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Fact 11

Last updated: July 19, 2023

The CIA torture program has prevented justice for the families of those killed during the September 11, 2001 attacks.

In November 2001, President George W. Bush issued an order establishing military commissions to prosecute those captured in the “war on terror.” Eighteen years later, the commissions have obtained only one conviction that has survived review by the federal appellate courts. The defendants who are alleged to have borne the most significant responsibility for 9/11 have not yet even gone to trial. Just from 2012 to 2018, the defense department reports that it has spent $679.6 million on the commissions, and “plans to spend almost $1.0 billion more from fiscal year 2019 through at least fiscal year 2023.”

As legal expert Steve Vladeck has explained, a significant reason for the military commissions’ failure is that “they couldn’t escape the shadow of CIA torture of many of the defendants, which continues to play a role in so many of the evidentiary disputes in these cases.” Secrecy in particular—the government’s ongoing efforts to prevent any more information about CIA torture from seeing the light of day—has handcuffed the commissions. One interrogator foreshadowed exactly this problem during the torture program’s early days:

For these and other reasons, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows—an organization founded by family members of those killed on September 11th—is seeking to end the military commissions.