June 14, 2005
The Honorable John William Warner
United States Senate
225 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-4601
Dear Senators Warner:
There have been hundreds of well-documented allegations of torture and abuse in U.S. detention centers – indicating that the U.S. prison abuse scandal extends well beyond Abu Ghraib’s walls – from Iraq and Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. The Department of Defense has acknowledged that 28 deaths of prisoners in U.S. custody were criminal homicides.
A year ago, you said: “Our Committee will search on behalf of the Senate. We will search until all the facts are out. We will let no stone go unturned. We’ll go up the ladder of chain of command, down the ladder and sideways. We will do this on behalf, not just of the Senate but the people of the United States of America.”
The time for such a hearing is now. The official investigations to date have not gotten to the bottom of the scandal. They have:
1) Not been sufficiently independent.
2) Failed to investigate all relevant agencies and personnel;
3) Used cumulative reporting – increasing the risk that errors and omissions may be perpetuated in successive reports;
4) Offered contradictory conclusions;
5) Failed to address senior military and civilian command responsibility; and,
6) Provided no clear game plan for corrective action.
As you say, “The damage done to the reputation of our armed forces and to our nation around the world has the potential of undermining so much good that we have done thus far.”
Understanding what has gone wrong and what can be done to avoid systemic failure in the future is essential not only to ensure that those who may be responsible are held accountable for any wrongdoing, but also to ensure that the effectiveness of U.S. military and intelligence operations is not compromised by an atmosphere of permissiveness, ambiguity, or confusion.
And there are two other important reasons: Unless America deals with this abuse scandal directly, those who would do America harm will continue to have, in the Abu Ghraib photos and regular stories of abuse at other detention centers, a potent rally cry and recruitment tool. Moreover, unless we get to the bottom of this scandal and show the U.S. democratic system at work, autocratic governments will continue justify their own practices of indefinite detention and abuse by pointing to the American example.
As a fellow former Marine and Persian Gulf War veteran, I ask you to hold true to the Geneva Conventions and your oath of office by getting to work on these hearings as soon as possible.