No Statute of Limitations: Torture

There is no statute of limitations on torture, not only for those who commit the crime but for those who condone, cover it up of refuse to prosecute it. It is illegal under International and US Law. The US is required under law to prosecute torture. President George W. Bush condoned it and covered it up, as did his predecessor. Donald J. Trump thinks it should be legal

Torture has once again reared its ugly head with the release of drawings from a prisoner at the Guantánamo Bay US detention camp in Cuba. The pictures are stark and graphic and, as the New York Times Editorial says, they should be viewed only by adults but we should not look away.


The sketches should be seen only by adults, but they must be seen. Drawn by a victim of torture, they show, in raw and agonizing detail, the methods that Americans — soldiers, psychologists, spies, women and men — have devised to break down prisoners through pain, panic, brainwashing and other barbaric and illegal tools.

There is nothing in the crude drawings by Abu Zubaydah, a prisoner captured in 2002 and still held by the United States in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, that hasn’t been described before in the various official and unofficial investigations into the moral travesty that was the C.I.A.’s program of “enhanced interrogation,” one of the more devious euphemisms ever devised. We’ve read of the waterboarding and sleep deprivation and humiliation and all the other horrors, and of the lasting effect they had, often on innocent men.

But as with the infamous photographs of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the images strip away the euphemisms, justifications, lies and legalisms. They are published in a study titled “How America Tortures” by one of his lawyers and the lawyer’s students. Mr. Zubaydah was the first of the captives after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to be subjected to prolonged torture, and he holds the dubious distinction of having been waterboarded 83 times. Many of the C.I.A. tortures were devised for him and first tested on him by psychologists whose previous job had been to train American soldiers who might one day be tortured. He provided interrogators with considerable information — but that was to F.B.I. agents who questioned him before he was turned over to the C.I.A. for torture.

The drawings speak for themselves. They are in a Times article and the report by Mark P. Denbeaux, a professor at the Seton Hall University School of Law and a lawyer for several Guantánamo detainees, including Mr. Zubaydah. What is important not to forget is the deeply shameful and disturbing fact that the United States, admittedly at a moment of national confusion and panic following the 9/11 attacks, but unnecessarily, secretly and extensively, adopted barbaric practices banned by domestic and international law.


The current director of the C.I.A., Gina Haspel, was a leading participant in the program and helped the agency destroy more than 90 videotapes of a brutal interrogation. But she, at least, has vowed not to restart the torture program, even if ordered to by the president. Whether that amounts to a realigned moral compass is an open question, but it is important to know that the agency that developed and applied “enhanced interrogation” has renounced it.

No such enlightenment for President Trump. On the contrary, the commander in chief has ordered Guantánamo to be kept open and to “load it up with some bad dudes.” He has insisted that “torture works” and that he’d bring back waterboarding “and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” These are outrageous sentiments calling for blatantly unlawful action by the intelligence and security services of the United States.

For Mr. Trump and those who think like him, torture is not only a technique for extracting information, which it doesn’t do very well, but also a form of revenge. “If it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway,” he has said, “for what they’re doing to us.”

This same thinking was evident in his recent pardons granted to military commanders convicted of war crimes. True warriors have a code of behavior that proclaims acts of savagery against unarmed civilians or prisoners to be dishonorable and immoral. Their code distinguishes between killing on the battlefield and murder, which the president and his cheerleaders seem not to understand. “We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!” he tweeted in October, displaying total and insulting ignorance of the honorable calling of a soldier.


The United States has by far the greatest security establishment on earth, with the greatest reach. When the United States commits or abets war crimes, it erodes the honor, effectiveness and value of that force. The pictures of how America tortures illustrate what happens next.

Mark Denbeaux, attorney for Abu Zubaydah, talks with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow about the failures of the U.S. torture program designed specifically for Zubaydah and the lack of accountability for how so many false conclusions were drawn.

This is us, the Unites States of America.