The United States’ use of torture and cruelty in post-9/11 counterterrorism operations spurred U.S. human rights and civil liberties organizations to form powerful coalitions that fought for a reversal of this misguided policy. The New Tactics in Human Rights Strategic Effectiveness method was one tool used to by these groups to collectively move their work forward.
Fourteen human rights groups attended a meeting in 2006 to examine the strategic and political landscape of the issue of torture. The Strategic Effectiveness method provided the framework for the discussion and led directly to the decision by three organizations to jointly pursue a Presidential executive order through creation of the “Campaign to Ban Torture”. The Campaign to Ban Torture developed the Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order on Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty which gained bipartisan supporters including three former Secretaries of Defense, three former Secretaries of State, three former National Security Advisors, four former members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, more than forty retired generals and admirals and more than 100 senior faith leaders. The Campaign played a key role in President Obama’s decision to sign an executive order on torture and interrogation policy on January 22, 2009 – his second day in office.
Participants from 27 human rights and civil liberties organizations then came together in 2010 to assess opportunities to improve collective accountability efforts for post-9/11 torture. The Strategic Effectiveness method was used early in the two-day session to explore and understand what activities were currently being undertaken by participant organizations; what additional actions were needed and/or missing; and whether tactics and strategy within participants’ organizations could be adjusted to be more effective. During the mapping, participants highlighted areas of organizational expertise, relational connections, and tactics that have been or are currently being employed, and to what result. At a subsequent session in the meeting, many participants coalesced around a strategy to build support among members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for release of the executive summary, findings and conclusions of the CIA Torture Report. In December 2014, the Committee released the executive summary of the report.
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