by David Edwards and Stephen Webster
May 15, 2009

from TheRawStory Website

A human rights researcher said Friday that any investigation into abuse of terror war prisoners should focus on what he called the Bush administration’s “homicides” — prisoners who died while being subjected to torture.

John Sifton, a private investigator with One World Research, appearing on Democracy Now with host Amy Goodman, said that up to 100 terror war prisoners have died in U.S. custody, many of whom were clearly murdered, some by way of torture.

“A review of homicide cases, however, shows that few detainee deaths have been properly investigated,” he noted in a feature story for The Daily Beast.


“Many were not investigated at all. And no official investigation has looked into the connection between detainee deaths and the interrogation policies promulgated by the Bush administration.”

Senate torture hearings have examined the effectiveness of enhanced interrogation techniques, but Sifton feels this is the wrong focus.

“Those are the wrong debates to be having right now,” Sifton said.


“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,” he said.

“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.”

“…[Four] years since the first known death in U.S. custody, only 12 detainee deaths have resulted in punishment of any kind for any U.S. official,” found Human Rights Now in a 2006 report on terror war prisoners.


“Of the 34 homicide cases so far identified by the military, investigators recommended criminal charges in fewer than two thirds, and charges were actually brought (based on decisions made by command) in less than half. While the CIA has been implicated in several deaths, not one CIA agent has faced a criminal charge. Crucially, among the worst cases in this list – those of detainees tortured to death – only half have resulted in punishment; the steepest sentence for anyone involved in a torture-related death: five months in jail.”

While President Barack Obama and the mainstream media tangled over whether photos of abused prisoners would be released, Sifton said he believes the most vital element still yet to be made public are the CIA’s operational cables.

“These are operational cables showing the interrogations’ methodologies, what was approved, who knew about them, showing the notes of meetings in the White House between the principals group, people like Condoleezza Rice, John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld,” he told Goodman.


“These are important documents. I mean, the photographs are important, because they show viscerally what happened, but the memos show who ordered what happened to happen.”

Amazingly, Sifton actually went on to name a CIA interrogator believed responsible for the death of Manadel al-Jamadi, a prisoner who was suffocated to death by hanging.

“And that’s an interesting death, because that was a case where the CIA inspector general referred the case to the Department of Justice for prosecution, possible prosecution, and yet the Department of Justice never took any action,” said Sifton.


“The name of the CIA interrogator in that case is actually publicly known: Mark Swanner. [...] And he’s, for all I know, still walking around in the United States, even though he is implicated in this homicide.”



John Sifton: Torture Investigation Should Focus on Est. 100 Prisoner Deaths

Democracy Now 5/14/09




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