Administration Officials Responsible for Torture and Abuse of Detainees

To the Editor:

The Bush administration attributes detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere to the rogue actions of a few soldiers and a lack of clear interrogation guidelines. But the mounting evidence, particularly the declassified memo by John C. Yoo, a former Justice Department official, proves that administration officials themselves are responsible for the torture and cruel treatment of detainees in United States custody.

The continuing effort to exempt the president from anti-torture law, among other revelations, shows that the government's calculated policy of torture originated at the highest levels of the administration. The Justice Department's interpretation of long-held tenets of American and international law provided the executive branch with the unlimited power to treat detainees as it saw fit.

Longstanding legal precedents were willfully twisted to justify a systematic regime of abuse employing the expertise of military psychologists and medical personnel. These ''enhanced'' techniques inflicted severe and lasting harm on detainees — the kind of harm explicitly criminalized by the United States War Crimes Act.

The use of these interrogation techniques has eroded our international standing and compromised the rule of law. The question is no longer who is responsible. The question now is whether they will be held accountable.

Frank Donaghue
Chief Executive
Physicians for Human Rights
Cambridge, Mass., April 3, 2008

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