Human Rights Group Denounces Trump Administration’s Draft Executive Order
on Detention as Catastrophic Return to the Crimes of the Bush Era
Witness Against Torture Calls for the Rejection of Executive Order Measures
Warns of Broad Dangers of Trump Agenda
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — The draft of an Executive Order on US detention and interrogations threatens a nightmarish return to the illegal, immoral, and un-American torture policies of the Bush administration. Its proposed measures — from the re-establishment of CIA “black sites,” to the review of interrogation practices as detailed in Army Field Manuel, to the denial of International Committee of the Red Cross access to US detention centers — point to one thing: the resumption of the cruel, inhuman, degrading, and torturous abuse of Muslims.
The draft’s proposal to halt all transfers from Guantánamo and bring new captives to the prison is also outrageous. Guantánamo has never been, as the draft claims, a “critical tool” in the fight against global threats. It has been a place of rampant torture; a detention center for hundreds of innocent men making up the prison’s great majority; a cause of radicalization worldwide; and a stain on America’s reputation.
The executive order is based in two fictions: that US torture “worked” in securing critical intelligence, and that nearly one-third of men released from Guantánamo then engaged in anti-American violence. The US Senate Torture Report refutes the claim of torture’s efficacy. The figure on post-release violence is grossly inflated and obscures that only a tiny fraction of the men released under President Obama are even suspected of engaging in anti-US hostilities.
“Torture has weakened American security and brought misery to its Muslim victims and their families,” says Jerica Arents, a Witness Against Torture organizer from Chicago. “It is frightening that we are even discussing its return.” “Tough talk on Guantánamo,” says Maha Hilal, the Executive Director of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, “only reinforces Islamophobic fears that threaten the civil and human rights of Muslims, at home and abroad. The demonization of Muslims must end.”
“That the Trump administration would consider the executive order,” says history professor and Witness Against Torture member Jeremy Varon, “speaks to our worst fears: that Trump is an authoritarian strongman willing to use lies and criminal violence in service of a dangerous, nationalist agenda. History warns us where that leads.”
Witness Against Torture calls on sane voices in the military, the intelligence community, Congress, and the Trump administration, as well as the American people, to flatly reject the proposed torture measures, no matter if the White House officially endorses them. The group also cautions that it is not enough to resist only Trump’s most disturbing ideas, and thereby normalize and legitimate other terrible measures.
“From the proposed partial Muslim ban, to the removal of environmental regulations, to his infamous ‘wall’, Trump is on a path of enormous damage,” says Matt Daloisio, a lawyer with Witness Against Torture. “We can’t lose our way in the confusing smog of threats, hyperbole, lies, half-truths, tweets, and half-baked or deadly serious policies. We have to stand up to the danger of Trump’s stated intentions and the reality of what Trump is already doing.”
The fact that the Obama administration did not prosecute the people responsible for torture under the Bush administration just about guarantees that torture will come back. If there is no consequences for such hideous actions, then those actions will likely be repeated. But Obama wanted to “look forward, not back” so no one was held to account.
Trump has inherited Obama’s wars and all the “special operations” going on in the majority of countries on our planet. Trump has also inherited all the executive power that started under Bush, and then was expanded or normalized under Obama. He has the power to spy on everyone, everywhere, all the time. He has the power to lock up American citizens without habeas corpus rights. He has massive detention centers that have been used to warehouse people rounded up in immigration raids - again without due process. He has the right to drone bomb anyone, anywhere at any time - including American citizens. These things, and likely others that I cannot remember right now, are a gift to Trump to do with as he pleases.