hink tank plans study of how US treats detainees

A nonpartisan legal think tank plans to study U.S. treatment of terrorism detainees, partly out of concern that the country’s policies lack clarity and can be manipulated to permit abuse or torture in dangerous times, members of a task force appointed to conduct the study said.

Eleanor J. Hill, one of three chairpersons on The Constitution Project’s new panel, said events after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks such as the abuse by American troops of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and complaints of detainee torture will be one focus of the study.

She said it was important in fighting terrorism to project an image of the United States that is consistent with the principles the country was founded upon so that terrorists are not viewed more favorably than Americans in some parts of the world.

“When you see stories of Abu Ghraib and stories of torture, it’s not the kind of America we want the rest of the world to see and the kind of country we want to be,” said Hill, who was a Department of Defense inspector general under President Bill Clinton. “America is not what terrorists say we are, an evil country to be hated.”

Former FBI Director William Sessions, former Arkansas U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson, a retired Army general and a retired appeals court judge in Washington are among 11 people selected for a task force that will meet for the first time in early January, said Virginia Sloan, a lawyer and president of The Constitution Project.

Sloan said the task force will try to reconcile the lack of clarity and consistency in U.S. detainee treatment policies to ensure public confidence in future policy decisions. Its work should produce a final report in a year to 18 months, she said.

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