So says Human Rights Watch in a report released last Tuesday.
I had totally missed that bit of news. The theatrics of the debate on the debt limit ceiling and the concurrent implosion of the Murdoch media empire dominated the headlines in the traditional media as well as on the blogs.
I assume many others experienced the same. Still, a quick google search reveals that there are very few hits from the top media outlets on the term 'hrw prosecute bush', so it is no wonder if this one passed below the radar. (Curiously - well, maybe not so curious - there are plenty of hits outside western Europe and North-America.)
Anyway, here is the link to HRW's comprehensive report - Getting Away with Torture.
The report contains the following:
Getting Away with Torture
- I. Background: Official Sanction for Crimes against Detainees
- II. Torture of Detainees in US Counterterrorism Operations
- III. Individual Criminal Responsibility
- Appendix: Foreign State Proceedings Regarding US Detainee Mistreatment
- Acknowledgments and Methodology
From the summary:
This report builds on our prior work by summarizing information that has since been made public about the role played by US government officials most responsible for setting interrogation and detention policies following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, and analyzes them under US and international law. Based on this evidence, Human Rights Watch believes there is sufficient basis for the US government to order a broad criminal investigation into alleged crimes committed in connection with the torture and ill-treatment of detainees, the CIA secret detention program, and the rendition of detainees to torture. Such an investigation would necessarily focus on alleged criminal conduct by the following four senior officials—former President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and CIA Director George Tenet.
Such an investigation should also include examination of the roles played by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Attorney General John Ashcroft, as well as the lawyers who crafted the legal “justifications” for torture, including Alberto Gonzales (counsel to the president and later attorney general), Jay Bybee (head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)), John Rizzo (acting CIA general counsel), David Addington (counsel to the vice president), William J. Haynes II (Department of Defense general counsel), and John Yoo (deputy assistant attorney general in the OLC).
Much important information remains secret. For example, many internal government documents on detention and interrogation policies and practices are still classified, and unavailable to the public. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has secured the release of thousands of documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), among the dozens of key documents still withheld are the presidential directive of September 2001 authorizing CIA "black sites"—or secret prisons—as well as CIA inspector general records. Moreover, many documents that have ostensibly been released, including the CIA inspector general’s report and Department of Justice and Senate committee reports, contain heavily redacted sections that obscure key events and decisions.
The report is very well researched and documented and it is well worth reading the summary.
Does such a report matter given how it is practically being ignored?
If nothing else, at least this type of work impacts on the ability of the culprits to move freely. Recall what happened last February:
The failure of the US to investigate and prosecute Bush administration officials for torture was recently highlighted by criminal complaints that were to be filed with a prosecutor in Switzerland prior to a planned visit by President Bush to the country, Human Rights Watch said.
Ahead of a trip to Geneva where Bush was scheduled to address a charity gala on February 12, 2011, two individuals planned to file complaints with the Geneva Canton prosecutor against President Bush for authorizing torture and other ill-treatment. However, on February 5 the trip was cancelled amid reports there would be protests and criminal complaints filed against him.
"The threatened prosecution of President Bush in Switzerland shows that other countries will act against torture even if the US doesn't," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "The US government needs to demonstrate that no official, including an ex-president, is above the law by authorizing prosecutors to investigate and prosecute this serious crime. President Bush's bold and blatant admission that he ordered waterboarding is an obvious place to begin a criminal investigation."
But the real test is what the Obama administration will do with it? The safe bet is: 'Nothing'.
Only two weeks ago, the DOJ cleared all but two cases involving the CIA in torture:
Attorney General Eric Holder said the probes were the only criminal investigations to result from a wide-ranging probe into CIA conduct that had been carried out by John Durham, an assistant U.S. attorney for Connecticut. Those cases included the destruction by a CIA official of videotapes of interrogations of terrorist suspects and the handling of a variety of so-called high-value suspects, three of whom were waterboarded and at least one of whom was threatened with a drill held to his head as he was questioned.
Given this type of judicial environment, I have next to no faith that the war criminals of the Bush-administration will ever have to face justice.