Senate committee releases torture report

On December 5, Secretary of State John Kerry contacted the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, urging caution in when to release the report. Kerry allegedly stated the release of the report could spell danger for men and women overseas serving in the armed forces.

The report is the end result of nearly six years of investigation into the CIA’s use of what are referred to as “advanced interrogation techniques” during the Bush administration, commonly perceived as a euphemism for torture. Chief among these “advanced interrogation techniques” is waterboarding, an act that is torture under international law.

There were warnings about the report’s content in the days and weeks leading up to its release. Sen. Ron Wyden stated, “Americans will be profoundly disturbed and angered when they read it,” Wyden added. “But it’s important to get the facts out even if they make people uncomfortable, because that’s the only way to prevent the mistakes of the past from being repeated. It is the only way to make sure torture never happens again and make America’s intelligence agencies stronger in the long run.”

On Tuesday, December 9, the report was partially released to the public. The full report was over 6,000 pages, but a 600 page executive summary was released by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The report reveals the CIA systematically used torture on at least 119 detainees, some of whom were illegally held. Methods of torture included simulated drowning, prolonged nudity, sleep deprivation, forced rectal feeding and physical as well as psychological abuse. One case of sleep deprivation lasted 180 hours and at least one detainee died directly as a result of the torture program. According to the report, several of the people tortured by the CIA were ultimately innocent and interrogation was put over medical care.

The report is nothing short of a bombshell, shedding light on the CIA’s post-9/11 conduct. One detainee was left in a cramped box for 300 hours and another was waterboarded 183 times. The report contends that the CIA misled Congress and top Bush administration officials on multiple occasions. The report examines the specific cases of the detainees and concluded the torture program did not yield results that saved lives or prevent attacks. The report also refutes a common misconception that the CIA torture program led to information that led the neutralization of Osama Bin Laden.

President Bush was informed about the torture in 2006 when he was shown “an image of a detainee, chained to the ceiling, clothed in a diaper, and forced to go to the bathroom on himself.” Sec. of State Colin Powell and Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld were told of the torture in 2003.

While running for president in 2008, Obama took a hard line against torture and there were deliberations in 2009 on whether or not to bring down indictments on former Bush officials involved in that administration’s program. Ultimately, the Justice Department decided not to do so. These practices were ultimately ended by President Obama upon taking office, but the secret prisons where the torture took places, so-called “CIA black sites,” still remain.

President Obama responded to the report, stating, “The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as a nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests.”

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