A dozen retired generals and admirals were to meet with US president-elect Barack Obama’s transition team yesterday to plead for a clean, unequivocal break with the Bush administration’s interrogation, detention and rendition policies.
They are going into the meeting armed with a list of “things that need to be done and undone,” retired Marine General Joseph Hoar, chief of the US Central Command from 1991 to 1994, said on Tuesday.
“It is fairly extensive,” he said.
Top on the list is the CIA’s authority, granted by the White House, to use harsh interrogation methods that go beyond those approved for use by the military. They are said to include prolonged sleep deprivation, painful stress positions and waterboarding, though the agency says the last method has not been used since 2003.
Exactly what the CIA is allowed to do in interrogations remains secret. However, the White House maintains the CIA program adheres to the US ban on cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners.
US President George W. Bush vetoed legislation championed by the retired officers that would have held the CIA to the military’s interrogation methods in March.
They argue that having two US detainee treatment standards endangers US military personnel who may one day be captured, because it denies the US government the moral authority to demand they are treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
The group, which represents more than 36 retired officers with nearly 80 stars between them, is also pushing for an end to extraordinary renditions — the secret transfer of prisoners to other governments that have a history of torture — and the closing of the US jail at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, something Obama has already announced he plans to do.
They believe Obama’s election, and a stark contrast between his policies and Bush’s, can reverse the decline in world opinion about the US. They tie much of that decline to Guantanamo and detainee abuse, they said.
“Gradualism won’t do. It’s time for an abrupt change,” said Vice Admiral Lee Gunn, a former Navy inspector general. “That abrupt change will send a signal to the world that America is back.”