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14 May 2009

Human Rights Investigator, Attorney John Sifton: Torture Investigation Should Focus on Estimated 100 Prisoner Deaths

Key point:

AMY GOODMAN: First, your response to the testimony yesterday.

JOHN SIFTON: Well, I think it raised a lot of interesting questions about the effectiveness of torture. But those are the wrong debates to be having right now. The reason I wrote about Bush administration homicides, which is not something, you know, I’ve—I worked on for a while. A lot of this was uncovered by Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First and the ACLU, all the way back in 2003, 2004, 2005. We knew that up to a hundred detainees had died in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we had published this information previously. But I brought it up again, because I feel like the debate right now about torture is missing the point.

These aggressive techniques were not just limited to the high-value detainee program in the CIA. They spread to the military with disastrous results. They led to the deaths of human beings. And when there’s a corpse involved, when there’s a dead body involved, you can’t just have a debate about policy differences and looking forward or looking backward.

AMY GOODMAN: Give us examples.

JOHN SIFTON: Well, there are detainees as early as 2002 who died in Afghanistan. Some were interrogated by the CIA in closed sites north of Kabul. Others were in the military base at Bagram, beaten to death, literally, by guards who were being instructed by military intelligence officers, you know, to soften detainees up. Later on in Iraq, when the insurgency heated up in August and September of 2003, we saw deaths there, including both CIA interrogation deaths and regular military deaths.

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