Yoo & Bybee) and the all too well known politicians who ordered it.


        1. Pamela, thank you for posting that link. If only there were some such individual to doggedly follow every story that briefly flashes on the screen before being effectively erased by another. I made a donation to Andy Worthington.

          As I read his account, I was reminded of another parallel to the Inquisition. It was considered unseemly for the church to be involved in the actual killing of convicts, so they were turned over to civilians to do the deed. This was called “relaxation.” In the accounts of the Inquisition those to be burned were “relaxed”. I thought how similar this is to protecting the institution of the state by being “rendered” to foreign sites to be tortured, enabling George W. Bush to say with a straight face, “we don’t torture”


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