Obama Administration Shuts Down Investigations Into Bush-era Torture

Dees Illustration

Tom Carter
Global Research

As part of its cover-up of Bush administration war crimes, the Obama administration announced June 30 that it would shut down 99 investigations into deaths of prisoners in US custody during the so-called “war on terror,” leaving only two investigations with the potential to develop into criminal prosecutions.

The announcement underscores the fact that the anti-democratic policies developed during the presidency of George W. Bush continue unchallenged under President Barack Obama, who is doing everything in his power to keep the lid on the crimes of his predecessor.

Following the events of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration quickly and quietly erected a network of secret prisons and “black sites,” where opponents of US imperialism in the Middle East—as well as, in many cases, their friends, relatives and acquaintances—were jailed, tortured and murdered.

The Obama administration has continued and expanded the anti-democratic methods of the Bush administration, including the use of presidential assassination orders, indefinite detention without trial or charges, blocking court cases that threaten to reveal torture, domestic spying, prosecution of whistle-blowers, “rendition” of alleged terrorists to countries that practice torture, open violations of US and international law, including the War Powers Act in the case of Libya and the Geneva Conventions more generally, and the maintenance of illegal torture camps such as the infamous facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The administration’s 101 investigations into torture deaths were a token measure to begin with. The investigations were initiated in 2009 and were designed to placate popular disgust with torture and other crimes carried out under Bush.

The 101 cases by no means include every death in US custody, and rather conveniently, no case in which the torture victim survived was selected for investigation. The investigations proceeded on the explicit basis that the infamous Bush Justice Department torture memos would not be challenged. Neither would the Bush-era policy of “enhanced interrogation” (a euphemism for torture). The only question that was to be pursued in the investigations was whether the Central Intelligence Agency operatives in the 101 selected death cases had violated Bush administration guidelines. Saddled with such limitations from the outset, the investigations could barely scratch the surface of government-sanctioned war crimes.



Echoing Obama’s mantra of “looking forward, not backward,” Attorney General Holder announced June 30 that 99 of the 101 cases did not warrant further investigation.

“I welcome the news that the broader inquiries are behind us,” remarked Leon Panetta, who left his post as CIA director July 1 to become secretary of defense. “We are now finally about to close this chapter of our agency’s history,” he added. Panetta was referring not to closing the chapter in which torture took place, but closing the chapter in which the agency’s practices were subjected to any form of official scrutiny.

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