March 27

2010: “Doctors Without Morals;” President Obama’s Broken Promises

Doctors Without Moralsan OpEd in The New York Times authored by Leonard Rubenstein, a lawyer and visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist and retired Army Brigadier General, calls for independent investigations into the ethical breaches by doctors and psychologists who authorized and participated in torture:

“Despite overwhelming evidence no agency – not the Pentagon, the CIA, state licensing boards or professional medical societies – has initiated any action to investigate, much less discipline, these individuals. They have ignored the gross and appalling violations by medical personnel. This is an unconscionable disservice to the thousands of ethical doctors and psychologists in the country’s service. It is not too late to begin investigations. They should start now.”

Useful timelines are posted at: Constitutional Rights Foundation website which asks: Is Torture Ever Justified? And The Washington Post, The CIA’ Use of Harsh Interrogation. But the CIA is not the only government agency involved in torture; nor did torture at “Black Sites” end when the Obama administration took over the reins of power.

“For those who think that President Obama banned torture centers like this, think again. Obama’s Executive Order only banned CIA secret prisons. This administration thus apparently intended from the beginning to maintain its torture facility, only under a Defense Department rather than CIA label.” (Stephen Soldz. The “Black Jail”: Obama’s Afghan Torture Center, 2010)

As reported by Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic (May, 2010)

“Although the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program was investigated and a Justice Department prosecutor is currently reviewing those files, the Defense Department’s parallel activities have been given little scrutiny.

To this day, the Department denies the existence of a “special access program,” codenamed “Copper Green,” which allegedly authorized military interrogators to use extremely harsh methods, including the infliction of sexual humiliation, on high-value terrorists.” (Inside the Secret Interrogation Facility at Bagram)

Ambinder reports that only 200 military and civilian personnel were aware of “Copper Green’s” existence until its existence was disclosed in The New Yorker by the eminent investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh. Ambinder reports that:

Under a secret Obama authorization, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) interrogators use torture methods detailed in Appendix M of the Field Manual. Defense officials indicated that the White House is kept appraised of the methods used by interrogators at the [Bagram] site.

Ambinder reported that “there have been numerous, independent reports of abuses, and these claims have reached the White House. “I do not know what the White House has done with these claims because no one there would tell me, not even off the record.”

He also notes that “it is not clear how much Congress knows about the DIA’s interrogation procedures, which have largely escaped public scrutiny.”
(What Appendix M Says About Interrogation, The Atlantic, May 14, 2010)

The Washington Post reported (Nov. 2009) about two innocent Afghani teenagers who were subjected to brutal abuse by U.S. military interrogators at the secret “black prison” at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan:

Two Afghan teenagers held in U.S. detention north of Kabul this year said they were beaten by American guards, photographed naked, deprived of sleep and held in solitary confinement in concrete cells for at least two weeks while undergoing daily interrogation about their alleged links to the Taliban…

The two teenagers — Issa Mohammad, 17, and Abdul Rashid, who said he is younger than 16 — said in interviews this week that they were punched and slapped in the face by their captors during their time at Bagram air base, where they were held in individual cells.

In successive, on-the-record interviews, the teenagers presented a detailed, consistent portrait suggesting that the abusive treatment of suspected insurgents has in some cases continued under the Obama administration, despite steps that President Obama has said would put an end to the harsh interrogation practices authorized by the Bush administration.

At the beginning of [Rashid’s] detention, he was forced to strip naked and undergo a medical checkup in front of about a half-dozen American soldiers. He said that his Muslim upbringing made such a display humiliating and that the soldiers made it worse.

“They touched me all over my body. They took pictures, and they were laughing and laughing,” he said. “They were doing everything.”

He said he lived in a small concrete cell that was slightly longer than the length of his body. Food was tossed in a plastic bag through a slot in the metal door. Both teenagers said that when they tried to sleep, on the floor, their captors shouted at them and hammered on their cells.

When summoned for daily interrogations, Rashid said, he was made to wear a hood, handcuffs and ear coverings and was marched into the meeting room. He said he was punched by his interrogators while being prodded to admit ties to the Taliban; he denied such ties. During some sessions, he said, his interrogator forced him to look at pornographic movies and magazines while also showing him a photograph of his mother.

“I was just crying and crying. I was too young,” Rashid said. “I didn’t know what a prison looks like or what a prison is.”

The site has continued to operate under the terms of an executive order that Obama signed soon after taking office, which forced the closure of secret prisons run by the CIA but not those run by Special Operations forces.” (Afghans Allege Abuse at U.S. Site, Nov. 2009)

The Washington Post report led the Defense Department to launch an internal investigation. But investigative reporter, Jeffrey Kaye asks: Why is the Obama Administration Still Involved in Torture?

President Obama has manifestly broken his promise to the American people to end torture and close all secret prisons. Nor has Congress done their due diligence in investigating these matters. Only when the American people fully understand the extent to which these activities have occupied the government and their various collaborators, like the APA, will society be able to take the necessary steps to end these abuses, and hold those accountable for what amount to crimes against humanity. (The Public Record, May 25, 2010)

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