31 Dec

The Case Against Torture


In this short documentary, a former defense lawyer for prisoners at Guantánamo Bay argues against the C.I.A.’s use of torture. By Brian Knappenberger on Publish Date December 21, 2014. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

The Case Against Torture

By Brian Knappenberger 

A few months before the recent release of the Senate’s report on the C.I.A.’s use of torture, I interviewed the man charged with defending one of the most notorious prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. Maj. Jason Wright was part of the military counsel for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, accused of being the mastermind behind the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He also represented an Afghan villager named Obaydullah, who has been held in detention for 12 years and still has not been tried in court.

As defense counsel for two of the detainees swept up in a shadowy war on terror, Major Wright didn’t need the Senate’s report to know the ghastly stories it contained. (Because much of the information is classified, he still can’t discuss the full extent of what Mohammed faced while in C.I.A. custody.) What he did describe to me amounted to a behind-the-scenes look at an untested and crumbling military commission process: a broken system. He described a process fraught with serious ethical violations that included the F.B.I.’s attempted infiltration of a defense team and evidence of spying on attorney-client meetings with audio listening devices and electronic surveillance. (The military has disputed this.) It is a system corrupted from the beginning by torture.

The travesty of justice continues. Despite President Obama’s campaign promise to close Guantánamo Bay, the facility still imprisons 132 men. While many details of exactly what has happened at Guantánamo remain murky, the litany of known transgressions goes on: The facility has imprisoned children. Detainees have been brutally force fed while protesting their treatment with hunger strikes. Men have been detained indefinitely — for years — without trial after being tortured with impunity in secret prisons around the world. The entire program has been an enormous violation of the values our nation claims to stand for.

The torture report represents only the first step toward transparency in one of the darkest and most secretive periods of American history. Bringing to light the mistakes our country made in the war on terror is the only way to make sure they never happen again.

Brian Knappenberger is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker whose documentaries include and “We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists,” and “The Internet’s Own Boy,” which was recently selected for the Oscar shortlist for feature documentaries. His previous Op-Docs are “Why Care About the N.S.A.?” and “A Threat to Internet Freedom.”

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