After the US Senate Intelligence Committee released its exhaustive report on the torture tactics used by the Central Intelligence Agency under its post-9/11 enhanced interrogation program, Americans were shocked to discover that intelligence agents entrusted with protecting the nation brutalized detainees through harsh measures like rectal feeding, forced sleep deprivation, and death threats. Detainees suffered sexual abuse, and one died of hypothermia. Suspects were waterboarded repeatedly. After reading the long list of stomach-churning tactics, many Americans were left feeling like, in attempting to defeat the terrorists after 9/11, the nation lost its way and misplaced its rights-respecting, constitutional traditions.

In light of these and other revelations, Reuters is reporting that two civil rights groups, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, are calling for the United States Department of Justice to appoint a special prosecutor to launch a criminal probe into the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program. The civil rights advocates issued a letter to the DOJ, warning that failing to press criminal charges could set a dangerous precedent, which said, “We believe the failure to conduct a comprehensive criminal investigation would contribute to the notion that torture remains a permissible policy option for future administrations; undermine the ability of the United States to advocate for human rights abroad; and compromise Americans’ faith in the rule of law at home.” Both groups believe that the new revelations exposed in the torture report justify a fresh look at the CIA’s tactics.

A report by Rachel Blevins noted that the group Physicians for Human Rights said that medical professionals who assisted CIA agents with tactics like rectal feeding and hydration might have committed war crimes. Reuters notes that United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson said that US authorities responsible for the program should face criminal charges. “The US Attorney General is under a legal duty to bring criminal charges against those responsible,” said Emmerson in a statement on the issue. He continued, “It is now time to take action. The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes.”

Officials with the Obama administration say that they have no intention of conducting further investigations into whether crimes were committed under the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program. Marc Raimondi, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, said that government officials have already carried out two criminal investigations but have failed to find sufficient evidence justifying charges against any specific individuals. Raimondi claims that investigators already knew about the information from the Senate torture report when they conducted the prior investigations and that the revelation of those details to the public does not itself warrant reopening the criminal probe.

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