Is Obama Covering Up Continued Use of Torture?

On his first day in office, President Obama issued an executive order banning the use of torture by the military and intelligence services. Frankly, I’ve always doubted that this actually did end torture. I have a hard time believing the CIA just closed up its black sites and started following the law. A new Amnesty International report finds seemingly credible evidence that torture has continued and is being covered up.

The U.S. military has systematically covered up or disregarded “abundant and compelling evidence” of war crimes, torture, and unlawful killings in Afghanistan as recently as last year, according to a report by Amnesty International published today in Kabul.

The human rights organization alleges that the U.S. military has routinely failed to properly investigate reports of criminal behavior and, in some instances, tampered with evidence to conceal wrongdoing. On the rare occasions when servicemen are held to account, the report found that the compromised military justice system seldom secured justice for the victims of enforced disappearances, killings, and abuse that included torture.

“President Obama has admitted that ‘we tortured’ people in the past—but this is not the Bush administration, this is torture happening under Obama,” said Joanne Mariner, the author of the report…

A survivor of one of the most egregious assaults on civilians detailed in the report told The Daily Beast he had been forced to listen to the last gasps and sobs of his dying daughter, who was seven months pregnant, while the Americans threatened to kill anyone who moved. “She was calling out for help, maybe she wanted to share her last words before she left us forever,” said Muhammad Tahir, a civil servant.

Four years after two pregnant women, two criminal justice officials, and a teenage girl were shot dead during a party to mark the birth of a grandson in Khataba Village, Paktia Province, Tahir and his family are still waiting to be interviewed as part of an investigation the U.S. military promised to carry out.

“There is a shocking lack of accountability for the killing of Afghan civilians by U.S. forces, including civilians killed in circumstances that raise concerns about war crimes,” said Mariner. “There is very strong evidence that war crimes were carried out.”

The report, titled “Left in the Dark,” includes detailed investigations of 10 incidents in which at least 140 civilians, including 50 children, were killed in dubious circumstances. In the aftermath of nine of these, eyewitnesses and families report that no one was ever interviewed by the U.S. military.

You can read the full Amnesty report here. It’s not for the faint of heart.

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  • Compuholic

    Well, the CIA probably simply redefined the term torture and voilá, they are not torturing anybody anymore.

  • Chiroptera

    The human rights organization alleges that the U.S. military has routinely failed to properly investigate reports of criminal behavior and, in some instances, tampered with evidence to conceal wrongdoing.

    Sounds like they did what we liberals asked them to: they got advice from civilian law enforcement officers.

  • dingojack

    Nah – it’s just Obama’s attempt to distract from…. what’s the right-wing panic-button issue for today?


  • Marcus Ranum

    Of COURSE they are still engaging in torture. They’re force-feeding hunger-striking prisoners in Gitmo. And you’ll notice that Nobel Peace Prize Winner Barack Obama didn’t say that they’ve stopped renditions. So maybe it’s not a CIA thug attaching the wires to the victim’s scrotum, they’re just sitting off to the side with a handful of vaseline wanking, the torturing has not stopped.

  • Artor

    Since I haven’t seen any prosecutions for torture, I’ve just assumed it’s still going on, and is still implicitly permitted, if not encouraged. Likewise, I’ve assumed that the black sites are still in operation, as I haven’t seen any of them named and outed. This “most transparent administration ever,” has not instilled me with confidence.

  • Michael Heath


    Some U.S. personnel were convicted of torture. Some were interview subjects in the documentary based on Jane Mayer’s investigate journalism.