Peace prize laureates call out US on CIA torture program

A dozen Nobel Peace Prize laureates are urging President Obama to make “full disclosure to the American people of the extent and use of torture” by the United States, including the release of a long-delayed Senate report about the C.I.A.’s torture of terrorism suspects.
The laureates told Mr. Obama, who was awarded the Peace Prize himself in 2009, that the report’s prospective release has brought the United States to a “crossroads,” and that he must do more to bring closure to an era when the United States set an example that “will be used to justify the use of torture by regimes around the world.”
“It remains to be seen whether the United States will turn a blind eye to the effects of its actions on its own people and on the rest of the world, or if it will take the necessary steps to recover the standards on which the country was founded, and to once again adhere to the international conventions it helped to bring into being,” they wrote.
The joint letter was organized by two of the laureates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and former President José Ramos-Horta of East Timor, and is part of a broader online petition campaign at, whose chairman is Mr. Ramos-Horta. An advance copy was provided to The New York Times.
The appeal comes as the White House continues to wrestle with how much of a 480-page executive summary of the report should be declassified, an issue that pits the C.I.A. against the mostly Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The primary remaining obstacle in the negotiations is the Central Intelligence Agency’s insistence that pseudonyms of intelligence officers mentioned in the report be blacked out.“The question is whether the key facts are redacted,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and a member of the committee, said last week. “I’m not giving in on this question.”
Dean Boyd, a C.I.A. spokesman, said that the agency believes that showing that particular officers were associated with multiple events, along with dates and locations, could help identify them and put them in danger.
Bernadette Meehan, a National Security Council spokeswoman, said Mr. Obama agrees that the C.I.A.’s rendition, detention and interrogation program of the George W. Bush era “was inconsistent with our values as a nation, and that public scrutiny, debate and transparency will help to inform the public’s understanding of the program to ensure that such a program will never be used again.”
The Nobel laureates’ letter also urges Mr. Obama to adopt “firm policy and oversight restating and upholding international law related to conflict, including the Geneva Convention and the U.N. Convention Against Torture.” The administration is debating whether to embrace or reject a Bush-era interpretation that a provision in the torture treaty banning cruel treatment does not apply abroad.
After the Bush administration revealed its narrow interpretation of the treaty in 2005, Congress enacted a statute banning cruel treatment anywhere. Mr. Obama ordered strict compliance with the statute when he took office in 2009.
But the Obama administration has never taken an official stance on the whether the treaty separately imposes legal obligations abroad. It must do so in a presentation before the U.N. next month. State Department officials are pushing to abandon the Bush-era interpretation, but military and intelligence lawyers are objecting, arguing that doing so could have operational impacts and that more study is required.
The officials opposed to accepting the cruelty provision as applying abroad insist they do not want to resume abusive interrogations, which are barred by the 2005 statute anyway, but worry that accepting the treaty provision as applying abroad could have unintended consequences on other operations, such as by suggesting that other treaties with similar jurisdictional language also apply everywhere. In an interview, Mr. Tutu said the letter was inspired by news of the
administration debate over the torture treaty, saying it was “disturbing” that the Obama team was even thinking of embracing the “foul thinking” that “ghastly things” that are crimes on domestic soil are permitted abroad. That dovetailed with other matters, like the continued use of indefinite detention without trial at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as contributing to “a grave sense of sadness and of being let down” by Mr. Obama, he said.
Other laureates who signed the letter include Mohammad ElBaradei of Egypt, who was awarded the Peace Prize in 2005; Leymah Gbowee, Liberia, 2011; Muhammad Yunus, Bangladesh, 2006; Óscar Arias Sanchez, Costa Rica, 1987; John Hume, Northern Ireland, 1998; F. W. de Klerk, South Africa, 1993; Jody Williams, United States, 1997; Bishop Carlos X. Belo, East Timor, 1996; Betty Williams, Northern Ireland, 1976; and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Argentina, 1980.

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