The decision to drop the requirement to report on the number of people we kill in drone strikes fittingly if depressingly came on the ten-year anniversary of CBS’s airing of the photos of torture and prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. To this day, the United States has not held accountable any senior official for torture inflicted during the “war on terror”—not at Abu Ghraib, not at Guantanamo, not at Bagram Air Force Base, and not in the CIA’s secret prisons, or “black sites.” President Obama has stuck to his commitment to look forward, not backward, and his administration has opposed all efforts to hold the perpetrators of these abuses to account. Indeed, the administration has classified even the memories of the survivors of torture in CIA black sites, now housed at Guantanamo, maintaining that they and their lawyers cannot under any circumstance even talk publically about their mistreatment.
To be fair, Obama deserves some credit for both banning torture and achieving some transparency on the subject. In one of his first acts as president, he formally prohibited the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that his predecessor had approved—and that Bush and Cheney both proudly proclaim in their memoirs they would approve all over again. Shortly thereafter, Obama declassified the chilling secret memoranda, drafted by various Justice Department lawyers in the Bush Administration, that were designed to give legal cover to the CIA’s torture program. And most recently, in March, Obama said that he thinks that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s interrogation program, the only comprehensive review based on access to classified information to date of the agency’s treatment of prisoners, should be declassified and released to the public. (The committee has voted to declassify and release a six hundred-page executive summary from the 6,300 page report, and it is now up to the president to live up to his statement and declassify it.)