A review of editorials nationwide and overseas reveal a broad sense of outrage over the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s summary of its 6,700 page Study on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. The sense that the CIA had wrongfully stained our national honor and that America does not torture was stated eloquently in every region of the country.
While there were dissenters, they clung to the belief in the efficacy of torture despite the Defense Department’s and CIA’s pre-9/11 view that this was never the case. They also claimed the disclosures contained in the report would somehow embolden the fanatics who wish to do us harm. But as the Baltimore Sun explained, “It was the use of torture that put American lives at risk, not our belated acknowledgment of it..”
Below is a survey covering 42 newspapers across the Northeast, South, Midwest, Rocky Mountain and Pacific States that includes excerpts from major and smaller papers.
But people have a right to know when crimes are committed in their name, if for no other reason than to see to it that such abuses are not permitted to recur. The CIA torture program blatantly violated both international law and core American values, and unless the agency is held to account for that there’s no assurance a future U.S. administration won’t do the same thing again.
That’s why complaints that releasing the committee’s report now could somehow prompt new terrorist attacks on U.S. personnel and facilities around the world ring hollow. . . . . But anyone who thinks Islamic radicals need an excuse to murder Americans hasn’t been paying attention to the sickeningly gratuitous violence recently carried out by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It would be folly to muffle debate over the issue in the vain hope that self-censorship might spare us from such murderous fanatics.
The brutality of our enemies, however, can never justify or excuse our adopting similarly inhumane methods. To do so would be to lower ourselves to their level and betray our most cherished beliefs and values. War is, by definition, an ugly business under any circumstances. But even in a war there must be some limit on what is considered permissible, otherwise the line separating civilization and barbarism quickly vanishes. . . .
Even if the law enabled the abuses of the CIA’s torture program — and it didn’t — it will never make them right. That is, at bottom, the lesson Americans should take away from the Senate committee’s report. No matter how shocked, saddened, frightened and enraged the country was after terrorists attacked the country in 2001, the CIA’s response was a deeply flawed and ill-conceived overreaction that violated every tenet of decency and justice Americans hold dear, and ultimately it failed to even work as advertised. It must never be allowed to happen again. It was the use of torture that put American lives at risk, not our belated acknowledgment of it.
We, as a nation, have failed. Our elected officials have failed our nation, and we have failed each other, and the world community.
The release Tuesday of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation — who are we kidding, torture — has, according to Arizona Sen. John McCain, “stained our national honor.”
Maine Sen. Angus King said, “This is not America. This is not who we are.”
They couldn’t be more right. Unfortunately, the CIA and those who authorized its use in any form, have turned America into an enemy that we would sanction and possibly invade anywhere else in the world.
. . . Former Vice President Dick Cheney has called the interrogators “heroes,” but heroes are selfless and brave, not shady and sadistic.
The primary public service of the Senate summary report about the CIA’s rendition and interrogation program is that it takes an abstract moral principle and, in 499 gruesomely detailed pages, gives it substance. Which is to say: Torture is wrong, and here is how and why.
. . . . And its grim litany of abuses should remind future generations that, even in times of great peril and anxiety like the years following Sept. 11, torture is a debased and brutalizing undertaking. If nothing else, the report should deter interrogators of the future from ever resorting to such measures.
Obama could also consider formally pardoning them, an idea put forth by the American Civil Liberties Union Director Anthony Romero. A pardon would underscore the fact that these tactics constitute torture, which is a crime, while at the same time highlighting the need to forgive and close this painful chapter in our history. As for the senior officials who ordered these techniques, in an ideal world they would be held accountable under the law, but attempting to do so at this point would likely turn into a counterproductive political slugfest.
It is important to remember that as odious as these tactics are, they were performed at a time of near-hysteria by people who were trying to protect the country. The Senate report serves as a vital reminder that sticking to our core values is as important in times of war as it is in times of peace.
But here’s the thing —actual wars aren’t waged in the abstract. Those who are charged with keeping Americans safe do so with the information available at the time. In this case, it was that the homeland had fallen victim to terrorists, and intelligence revealed deadly attacks in the planning stages. When Abu Zubaydah, whose treatment figures prominently in the Senate report, was apprehended in March 2002, crews were still unearthing human remains at Ground Zero.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, said yesterday the report was released “in the hopes that it will prevent future coercive interrogation practices and inform the management of other covert action programs.” A reasonable goal. And yet the 6,700 page tome contains not a single recommendation for policy changes or new laws. That ought to confirm that this was a drawn-out exercise in beating a dead horse.
The decision allowing these “techniques” was made by President Bush in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but he wasn’t briefed on the details by the CIA until 2006. At the time, he expressed discomfort with the program. That’s reassuring to know, but it didn’t come to an end until President Obama ordered a halt when he took office.
Some have no qualms about torturing terrorists, believing the loss of nearly 3,000 innocents on 9/11 is justification. But if the country can find reason to justify such appalling treatment of anyone, even an enemy, then we must surrender the high moral ground we so often claim. We can have it one way or the other, but not both.
As if clouded by amnesia, the 6,000-page report all but forgets the intense trauma of the terror attack, the loss of 3,000 lives, the awakening to an imminent threat that persists 13 years later, and the palpable fear that the country’s newly recognized, little-understood enemies had more death in store for us.
The national defense called for urgent measures. President George W. Bush tasked the CIA with the mission of gathering intelligence critical to security, which led to holding terrorists in secret locations, to legal opinions differentiating harsh interrogations measures from torture, and to the actions described by the committee report.
All of this was then unknown territory for both the CIA and the entire U.S. government. The premise was that, with the equivalent of a time bomb ticking, subjecting high-value prisoners to pain, discomfort and fear would enhance chances for speedily gathering information.
The world has long known that the United States government illegally detained and tortured prisoners after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and lied about it to Congress and the world. But the summary of a reportreleased Tuesday of the Senate investigation of these operations, even after being sanitized by the Central Intelligence Agency itself, is a portrait of depravity that is hard to comprehend and even harder to stomach.
The report raises again, with renewed power, the question of why no one has ever been held accountable for these seeming crimes — not the top officials who set them in motion, the lower-level officials who committed the torture, or those who covered it up, including by destroying videotapes of the abuse and by trying to block the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation of their acts.
. . . . The litany of brutality, lawlessness and lack of accountability serves as a reminder of what a horrible decision President Obama made at the outset of his administration to close the books on this chapter in our history, even as he repudiated the use of torture. The C.I.A. officials who destroyed videotapes of waterboarding were left unpunished, and all attempts at bringing these acts into a courtroom were blocked by claims of national secrets.
It is hard to believe that anything will be done now. Republicans, who will soon control the Senate and have the majority on the intelligence panel, denounced the report, acting as though it is the reporting of the torture and not the torture itself that is bad for the country. Maybe George Tenet, who ran the C.I.A. during this ignoble period, could make a tiny amends by returning the Presidential Medal of Freedom that President Bush gave him upon his retirement.
Whatever the dubious yield from the interrogation program, its benefits are hard to justify in light of the abuses revealed in the Senate report. . . . Of all the claims made by the dissenters, perhaps the hardest to stomach is that this report never should have seen the light of day.
Could it serve to incite terror groups to violence? Perhaps. But those groups need little incentive to act in despicable ways. It’s what they do.
Once again, in a day filled with noise, McCain put it best: “The truth is sometimes a hard pill to swallow. It sometimes causes us difficulties at home and abroad. It is sometimes used by our enemies in attempts to hurt us. But the American people are entitled to it, nonetheless.”
This is not how Americans should behave. Ever.
. . . .Any reckoning of outcomes has to account for the severe blow dealt to America’s global reputation by the inevitable exposure of these techniques, harm which the country is still trying to repair. But to our mind, the argument over practical outcomes is mostly beside the point. Torture is wrong, whether or not it has ever “worked.” As an Obama administration official said Tuesday, “The reason we prohibited these techniques is because they are contrary to our values.”
We don’t discount warnings that releasing the report might rouse anti-American sentiment in the near term. But in the long term, the United States will benefit by demonstrating a commitment to transparency and self-criticism — and, most of all, by pledging never to repeat its post-9/11 mistakes.
It’s important to remember the uncertainty, the fear and the pressure on the intelligence agencies in the aftermath of September 11, a date like December 7, that will live in infamy. President Obama, a severe critic of Mr. Bush in that aftermath, nevertheless cautioned everyone yesterday to avoid an impulse of sanctimony in reading the report. The first responsibility of every president, of whatever political hue, is the safety and preservation of the nation, and sanctimony is often a major ingredient in the criticism of the men who must pursue evil men and foil their evil work.
Still, it’s difficult to argue with John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona and a man who learned something about torture and its limits in the notorious North Vietnamese prison the American prisoners called, with grim irony, “the Hanoi Hilton.”
“What might come as a surprise, not just to our enemies, but to many Americans,” he said, defending the report, “is how little these practices did to aid our efforts to bring 9/11 culprits to justice and to find and prevent attacks today and tomorrow. That could be a real surprise, since it contradicts the many assurances provided by intelligence officials on the record and in private that enhanced interrogation techniques were indispensable in the war against terrorism.
“I suspect the objection of those same officials to the release of this report is really focused on that disclosure, torture’s ineffectiveness, because we gave up much in the expectation that torture would make us safer. Too much.”
In truth, the Bush administration and its embrace of torture is the reason why parts of the world see the United States as an oppressor. The administration’s actions turned a sympathetic world following 9/11 into one that distrusted the United States.
Our nation once occupied a high moral ground when it came to torture. Techniques such as waterboarding, exposure to extreme temperatures and sleep deprivation were exclusively in the toolbox of our godless enemies. We trained our soldiers how to resist their cruel tactics. We understood that torture tends to produce false confessions. We joined the civilized world in banning torture and in the process wove that prohibition into U.S. law.
This isn’t the first time our nation’s ideals have tumbled off the righteous path, nor will it be the last. History shows that the best way forward is to acknowledge our mistakes and work to improve. We use our words to call out our deeds.
Are we supposed to believe President Obama’s vivacious use of drone strikes – which rain sudden death upon terrorism suspects and everyone around them without the benefit of an interrogation, enhanced or otherwise – gives Democrats the moral high ground in the war on terrorism?
At least the detainees in question had a chance to talk first! . . . .
This country doesn’t need to prove it is better than the terrorists.
It already is.
We knew that terror suspects were being tortured.
And deep in our hearts, surely we also knew that the torture was worse than officially acknowledged.
We just didn’t want to face that knowledge.
Now we must. . . . . If torturing the guilty will protect thousands of the innocent, then many of us might accept that equation. But when the value of torture is marginal, then its acceptance is questionable.
War is hell, no doubt, but we should not join the devil willingly. Far removed from the battlefield, the CIA had the opportunity to stop and consider its actions. It decided to abandon conscience and blur the moral line between us and our enemies.
So no matter what path we take, the United States needs to show the world, and ourselves, that accountability and transparency are inherent to a democratic society.
So far, the Obama administration refuses to step up.
Looking back with the wisdom of hindsight, the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program didn’t prevent the rise of the Islamic State, nor did it blunt Vladimir Putin‘s expansion into Eastern Europe. It won’t slow the tide of a rising China nor stabilize the chaotic wave of upheaval that threatens to undermine the foundation of the U.S.-led global order.
By torturing, the United States only chiseled at that foundation of stability, which is built on the promise that America will be an ally for peace and liberty – a promise that the CIA broke.
As McCain said on the Senate floor Tuesday, we have “stained our national honor.” That stain won’t dissipate until we clean it ourselves.
If there is no excuse for torture, and there can be no excuse in a civilized society that prizes itself as an example to the world (especially one whose Senate ratified the Convention Against Torture almost 25 years ago), there is no excuse for hiding these filthy secrets from the people who paid for acts of rectal feeding and waterboarding, and in whose name and safety they were committed.
We’re not Russia. We’re not China. The U.S. is supposed to embody representative government — which means, by and large, we are supposed to know and approve what our government does. This week’s report is a belated — and controversial — delivery upon that heritage, tattered though it may be … that as Americans, we are not supposed to do these terrible things.
The sorriest truth is, we knew most of this information anyway. Or, we did if we we’d been paying attention for the past dozen years. The details, the names named, the conclusions drawn, are what’s new, and what will be debated. And they should be debated. Our honor is at stake.
In anticipation of the report’s release, former President George W. Bush, on whose watch the abuse occurred, defended the CIA’s actions and called the operatives “patriots.”
But these “patriots” did their level best to keep him, the commander in chief, in the dark. According to Ms. Feinstein, the CIA hacked into the Intelligence Committee’s computers, attempting to alter the report.
No criminal charges will be filed against anyone, but our reputation is stained, our honor sullied.
. . . Still, the horrors revealed gave Sen. John McCain what some have called his “finest hour” on the Senate floor. Mr. McCain broke ranks, defending the airing of the “dirty laundry” report — and America. We’re better than this, he reminded us: “We are always Americans, and different, stronger and better than those who would destroy us.”
This former political prisoner, himself once tortured, knows well what the CIA’s brutal actions have cost this country.
The president said he wanted to “look forward, not backward,” but in ignoring an ugly past he has let it shadow the present and threaten to return in the future. The world, particularly the Muslim world, has not ignored and will not forget what happened. And until the United States makes a complete and honest admission, its role in torturing detainees or sending them off to be tortured elsewhere is an obstacle to peace and undermines America’s claims to be a nation of laws and a force for justice.
. . . If there are inaccuracies, let the CIA point them out and have them corrected. But the full report – not a sanitized synopsis – needs to be shared with the people in whose name those activities – and perhaps those crimes – were conducted. A key to credibility on this issue is thoroughness and openness. A summary fails on both counts.
Burr, a strong supporter of the military, should not confuse withholding the facts on torture with protecting those who defend the nation. Making the report public will address a source of tension and make the world safer for them and all Americans.
The Obama administration seems indisposed to resort to the most brutal tactics used by its predecessor. Yet it has carried forward most of the Bush administration’s other anti-terror policies, including indefinite detention and warrantless wiretapping. What’s more, future terrorist attacks — which, after Boston, seem all too plausible — could tempt future administrations to resort to even harsher interrogation methods.
That would be a mistake, depriving the U.S. of the moral high ground and giving America’s enemies more fodder for anti-U.S. propaganda. What little information could be gleaned by the deliberate infliction of agony is not worth the stain on the nation’s soul.
But Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a former prisoner of war tortured by the North Vietnamese, captured the larger picture Tuesday, praising the report and denouncing the agency’s tactics, which he said “stained our national honor, did much harm and little practical good.” While the techniques were last used by the CIA late during Bush’s second term, and banned by President Barack Obama shortly after he first took office, the reaction to the Senate report shows that too many still cannot appreciate the damage this dark chapter is doing to U.S. security and standing overseas. Tuesday’s release was at least a step toward acknowledging the record and beginning to find a better way forward in protecting America.
The congressional finger-wagging at the CIA’s determined efforts ignores the crisis of the times. It also ignores the reality that the tactics are no longer used. . . .
No one, not even the former CIA directors, disputes that mistakes were made during the early stages of the war on terror, as intelligence operatives scrambled to combat a shadowy threat that had executed surprise attacks that killed 3,000 people in the United States. But those mistakes have long been addressed.
What is more relevant now is that thanks in large part to the nation’s intelligence efforts, our enemies have been unable to undertake anything comparable to 9/11. The CIA deserves our gratitude, not the shrill castigation of self-righteous politicians.
And after being attacked on our home soil and a seemingly unending battle against terrorists that would do us harm, it is only natural to feel justified in using any means possible to extract information. But we are better than that, or should be.
This report is not an argument for coddling dangerous enemies. They should be confined, interrogated and deprived of their freedom. In a war, the same limits that police are bound by may not apply. But there must be strong oversight and an unbending line between aggressive interrogation and physical or mental torture.
We cannot profess to be of superior moral fiber if we embrace the same disregard for human life and dignity that compels us to label terrorists as evil.
Torturing suspects is not only wrong and inhumane, it is also highly ineffective — and, according to the Senate report, even more ineffective than we already knew.
. . . .With the C.I.A. and members of President Bush’s administration fiercely defending themselves, essential facts can be lost in a flurry of claims and rebuttals. Don’t let the noise overwhelm:
Torture is wrong, torture doesn’t work and torture is not — and must never again be — the American way.
Denying the truth is a disservice to our nation. The only important question is what are we to do about that dark truth. What measures might Congress and the White House take to better control the actions of the CIA, and to hold the agency more accountable? More broadly, how does a democracy founded on a commitment to basic human rights protect its interests in a dangerous world without compromising those bedrock values?
Difficult questions, but hardly new ones. Every American conflict, fraught with fears and real peril, has challenged our resolve to remain true to our values. We have often failed. Consider the internment camps into which our nation herded Japanese Americans during World War II.
The lesson to be drawn from of our checkered American history is that we must do what’s right even when it’s hard — especially when it’s hard. If we are the exceptional nation we believe ourselves to be, it is not because we are above reproach, but because we own up to faults and mistakes and hold fast to our ideals.
. . . But understood by all sides in this unfolding debate, we would hope, is that our nation’s strength flows from its insistence on staying true to core values. To throw that all away in times of fear and turmoil only strengthens the enemy.
That is unacceptable in a nation that believes in protecting human rights around the world. It is unconscionable that this rogue spy agency would be allowed to operate contrary to those beliefs in complete secrecy with no one knowing what is does, least of all the American people.
This, then, is the legacy of President Bush, surely a failed leader by any measure: A squandering of America’s stature as a country that could claim some moral authority. The betrayal of our Founding Fathers, sons of the Enlightenment who banned torture inthe Bill of Rights, one of the documents that define America. An abrogation of an international treaty written in one of humanity’s darkest epochs, an attempt to hold the line of civilization against creeping evil.
And a lasting diminution of America’s influence and credibility on the world stage, a sin for which Bush can never be called to account.
A U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the deaths of two detainees, concluded in 2012, didn’t result in criminal charges. Not, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, because the agency acted appropriately, but because there was insufficient evidence. This newly released report, the product of a five-year U.S. Senate investigation, should produce a different outcome.
These are painful things to acknowledge, but for the U.S. to regain international credibility, we must come to terms with what we’ve done. Those responsible must be held accountable for the damage done. That should mean criminal prosecution, because the acts described in this report are in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions.
Terrorists are terrorists. They need no excuse to attack us. We must be vigilant and resolute in the face of those threats.
But the answer is not to allow intelligence agencies to compromise our principles and then for the rest of us to shrink from the truth about what was done in our name.
As the report makes clear, torture didn’t help us protect ourselves after 9/11. Neither would refusing to face up to and learn from our mistakes.
The CIA’s out-of-control behavior will be remembered as a shameful moment in America’s history. But getting the truth out this week is something that should set an example for the rest of the world.
To be sure, there are also efficacy considerations. . . . But the central issue is morality. And it was summed up effectively by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who was tortured while being held prisoner in Vietnam. Rebuffing some of his colleagues’ criticism of the report, he said on the Senate floor: “Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies — our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored.”
Unfortunately, countering McCain’s honorable defense of American values were unrepentant voices, including that of former Vice President Dick Cheney. The interrogation program was “the right thing to do, and if I had to do it over again, I would do it,” Cheney told the New York Times.
That Cheney is closely associated with this stain on the nation’s good character does not mean his view is unique. Others may be tempted, perhaps in response to future acts of terrorism, to again debase our standards.
Americans should not let that happen. Our national character — indeed, our morality — is what separates us from our enemies. Shame on us if we ignore that fundamental truth.
Those who believe in “American exceptionalism” should be most appalled by the findings in this report. Our commitment to the rule of law and to standing on high moral ground has suffered a grievous blow.
• Without sustained and vigorous public oversight, the nation’s intelligence agencies will, in an excess of zeal, go places that endanger civil liberties and national values. The Central Intelligence Agency did it. The National Security Agency did it. . . .
With due respect to Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the danger to America from this report comes from what it says, not the fact of its release. The world should have a right to expect better of America.
. . . “I have often said, and will always maintain, that this question isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be. It’s about how we represent ourselves to the world,” he said Tuesday.
“When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea … that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights … Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.”
The question, then, is “now what?” The answer must be a recommitment to fundamental American values. . . . Americans are supposed to be better than minor-league Mengeles. We are supposed to be what President Ronald Reagan liked to call ”a shining city on a hill.” What was done, as America embarked on its greatest foreign policy disaster, in secret and behind a veil of lies, to these 119 prisoners, made a bad situation infinitely worse. In Mr. McCain’s words, it “stained our national honor.”
That is unacceptable in a nation that believes in protecting human rights around the world. It is unconscionable that this rogue spy agency would be allowed to operate contrary to those beliefs in complete secrecy with no one knowing what is does, least of all the American people.
And Obama is correct: That’s not what America is.
Indeed, the shocking report discloses what will certainly go down as a dark and hidden period in U.S. history. It gives the U.S. a black eye in the world community and our enemies ammunition for retaliation – not that they ever seem to need any reasons.
. . . Some Republicans and current and former CIA directors say the tactics did help stop attacks here and abroad, capture terrorists and save American lives. But that raises the troubling question posed by the debate: Does success derived from immoral acts make those acts moral? The answer is no, which is why Americans should find them revolting. Which is why they are not who we are. Or at least not who we aspire to be.
. . The report shows that Americans are due for honest, thoughtful, nonpartisan discussion on modern warfare. This should not only cover enhanced interrogation (torture), but also targeted killings (assassination) and new technologies such as drones and robots that often kill and maim “innocents” in the area of the target. While Obama and many supporters say they abhor the former, they embrace the latter.
As McCain acknowledges, people of good faith have differed on the effectiveness of the interrogation techniques. . . . But, as McCain knows “from personal experience” during his 61/2 years in Hanoi, torture “will provide more bad than good intelligence.”
And, in any event, its use “compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies — our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights.”
Defenders of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation” techniques have tried for years to suggest these methods belong to a gray area just short of torture. It was always a desperate excuse, and now it’s deeply offensive.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s 500-page executive summary of a report on the CIA’s handling of terrorist suspects, released Tuesday, dispels all doubt about the degree to which the agency relied upon brute force, humiliation and life-sapping treatment to pressure suspects.
It was torture. It was torture no more edifying or ambiguous than what has been practiced for hundreds of years in squalid cells around the globe. To be sure, the CIA only wanted to protect Americans from further attacks after 9/11, and its agents were operating in an atmosphere in which Congress and the White House were demanding results, but the methods employed were indefensible.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her fellow Senate Democrats’ “torture report” is as dangerous as it is libelous. Our friends know that they shouldn’t trust us; our enemies will be emboldened to attack. . . .
Enough of this “acknowledging our shortcomings” by the greatest nation on earth. This report tells our allies that we are a superpower lying on a psychiatrist’s couch, wracked with guilt and unable to keep either secrets or promises.
. . . Moreover, which is more just: having a U.S. drone act as judge, jury and executioner of terrorists, which is the Obama administration’s approach? Or capture them and make them reveal their fellow jihadists’ plots?
Here’s an idea: How about investigating the IRS’s violation of the rights of innocent Americans instead of the CIA’s roughing up of murderous terrorists?
Americans have long known that, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, the CIA subjected suspected terrorists to inhuman and degrading treatment that amounted to nothing less than torture. A Senate Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday documented that outrageous conduct in stomach-turning detail but also described new offenses to human dignity that border on the pornographic.
. . . . In the inimitable words of former Vice President Dick Cheney, this country traveled to the “dark side” in the months and years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But we didn’t know how dark until the release of this report. It’s scandalous that Republicans in Congress and many in the national-security bureaucracy tried to bottle up even a portion of the Intelligence Committee’s conclusions. In the end, opponents of disclosure resorted to arguing that publication of the report would provoke attacks on America — an argument that could be used to justify suppressing the information forever.
. . . The CIA detention and interrogation program was immoral, illegal, out of control and (the committee persuasively argues) unnecessary. President Obama’s admission this summer that “we tortured some folks” doesn’t begin to convey the appalling violations of human rights and international law cataloged by the Intelligence Committee. The officials who carried out these acts shamed themselves and their country.
The report almost certainly will be used by sworn enemies of the United States, like al-Qaida and ISIS, as justification of beheadings of kidnapped Americans and attacks against U.S. military personnel abroad. There could even be terrorist reprisals here in the United States.
. . . The irony is that, as head of the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Feinstein declared former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosure of U.S. data-gathering practices “an act of treason.”
Well, maybe Sen. Feinstein thinks the government subjecting terror suspects to waterboarding and sleep deprivation is a more odious practice than the government’s monitoring of Americans’ phone records, emails and even financial transactions.
But if U.S. national security was compromised by Mr. Snowden’s revelations, it has been no less compromised by release of the committee’s torture report.
It is an important step in the reckoning that has to happen for America to restore the values we’re fighting to protect in the war on terror.
While the broad outlines were known, the specifics made public Tuesdayput a sharper point on what went wrong in the understandable anger and fear that followed 9/11.
. . . By any reasonable standard, it was torture. It also wasn’t effective.
Unsurprisingly, CIA and Bush administration officials have been waging a campaign in the media, trying to sow public doubt and shield themselves. They issued loud warnings that merely releasing the report would somehow lead to terrorist attacks and endanger Americans serving abroad in the military and at embassies.
In back-to-back speeches on the Senate floor, Feinstein and Republican John McCain of Arizona gave convincing rebuttals to those arguments. As they pointed out, there will always be instability and danger in the world, and terrorists don’t need an excuse for violence.
It is far more important to come to terms with what the CIA did – even if no one is ever prosecuted – and to make sure it never happens again.
. . . While releasing this report can’t completely remove the stain on America’s values, it will ultimately strengthen our standing in the world. As McCain said, America can win the war on terror without resorting to torture, but this issue is more about who we are and what we stand for as a people.
“Our enemies act without conscience,” McCain said. “We must not.”
The CIA betrayed American values in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It knew torture was immoral, illegal and nearly always counterproductive as an interrogation tool. Yet acting upon the direction of then President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney — and at times breaking even their trust — the CIA violated the Geneva Conventions dramatically lowered America’s standing as a nation of principle.
The Senate Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday describes outrages that confirm what most Americans already believed. At least the U.S. Senate had the courage to expose the crimes that were committed in this nation’s panicked attempt to win the war on terrorism. We can only hope this exposure helps return us to the moral high ground.
This is the blackest mark on the United States’ moral standing since it interned Japanese-Americans during World War II.
Americans at the highest levels of government still seem to believe that fear is sufficient reason to jettison our constitutional and moral values. That means we really have no values. Adversity is the test of their existence.
These revelations become more deplorable with the report’s conclusion that the CIA misled Congress and the White House about its program, and that none of the barbarism led to information that kept Americans safe.
The cringe-worthy sadism done in the name of national security ranks among America’s most sickening contrarian actions. . . . Only when the country acknowledges such mistakes and holds itself to the moral standards it preaches globally can it truly claim to be the great nation politicians casually profess it to be.
Members of Congress who refute the legitimacy of the Senate report, or question the wisdom of making its disconcerting details public should remember that.
And declassifying the full 6,700-page report would be a further step in that direction.
A truly black day for the ‘civilised’ West
This was the shaming of the West. In 500 horrifying pages, the US Senate’s Intelligence Committee yesterday demolished the boast of the world’s most powerful democracy that it inhabits a higher moral universe than the terrorists it condemns as barbarians.
Indeed, this devastating report finds the CIA systematically violated every precept and value that we believe make us better than our enemies, from the rule of law and observance of treaty obligations to the dictates of common humanity.
. . . .Indeed, any risks attached to treating our enemies lawfully and humanely are part of the price we must expect to pay for the priceless privilege of living in a civilised society under the rule of law.
. . . .But this paper stands firmly behind the committee’s decision to publish its findings in such merciless detail. For it is only by exposing the truth that these vile practices will be stamped out for good. In honouring the public’s right to know, America at least can hold its head a little higher than its enemies. . . .
Yesterday, the US took a significant step towards recovering its moral authority. We in Britain haven’t so much as begun to restore ours.
It is one of the darkest episodes in the history of a nation that sees itself, not unreasonably in many respects and in some eras, as a beacon to the world.
The Senate intelligence committee’s report is a landmark in accountability. . . . In one sense, it is a tribute to the US that it has published such a report.. . . But it is a report about state crimes that should never have been committed, should never have been authorised, should never have been ignored by the US’s allies – and which remain unpunished. . . .
The question now is whether enough will change. In the 1970s, the CIA responded to criticism by pulling down the shutters and building up the secret state further. Today, Americans face the challenge of stopping a repeat. The moral and practical authority of the democratic system around the world depends in no small part on them succeeding.
The litany of inhumanity, abuse and lies exposed in a damning report by the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reveals that the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of torture against suspected terrorists was far more egregious and extensive than previously known.
. . ..Some apologists for torture portray it as a necessary evil, to prevent violent acts against innocents. But the Senate committee concluded that it produced not a shred of usable intelligence that could not have been, or hadn’t already been, extracted through less coercive means. This is in spite of the trumped up claims of senior CIA operatives and Hollywood mythology.
It is chilling that the spy agency of a country that presents itself as a model of freedom, democracy and justice broke every conceivable U.S. and international law prohibiting torture. The CIA essentially operated outside the law with official sanction and legal approval obtained on faulty or deceptive grounds.
If there is a silver lining to this dark chapter of U.S. history, it’s that the Senate committee report, or at least an extensive 528-page executive summary of the 6,700-page full version, was made public at all. Although the investigation took six years and faced many hurdles, the fact the findings were released shows that democratic checks, balances and transparency — however flawed — still function in the United States.
Torture wasn’t just immoral and illegal. It was also ineffective. It didn’t work. Senator John McCain, who was himself tortured while a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, said yesterday, “the world already knows we waterboarded, tortured, and used black sites. It has known this for a decade.” But “what people may not know is how little torture did to aid in the fight against terror.”
The idea that America or any other law-abiding country can only fight terror by abandoning its humanity and its ideals is dead wrong. Torture, said Sen. McCain, “isn’t necessary, and it isn’t even helpful.” The Senate report confirms it.
All of this is appalling, and all of it matters. Torture is a moral abomination – a red line laid down by societies that have learned its ugly lessons before. It is the stuff of totalitarian dystopias, the profound physical breaking of a person, better for extracting mock confessions than useful leads. Even if torture did “work”, which it does not appear to, it would still be morally outrageous.
It is true that the torture programme emerged out of the rawness and anger that followed the September 11 attacks of 2001. Many felt those enormous crimes against innocents demanded an extraordinary response.
But turning that anger into a programme of brutal physical torment was never justified. It was its own kind of terror. It also ignored the fact that people in other times, much more war-torn and desperate than our own, have managed to refrain from it.
. . . . There is only one small source of relief here: that the report was written at all. It shows the US is capable of examining itself critically.
But it must go further than that. It must outlaw the practices it still cannot bring itself to call torture. It must guard against using them again, even after another attack. And it must more thoroughly call to account those who allowed torture to become a tool of the government in the land of the free.