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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.fr/2009-04-27_I...

by Jacques Coubard

Impunity for CIA Torturers: The Debate Intensifies

Translated Tuesday 12 May 2009, by Claire Scammell

United States. Obama, who had assured agents that they would not be brought to trial despite disclosures of their use of torture, has been forced to concede the possibility of an inquiry.

By opening the door to a possible inquiry into those responsible for the use of torture, Barack Obama has reopened the debate - after having maintained that there would not be any legal action against CIA agents, who were acting in “good faith”.

Obama had received, at the time, an enthusiastic welcome in Langley, home of the CIA headquarters. It was under pressure from those who had contributed so much to his election that the president had to find a way to respond to the split in opinion over the impunity granted to political sponsors of torturers.

The results of polls have been contradictory; early last week 70% of citizens polled, shocked by the confidential documents made public by the president, were in favour of immediate legal action against the intolerable acts. Yesterday, a new poll by the Washington Post and ABC News showed a split in opinion over the use of torture on terrorists but also approval from more than 70% for the policies delivered by Obama in his first one hundred days in office.

On the other hand, the wind has turned for those who, in a way never seen before, rallied opinion in favour of a young black candidate; today, nobody is talking about the colour of his skin. Nineteen humanitarian associations (backed by the multimillionaire George Soros), the internet site Move On (five million subscribers), which played a decisive role in the democratic candidate’s battle for presidency, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU 500,000 members) are proposing a petition calling for the immediate trial of those responsible for the use of torture.

The ACLU has, moreover, announced that it has won the right to publish several dozen photos, taken inside CIA prisons, which prove the systematic use of torture inside the walls of the Abu Ghraib prison. The photos will be published on May the 28th but the press are already evoking the damning content.

It has been heard, from a Senate committee inquiry, that the CIA torturers had started their training immediately after the attacks of 11th September 2001; before the texts which legalised illegality were written. It was also a question of creating, through the use of torture, links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein in order to find another justification for a war started by the biggest lie of the century, that of the existence of weapons of mass destruction.

Author of legal texts, the judge Jay Bybee, who today sits on the Federal Court of Appeal, is the subject of a call for impeachment lodged at the Senate by the Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold. The debate has been drawn out across the two chambers where the majority of Republicans, including John McCain, oppose putting the Bush team under the spotlight. The former vice president, Dick Cheney, who is being questioned, appeared on television to defend the methods “which allowed the CIA to defend the security of the United States”. This is an issue that the CIA, having become more cautious, has indicated it could not assess.

One of the members of the presidential team, the Admiral Dennis Blair, head of national intelligence, has taken a stand against the proceedings, whereas in January, he stated before the Senate that he condemned torture and that it did not yield reliable intelligence.

The White House itself is split. Hoping to conjure up a storm which would risk putting the spotlight on the defence secretary Robert Gates, who held the same post in the Bush administration, Barack Obama has chosen to off-load the responsibility onto the Attorney General, Eric Holder – an advocate for abandoning all investigation – who will have to judge if there is need to open an inquiry, and onto Congress, where a bipartite truth-commission could decide whether there is need to open proceedings which couldn’t fail to put the spotlight on George Bush. This is just the beginning.

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