On the Call for Prosecutions For “War on Terror” Torture Cases

The Executive Summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on the CIA detention program was released today (free pdf, approximately 525 pages; paperback/epub/pdf/mobi for purchase at Melville House). The full report (approximately 6,000 pages, including about 37,000 footnotes) has not been declassified or released. Joseph Margulies, law professor and counsel to Abu Zubaydah, the first prisoner subjected to enhanced interrogations and the first held at a CIA black site, on the call for criminal prosecutions for the “War on Terror” torture cases:

“And this brings me back to prosecutions for the torture program. Unfortunately, imposing criminal sanctions on what was concededly criminal behavior would be the first and last step in a national campaign to define these events as merely aberrational. Admittedly, if prosecutions were part of a larger re-examination of the foundational assumptions and structures in American life that led to this behavior, they could play a valuable role in the debate. But that is not how prosecutions would be deployed or described. The very premise of the criminal law in this country is that the system which created the law is fundamentally sound and that compliance is a proxy and predicate for social order. The criminal law, therefore, is invoked as a solution for disorder, complete in and of itself. When the Executive Summary is released, a very small number of us will call for institutional reform. The rest will clang the partisan pans. And when talk turns to prosecution, as it will, I will turn away—not because no crimes were committed, but because the crime implicates us all.”

Professor Margulies’s entire post at LawFare is worth a read.


Wikipedia entry – Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture

George Washington University’s National Security Archive – Torture Archive

Washington Post – Senate Report on CIA Program Details Brutality, Dishonesty

New York Times – Panel Faults C.I.A. Over Brutality and Deceit in Terrorism Interrogations