Human Rights Watch demands US criminal probe of CIA torture

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(Reuters) -- Human Rights Watch called on the Obama administration on Tuesday to investigate 21 former U.S. officials, including former President George W. Bush, for potential criminal misconduct for their roles in the CIA's torture of terrorism suspects in detention.

The other officials include former Vice President Dick Cheney, former CIA Director George Tenet, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Human Rights Watch argued that details of the Central Intelligence Agency's interrogation program that were made public by a U.S. Senate committee in December 2014 provided enough evidence for the Obama administration to open an inquiry.

"It's been a year since the Senate torture report, and still the Obama administration has not opened new criminal investigations into CIA torture," Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "Without criminal investigations, which would remove torture as a policy option, Obama's legacy will forever be poisoned."

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Human Rights Watch demands US criminal probe of CIA torture
This undated handout photo provided by GeoEye shows a satellite aerial view of The National Registry Office for Classified Information, also known as ORNISS, in a busy residential neighborhood minutes from the center of Romania’s capital city of Bucharest. Between 2003 and 2006, the CIA operated a secret prison from the building's basement, bringing in high-value terror suspects for interrogation and detention. A joint AP-ARD Panorama investigation revealed the exact location of the prison. (AP Photo/GeoEye)
CHANGES name of country bordering Romania to Serbia; Graphic shows CIA prison location in Bucharest, Romania
** FILE ** Romanian military staff stands at the end of a corridor on the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, some 250 kilometers east of Bucharest, in this Nov. 9 2005 file photo. Establishing the exact nature of Romania's involvement in a suspected secret U.S. program is crucial to building the case that Washington sidestepped international human rights conventions by persuading allies to perform dirty work on terror suspects that would have otherwise been illegal in the United States. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, file) ** zu unserem Korr **
The National Registry Office for Classified Information, also known as ORNISS, sits in a busy residential neighborhood minutes from the center of Romania’s capital city of Bucharest in this recent photo. Between 2003 and 2006, the CIA operated a secret prison from the building's basement, bringing in high-value terror suspects for interrogation and detention. A joint AP-ARD Panorama investigation revealed the exact location of the prison. (AP Photo)
The National Registry Office for Classified Information, also known as ORNISS, sits in a busy residential neighborhood minutes from the center of Romania’s capital city of Bucharest in this recent photo. Between 2003 and 2006, the CIA operated a secret prison from the building's basement, bringing in high-value terror suspects for interrogation and detention. A joint AP-ARD Panorama investigation revealed the exact location of the prison. (AP Photo)
This is a copy of the cover of the CIA torture report released by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein D-Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. U.S. Senate investigators delivered a damning indictment of CIA interrogations Tuesday, accusing the spy agency of inflicting suffering on prisoners beyond its legal limits and peddling unsubstantiated stories that the harsh questioning saved American lives. (AP Photo)
The National Registry Office for Classified Information, also known as ORNISS, sits in a busy residential neighborhood minutes from the center of Romania’s capital city of Bucharest in this recent photo. Between 2003 and 2006, the CIA operated a secret prison from the building's basement, bringing in high-value terror suspects for interrogation and detention. A joint AP-ARD Panorama investigation revealed the exact location of the prison. (AP Photo)
Ambassador James Woolsey, who was CIA Director from 1993 to 1995, insists the torture report should never have been released. (The National Academy of Sciences/Flickr)
FILE - This undated file photo shows al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. After U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin laden in Pakistan in May 2011, top CIA officials secretly told lawmakers that information gleaned from brutal interrogations played a key role in what was one of the spy agency’s greatest successes. CIA director Leon Panetta repeated that assertion in public, and it found its way into a critically acclaimed movie about the operation, Zero Dark Thirty, which depicts a detainee offering up the identity of bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmad al- Kuwaiti, after being tortured at a CIA “black site.” As it turned out, Bin Laden was living in al Kuwaiti’s walled family compound, so tracking the courier was the key to finding the al-Qaida leader. (AP Photo/File)
FILE - This undated file photo provided by U.S. Central Command, shows Abu Zubaydah, date and location unknown. A new document indicates the CIA first proposed to top Bush administration officials in mid-May 2002 that alleged al-Qaida terrorist Abu Zubaydah be submitted to waterboarding. That was three months before the U.S. Justice Department approved the interrogation technique in a secret legal opinion. (AP Photo/U.S. Central Command, File)
Iyman Faris, 34, is shown in this photo made available by the U.S. Justice Department. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA program that included torturing al-Qaida detainees provides eight “primary” examples in which the CIA said it obtained good intelligence as a result of what it called “enhanced interrogation techniques” and the Senate panel’s conclusions that the information was available elsewhere and without resorting to brutal interrogations. The CIA said the brutal interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed identified an Ohio truck driver, Iyman Faris, who later pleaded guilty to terrorism charges. (AP Photo/Dept. of Justice)
FILE - An undated file photo provided by the U.S. District Attorney's office shows Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani. The Guantanamo Bay detainee brought to the United States for trial on charges he helped the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa while he was an aide to Osama bin Laden cannot use allegations of torture by the CIA to dismiss the indictment, a judge said Monday May 10, 2010. (AP Photo/File)
FILE - In this March 3, 2005 file photo, a workman slides a dustmop over the floor at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Va. Senate investigators have delivered a damning indictment of CIA interrogation practices after the 9/11 attacks, accusing the agency of inflicting pain and suffering on prisoners with tactics that went well beyond legal limits. The torture report released Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee says the CIA deceived the nation with its insistence that the harsh interrogation tactics had saved lives. It says those claims are unsubstantiated by the CIA's own records. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 09: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, talks with reporters after sharing a report on the CIA and it's torture methods, December 9, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who's poised to become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, leaves the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, after he joined Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. to endorse the release of a report on the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques at secret overseas facilities after the 9/11 terror attacks. Some Republican leaders objected to the report's release and challenged its contention that harsh tactics didn't work, but McCain, tortured in Vietnam as a prisoner of war, welcomed the report and endorsed its findings. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani, center, speaks during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. Ghani said, "The Afghan government condemns in the strongest language the inhuman and unjustifiable practices detailed in the report." (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
White House press secretary Josh Earnest speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. Earnest answered questions about the Senate CIA torture report. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 09: U.S. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (R), and Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) (L), listen as the Senate Republican speak to members of the media after the Senate Republican Policy Luncheon at the Capitol December 9, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Senate Republican leadership responded to a report on CIA's use of torture conducted by the Senate Intelligence Committee where were released today. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 9: Sen. Diane Feinstein(D-CA), makes her way through a crush of reporters toward the Senate floor to deliver her remarks on the CIA report on torture released this morning on December, 09, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 09: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks to members of the media after the Senate Democratic Policy Luncheon at the Capitol December 9, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Senator Reid responded to a report on CIA's use of torture conducted by the Senate Intelligence Committee where were released today. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Pakistani private security guards stand on duty outside the US consulate in Lahore on December 9, 2014. The US Senate will release a long-delayed report into the CIA's brutal interrogation of Al-Qaeda suspects after the 2001 attacks, as American embassies went on heightened alert amid fears of a backlash. AFP PHOTO / Arif ALI (Photo credit should read Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)
A lighthouse and old migrants boats on the ground of the marine museum, on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in this photo approved for release by the U.S. military. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
The original courtroom at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in this photo approved for release by the U.S. military. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
A display of the restraint chair that the Navy medics use to tube-feed hunger strikers on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in this photo approved for release by the U.S. military. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
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Representatives for Bush and Tenet declined comment. Representatives for Cheney, Ashcroft and Rice could not immediately be reached for comment.

Former Bush administration officials and Republicans have argued that the CIA used "enhanced interrogation techniques" that did not constitute torture. They argue that the Senate report was biased.

"It's a bunch of hooey," James Mitchell, one of the architects of the interrogation program told Reuters nearly a year ago after the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's findings. "Some of the things are just plain not true."

In a video released in conjunction with the report, "No More Excuses" "A Roadmap to Justice for CIA Torture," the president of the American Bar Association calls for a renewed investigation as well. In June, the ABA sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch also saying that the details disclosed in the Senate report merited an investigation.

"What we've asked the Justice Department to do is take a fresh look, a comprehensive look, into what has occurred to basically leave no stone unturned into investigating possible violations," said American Bar Association President Paulette Brown. "And if any are found to take the appropriate action as they would in any other matter."

CIA interrogators carried out the program on detainees who were captured around the world after the Sept. 11, 2001 hijacked plane attacks on the United States.

In 2008, the Bush administration opened a criminal inquiry into whether the CIA destroyed videotapes of interrogations. After taking office in 2009, the Obama administration expanded the inquiry to include whether the interrogation program's activity involved criminal conduct.

In 2012, the Obama administration closed the criminal inquiry. Then Attorney General Eric Holder said that not enough evidence existed for criminal prosecution, including the death of two detainees.

Human Rights Watch argued that the Senate report contained new information that showed detainees were tortured in violation of U.S. and international law, including rectal feedings and unauthorized forms of "waterboarding," which makes the person feel as though they are drowning.

Laura Pitter, Human Rights Watch's senior national security counsel and the lead author of the report, said that calls from some Republican Presidential candidates for the revival of the CIA interrogation techniques made the need for a renewed inquiry that much more important.

"Until the inherent criminality of these acts is made clear," she said, "there is a danger that future administrations will use the same tactics again."

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