The Obama administration is considering reaffirming a Bush-administration interpretation of a treaty which bans “cruel, unusual or degrading punishment,” as not applying to the CIA or military prisons overseas, according to a report from the New York Times. As a senator, Obama supported legislation that expressly prohibited American operatives from using torture anywhere in the world.
The George W. Bush administration argued the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques," and the use of techniques widely regarded as torture at U.S. facilities abroad fell outside of the treaty's remit. The Obama administration is preparing appear before the U.N. Committee Against Torture in Geneva next month, where it must declare a definite position on the treaty. According to the Times' report, lawyers for the military and intelligence services are urging Obama to back away from his own view, and reaffirm the Bush administration's position on the treaty, which has attracted widespread international condemnation in the past.
Many foreign political leaders and non-governmental organizations have called for members of the Bush administration, including Bush himself, to face prosecution for allowing the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody during the course of the U.S. campaign against Islamic militant groups spurred by the 9/11 attacks.
In contrast to the military establishment, the Times reports State Department officials have been lobbying for the administration to reject the Bush-era position outright. This would be in line with a 2009 executive order Obama signed outlawing the use of cruelty in interrogations anywhere.
The Bush administration, which launched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, had to contend with a number of allegations it allowed U.S. officials to use torture against detainees during the course of its campaigns. These included the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, and the techniques used against prisoners held at CIA "black sites," as well as overseas military facilities, such as Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.