Three major human rights groups are issuing an urgent plea for Attorney General Loretta Lynch to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the CIA’s dark history of detentions and harsh interrogations.
Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch on Tuesday sent Lynch a letter attached to a petition signed by more than 111,000 people calling for a special prosecutor.
Months after a scathing report about the CIA from Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the groups said the Justice Department could no longer remain silent.
A special prosecutor should review that report as well as previous Justice Department inquiries “to ensure that there is a comprehensive criminal investigation into the conduct documented by the Senate torture report, as well as the authorization for that conduct,” the groups wrote.
The Senate panel’s 6,000-page “torture report” — 500 pages of which were released to the public as an unclassified executive summary — details the incredibly harsh practices performed by the CIA during the Bush administration. The report claims that the use of waterboarding, “rectal rehydration” and other practices were more pervasive than originally understood and did nothing to safeguard the United States.
The practices are widely regarded as torture and were ended soon after President Obama took office.
Human rights advocates, who have long opposed the CIA’s interrogation and detention methods, have said for years that the Justice Department should press criminal charges against the people responsible.
Despite an initial inquiry, however, that appears unlikely. After the Senate report was issued last December, the department said there was nothing new in the analysis to prompt the reopening of an investigation.
The Justice Department declared during the Bush administration that many of the “enhanced interrogation” techniques were legal. Officials since then have said that people performing the interrogations were patriots trying to protect America. Some officials responsible for the practices still work at high levels of the CIA.
In their letter on Tuesday, the groups claimed the Justice Department had never interviewed any of the prisoners held by the CIA and maintained that new information should prompt a vigorous investigation.
Deciding not to investigate “would contribute to the notion that torture remains a permissible policy option for future administrations; undermine the ability of the United States to advocate for human rights abroad; and compromise Americans’ faith in the rule of law at home,” they wrote.
Earlier this month, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to ban the use of brutal interrogation methods, in an amendment to the annual defense policy bill.