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Torture Watch

By Dan Froomkin
12:20 PM ET, 03/18/2009

By all rights, journalist Mark Danner's recent exposé -- based on a confidential report from the International Red Cross that definitively classified the CIA's treatment of terror suspects as torture -- should have spurred government officials into action. At the very least, it should have permanently changed the public discourse.

But so far, not so much.

Peter Finn writes in The Washington Post: "The ACLU called on Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. yesterday to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate allegations of torture at CIA secret prisons, following the leak last weekend of a secret report by the International Committee of the Red Cross....

"Although Holder described waterboarding as torture during his confirmation hearings, the Obama administration has shown little willingness to support an investigation of interrogation techniques undertaken while George W. Bush was president....

"'Allegations of crimes is not a discretionary matter,' said Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the ACLU. Romero argued that Holder must act to meet the obligations of his office.

"The civil liberties groups also said time is running out for any criminal investigation into the interrogation of the first major terrorism suspect captured after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, a Saudi-born Palestinian better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Zubaida."

Legal blogger Brian Tamanaha writes: "Those who suggest that such an investigation would be political have matters exactly upside-down: given the ample credible evidence that the law has been violated, it would be political to decide to not conduct a criminal investigation."

And Matt Corley reports for Thinkprogress.org on Danner's appearance on C-Span yesterday, in which Danner "took the press to task for engaging in a 'semantic debate' over whether the U.S. committed torture under the Bush administration.

"'One can continue to talk about torture is in the eye of the beholder, etc etc, but frankly, nobody of any legal reputation believes that,' said Danner. Later in the interview, he added that he was 'frustrated by the practices of the press' that are 'interfering with a clear debate'."

Said Danner: "We're debilitated in that by some degree by the practices of the American press, frankly, which is that as long as the president or people in power continue to cling to a definition that they assert is the truth — as President Bush did when it came to torture, he said repeatedly the United States does not torture — the press feels obliged to report that and consider the matter as a question of debate."

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