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Reckoning With Torture

Before the September 11 attacks, the United States condemned torture, protested secret tribunals, decried disappearances, and challenged secret and arbitrary detentions. But a growing public record of official documents and testimonies makes undeniably clear that prisoners were tortured, abused, and in some cases even killed in U.S. custody since 9/11, and that officials at the very highest levels of our government authorized and encouraged the mistreatment.

Although the record of abuse is growing clearer, the Obama administration—by fighting to keep secret documents that would allow the public to better understand the torture program, and seeking to extinguish lawsuits brought by torture survivors—has gradually become an obstacle to accountability for torture. The U.S.’s failure to address and redress torture undermines the rule of law in the United States and weakens our ability to encourage and spread support for the rule of law internationally.

In an effort to build support for accountability for torture, PEN American Center and the ACLU have developed a public education program that draws attention to the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody. Reckoning with Torture: Memos and Testimonies from the “War on Terror” delivers key facts of the torture program through dramatic readings of documents related to the torture program, combined with video testimonials from former Guantánamo detainees and artwork by artist Jenny Holzer that incorporates government torture records.

Help play a role in demanding meaningful accountability. Visit www.pen.org/reckoning

A top adviser to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned the Bush administration that its use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” interrogation techniques like waterboarding were “a felony war crime.”

What’s more, newly obtained documents reveal that State Department counselor Philip Zelikow told the Bush team in 2006 that using the controversial interrogation techniques were “prohibited” under U.S. law — “even if there is a compelling state interest asserted to justify them.”

Zelikow argued that the Geneva conventions applied to al-Qaida — a position neither the Justice Department nor the White House shared at the time. That made waterboarding and the like a violation of the War Crimes statute and a “felony,” Zelikow tells Danger Room. Asked explicitly if he believed the use of those interrogation techniques were a war crime, Zelikow replied, “Yes.”

CIA Committed ‘War Crimes,’ Bush Official Says | Wired (via pieceinthepuzzlehumanity)

Note: If you are interested in torture and human rights, check out The Torture Report: What the Documents Say About America’s Post-9/11 Torture Program, by PEN’s own Larry Siems or participate in PEN’s Reckoning with Torture project, jointly run with the ACLU.

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Samantha Osaki, a student living in Pennsylvania, reads the sworn statement of an interpreter at the Kandahar detention facility in Afghanistan who witnesses the mistreatment of a detainee: 

Here’s actress Lili Taylor reading the same statement at the Sundance Film Festival 2011:

And here’s a fragment of the original handwritten statement: 

Join Samantha and Lili in honoring this interpreter: 

1) download the statement

2) film yourself reading 

3) send us the file

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The appeals court properly recognized that our clients have a reasonable basis to fear that the government may be monitoring their conversations, even though it has no reason to suspect them of having engaged in any unlawful activities. The constitutionality of the government’s surveillance powers can and should be tested in court. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will agree.

Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director, on the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a challenge to the broad, sweeping surveillance powers of the FISA Amendments Act. PEN American Center is a partner in this case.

BREAKING NEWS: Supreme Court Will Hear ACLU Case Challenging Warrantless Wiretapping Law

While law enforcement sometimes argues that making members of the public aware that cell phone companies can track them will make it more difficult to catch criminals, it is too late in the day for that argument now that cell phone tracking is a staple of television police procedurals… Why aren’t these policies available on the companies’ websites? With such information, consumers could vote with their wallets and punish those companies that don’t protect privacy. Keeping their customers in the dark about surveillance is better for business, it seems.

Catherine Crump, ACLU on surveillance and business.

Are the police tracking your calls? - CNN.com

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In Doug Liman’s documentary Reckoning With Torture, ordinary Americans stand side-by-side with actors, writers, and former military interrogators and intelligence officers in a reading of official documents that reveals the scope and cost of America’s post-9/11 torture program.

This Sunday on Moyers & Company, Liman joins Larry Siems, PEN American’s Director of Freedom to Write and International Programsto discuss the film and the importance of hearing the voices of detainees.

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PEN American Center appears on Bill Moyers on America’s Torture Program

"On this weekend’s Moyers & Company, Siems, director of the Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center, and Liman, whose credits include The Bourne IdentityMr. and Mrs. Smith, and Fair Game, join Bill Moyers to talk about what we should be learning from and doing about U.S. torture tactics.”

(Source: billmoyers.com)

Bill Moyers
Bill Moyers
Reckoning with Torture

In Doug Liman’s documentary Reckoning With Torture, ordinary Americans stand side-by-side with actors, writers, and former military interrogators and intelligence officers in a reading of official documents that reveals the scope and cost of America’s post-9/11 torture program. Listen to the program here.

This past Sunday on Moyers & Company, Liman joined Larry Siems, PEN American’s Director of Freedom to Write and International Programsto discuss the film and the importance of hearing the voices of detainees.

No data is more personal than email correspondence… Email is deeply personal and private. It is an unfiltered view of our thoughts and a catalog of our relationships stretching back for years. Government agents should not be allowed to troll through all of our most private correspondence without proving to a judge that they have probable cause to believe that a search will turn up evidence of a crime.

Catherine Crump, ACLU on the U.S. government’s attempt to read our emails without a warrant

Is US government reading email without a warrant? It doesn’t want to talk about it - Red Tape

(via fictionthatmatters)