Post Classifieds

Opinion | Torture is being done in our name, citizens must demand a full accounting

Milam's Musings

By Brett Milam
On April 18, 2014

At long last, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's 6,600-page CIA torture report will be made public. Or at least about 500 pages of it will be. That is not nearly enough.

The committee voted 11-3 to declassify the report. However, only an executive summary of the report (the 500 pages) has been submitted to President Obama for declassification. The rest of the report will remain classified. Even then, the partial declassification is expected to take months.

More troubling, the CIA is said to have input into what will be declassified. Essentially, the CIA has the power to project whatever image they want. There seems to be a clear conflict of interest in the declassification process.

Barbara Feinstein, the head of the committee, recently wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post detailing the backstory behind the report. Her comments, however, leave much to be desired.

"Soon, the American people will be able to judge this for themselves. We have confidence that they will conclude, as we have, that this program was a mistake that must never be repeated," she said.

While the American people should already be opposed to a systematic apparatus that enabled torture, they should still be privy to all the details in the report. Provided no information endangers any individuals in the field, I cannot foresee a compelling reason to keep the majority of the report classified.

Fortunately, the CIA has not been able to stop the flow of information entirely. McClatchy provides a slew of damaging examples of the CIA's wanton disregard for the law, such as the damning finding that the CIA went beyond even the parameters set forth by the Justice Department in the pursuance of torture.

"The agency also repeatedly misled the Justice Department while stymieing Congress' and the White House's efforts to oversee the secret and now-defunct program," McClatchy learned.

Despite claims to the contrary, like from Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and other torture supporters, the Senate report also clearly states that torture was ineffective.

The report states that officials overstated the significance of alleged terrorist plots and prisoners, and exaggerated the effectiveness of the program by claiming credit for information detainees surrendered before they were subjected to duress, according to the Washington Post.

Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Jim Risch of Idaho, two of the three dissenters, believe the report would endanger lives and our relations with other countries. Yet, the CIA's only concern has been factual errors and misjudgments. Even that doesn't make sense, as Feinstein pointed out.

"How can the CIA's official response to our study stand factually in conflict with its own internal review?" she said.

Jeffrey H. Smith, general counsel of the CIA in the mid-'90s, wrote in the LA Times that while oversight of intelligence agencies is crucial, nobody should be criminally charged for torturing. He cites that the program was "properly authorized and executed."

People respond to incentives, positive and negative. No better negative incentive exists to ensure this does not happen again than criminal prosecution. This issue should not be handled with kid's gloves or in haste.

If nobody is criminally prosecuted for such actions, then how can we ensure, as Feinstein hopes, nothing like this occurs again? When another so-called "national emergency" occurs, will we fallback again on torture and rendition?

Dealing in absolutes appears to frighten people for that reason: What if? They want to treat torture as a cost-benefit analysis with the all-encompassing concerns for "national security" at the helm. But we should be clear, focused and adamant about this.

First, forget the euphemism "enhanced interrogation techniques." That was an ingenious bit of obfuscation thought up by Bush administration officials. Secondly, we, as a country, should not torture. Not ever, under any circumstances.

Peter Van Buren brings my point home.

"The people who did this, whether the ones in the torture cell using their fists, or the ones in the White House ordering it with their pens, walk free among us," he said.

Such a fact should be infuriating to us. The media lately has been fawning over former president George W. Bush's paintings. Former vice president Dick Cheney and former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld still believe they were in the right. They were not. These people should be lepers in our society.

Perhaps at this point, some are still thinking, "But maybe if..." Consider the Keram Report. Dr. Emily A. Keram, a psychologist, released a report on the torture we initiated on one prisoner, Shaker Aamer.

Interrogators threatened to brutally rape his five-year-old daughter, going into explicit detail of how the deed would be carried out.

Imagine being made to stand for days, or not sleep for days, or being made to defecate and urinate on yourself for days, being minimally fed (if at all) and doused with freezing water for days. Now imagine that happening for 12 years. Such is Aamer's life.

And if you believe his torture has ended under the auspices of the Obama administration, I would oblige you to consider his force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay to this day.

The Institute on Medicine as a Profession, an ethics group from Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons issued a report stating that, among other acts, force-feeding was unethical.

Physicians for Human Rights and the International Committee of the Red Cross have also come out against force-feeding.

Torture is not just a Bush-era relic. Guantanamo Bay prisoners are clearly still being tortured to this day - a prison that should've been closed half a decade ago or sooner.

The United States for years hid its torture program behind distortions and only now, somewhat, is allowing us a peek into the program.

This torture was done in our name with the guise of protecting us. We should be adamant in learning the fullest extent of what was done in our name and that it never occurs again.

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