Chelsea Manning: Prosecute the CIA's torturers

Army whistleblower says officers behind U.S. torture program must face the law

Published March 9, 2015 5:30PM (EDT)

Chelsea Manning          (AP Photo/U.S. Army, File)
Chelsea Manning (AP Photo/U.S. Army, File)

Newly minted Guardian columnist Chelsea Manning, the Army whistleblower currently serving a 35-year sentence for divulging classified military documents to WikiLeaks, argues in a new column that the officers behind the Central Intelligence Agency's post-9/11 torture and detention program must be held criminally accountable, contending that U.S. intelligence personnel were complicit in a torture regime that was "unethical and morally wrong," as well as "very illegal."

In early December, the Senate Intelligence Committee, then chaired by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), released the executive summary of its report on the CIA's detention and interrogation practices, documenting CIA officers' use of brutal techniques against terrorism suspects. What's more, the committee found, the CIA repeatedly misled the public about torture's effectiveness; the report's authors state that the use of torture did not thwart a single terrorist plot. While noting that torture doesn't work, Manning writes that its efficacy is not the main point.

"[R]egardless of whether these techniques were ineffective and counterproductive, the techniques outlined in the Senate torture report were far outside the boundaries of what is acceptable for the US intelligence community," she writes. "Their supposed effectiveness is irrelevant to the fact that torture is wrong."

While the Obama administration has opposed prosecution of those responsible for executing the CIA's torture program, Manning identifies another means by which torturers could face the law -- the extradition of torture suspects to Germany:

Now, even though the possibility of holding the officers, supervisors and politicians involved accountable before the US courts may be passing in America, this should not be the end of the road. For example, the German Code of Crimes against International Law allows for the prosecution of individuals and crimes outside the territory of Germany by the German Federal Public Prosecutor. Such charges are now being requested by the European Center of Constitutional and Human Rights – though, currently, they name select high ranking officials. If such charges are actually filed, the German government could request for the extradition of these officers for trial.

The extradition treaty between the US and Germany outlines the offenses under which the extradition can occur as: those that are “punishable under the laws” of both nations; those that are punishable by “deprivation of liberty for a maximum period exceeding one year”; and for “attempts to commit, conspiracy to commit, or participation in” such offenses. Torture is clearly defined as one of these offenses. And, while the treaty precludes extradition for offenses that are deemed as “a political offense”, it also excludes “murder or other wilful crime, punishable under the laws of both [nations] with a penalty of at least one year”. Torture, then, is not deemed a political offense.

As Manning points out, however, the U.S. secretary of state must approve any extradition request -- a decidedly unlikely scenario so long as the administration opposes criminal prosecutions.

That CIA torturers will almost certainly escape accountability, while Manning is on track to spend more than three decades in prison, has not been lost on critics. Nor is it easy to forget that as Manning bides her time at Fort Leavenworth, former CIA chief David Petraeus, a darling of the Washington establishment, has managed to skirt prison time for leaking classified material to Paula Broadwell, his mistress-cum-biographer.

By Luke Brinker

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Central Intelligence Agency Chelsea Manning Cia International Law The Guardian Torture