The long-awaited Senate report on brutal CIA interrogation techniques and torture has finally been released after years of anticipation, outlining in explicit detail the extreme lengths to which the U.S. government went in ineffective attempts to wring information out of terror suspects. But the prospect of any individual being held accountable for the program remains bleak at best, and the program’s architects remain unlikely to face trial or punishment over even its worst abuses, a fact that has drawn the ire of civil rights group and inmates’ rights advocates.
The report details a slew of extreme interrogation techniques employed by the CIA, including waterboarding, beatings, stress positions, claustrophobic confinement and sleep deprivation. A number of the techniques identified in the report are illegal under international law and are widely considered unconstitutional.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday it wouldn't bring criminal charges based on its own review of the rendition and interrogation program, which was carried out five years ago, NBC News reported. "That review generated two criminal investigations, but the Department of Justice ultimately declined those cases for prosecution, because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain convictions beyond a reasonable doubt," DOJ said in a statement, according to NBC. "This inquiry was extraordinarily thorough and we stand by our previously announced decision not to initiate criminal charges.”
The closure of the two final investigations by the DOJ into deaths under the torture program in 2012 represented what the New York Times described as the elimination of “the last possibility that any criminal charges will be brought as a result of the brutal interrogations carried out by the CIA.” That stance leaves officials like President George W. Bush and former CIA chief George Tenet, as well as individual interrogators, unlikely to be held accountable by the U.S. government for their actions under the interrogation program. The position is consistent with the Obama administration’s repeated refusal to prosecute officials and individuals for their connection with the program.
“The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as [a] nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests,” the statement reads.
Civil rights organizations and other advocacy groups were quick to call for prosecutions after the report’s release Tuesday. “We renew our demand for accountability for those individuals responsible for the CIA torture program,” Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a group that has represented victims of the CIA interrogation program, said in a statement Tuesday. “They should be prosecuted in U.S. courts; and if our government continues to refuse to hold them accountable, they must be pursued internationally under the principles of universal jurisdiction.”
J. Wells Dixon, a senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the release of the report increases the possibility that individuals could be held accountable by the governments of other countries for their actions under the interrogation program.
"If a CIA official who is culpable leaves the United States, they are at risk of prosecution under universal jurisdiction," Dixon said Tuesday. "If the U.S. doesn’t prosecute, there is an increased likelihood that foreign governments will undertake prosecutions."