Human Rights Watch urged the Obama administration to investigate 21 former U.S. officials, including former President George W. Bush, for potential criminal conduct for their actions in the torture of terrorism suspects’ in CIA custody.
Other officials include former Vice President Dick Cheney, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, former CIA Director George Tenet, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
Human Rights Watch said that the details of the interrogation program of the Central Intelligence Agency published by a U.S. Senate committee in December 2014 provided ample evidence for the Obama administration to open an investigation.
“A year has already passed [since] the Senate report of torture was published, and the Obama administration has not yet initiated any criminal investigations into CIA torture,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Without a criminal investigation taking the torture as a policy option would poison the Obama’s administration in the long run.”
Representatives of Bush and Tenet declined to comment on the matter. Representatives of Cheney, Rice, and Ashcroft, however could not be reached immediately for comment.
The former Bush administration and Republicans have argued that the CIA tried only “enhanced interrogation techniques, “which doesn’t necessarily mean torture. They claimed that the Senate report was biased.
“There is a lot of nonsense,” said James Mitchell, one of the key men of the interrogation program told Reuters about a year ago after the publication of the results of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Some things are simply not true,” he added.
In a video titled “No more excuses – A Roadmap to Justice for CIA Torture” published with the report, the president of the Bar Association of the United States demands a renewed inquiry as well. In June, the ABA sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch also mentioning that the details of the Senate report bear good enough reasons for an investigation.
“What we have asked the Department of Justice [is] to take a new look, a complete picture of what has taken place, in principle, leave no stone unturned in the investigation of possible violations,” said the president of the American Association of Lawyers, Paulette Brown.
CIA interrogators conducted the program on prisoners who were taken from around the world after September 11, 2001.
In 2008, the Bush administration started a criminal investigation into whether CIA damaged interrogation videos. After taking office in 2009, the Obama administration has included investigating whether the interrogation program activity involved criminal conduct.
In 2012, the Obama administration suspended the criminal investigation. Attorney General Eric Holder said there was not enough evidence for a criminal trial, despite the deaths of two detainees.
Human Rights Watch claimed that the Senate report contained new information that showed prisoners were tortured in violation of the U.S. and international laws, such as rectal feeding and unauthorized “water boarding,” in which the person feels as if they are going to be drowned.
Laura Pitter, the lead author of the report and the senior national security council of Human Rights Watch, said calls from some Republican presidential candidates for the revival of the investigation techniques the CIA made the need for a renewed investigation more important.
“Until the inherent criminality of these actions is evident,” he said, “there is a risk that future administrations will use the same strategy again.”