Come clean on rendition, detention and torture

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A new report by the Open Society Justice Initiative has collected what is known to date about the use of extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and torture. It lists the 54 countries that joined the United States in abducting and handing over suspects to the custody of regimes like Assad’s Syria and Gadhafi’s Libya. It provides an annotated list of 136 men and women who were caught in the rendition and secret detention operations, including innocent people snatched up mistakenly, transported thousands of miles across multiple international borders, and confined for years in wretched secret prisons with no way to contact their families, home governments, or defense attorneys. It also names the people who died of ill treatment. It names dozens of individuals who were tortured in ways that the United States considered illegal when they were committed by Japanese perpetrators on American prisoners during World War II.

How can the United States promote democracy, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and respect for human and civil rights in places like Libya, Egypt, and Syria, when our government worked with their dictators in secret detention and torture efforts without the respect for law and human rights? The United States and its partner governments have yet to take meaningful steps to acknowledge their roles in the use of extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and torture or to compensate the victims. The Obama administration has still not sworn off the practice of extraordinary rendition.

More bad news from the “dark side” will emerge. The revelations will arguably do more and more lasting damage to our country’s image and thwart its diplomatic and military efforts to defeat al Qaeda and similar threats.

Now is the time to act boldly and come clean:

- In December, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence approved a comprehensive report about the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation efforts. The committee’s chairman, Senator Dianne Feinstein, said that the report would “settle the debate once and for all over whether our nation should ever employ coercive interrogation techniques such as those detailed in the report.” Release this report with as few redactions as possible.

- Soon after taking office in 2009, the Obama Administration created an interagency task force to review interrogation and transfer policies and issued a report including recommendations on the practice of transferring individuals to other countries. Release this report with as few redactions as possible.

- The administration also continues to withhold documents relating to investigations by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of Inspector General into extraordinary rendition and secret detention.  Release their findings with as few redactions as possible.

Until we know the truth, it is impossible to consider our war effort complete. Holding our government officials accountable before the law and public opinion is fundamental to protecting the Constitution our sons and daughters risked their lives to defend and too many gave their lives in places Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world.

Nash is a retired U.S. Army major general; he served in Vietnam, Iraq and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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