An Inside View On The Purpose And Implications Of The Torture Report

from the it's-about-facts dept

While some will, no doubt, be embarrassed by the Senate Intelligence Committee?s report on the CIA?s Detention and Interrogation program, as one of the staffers who helped make the case for the Committee?s investigation when it was initiated in 2009, I can tell you that was not its intention.

(For the record, all I did was help make the initial case for the investigation and maybe put out a press release or two. I am in no way taking credit for the tremendous work that Chairman Feinstein and her committee?s staff did on this report. By the way, I know those staffers did not trek out to the CIA site in Virginia — often in their free time — in search of our thanks and recognition, but I hope you will join me in giving it to them anyway. Because reports like this do not materialize from thin air.)

The dedicated SSCI staff — who spent tens of thousands of hours over the better part of five years researching, writing and editing this report — did so in order to ensure our nation?s interrogation programs would be grounded in what has, for too long, been missing from our nation?s interrogation debate: facts.

The interrogation techniques the CIA developed during the Bush Administration were not devised by behavioral experts with experience turning detainees into “long-term strategic sources of information.” Rather, as the Department of Justice?s 2008 Inspector General?s report revealed, the FBI?s interrogation experts — with that experience — repeatedly refused to sign off on proposed interrogation plans, calling them “deeply flawed” and “completely ineffective.”

The CIA?s interrogation program, instead, grew from the post-9/11 mentality that the U.S. would be best kept safe by those willing to go to the greatest extremes to protect it, or as former CIA agent Glenn Carle put it in his 2011 book The Interrogator, “Interrogating terrorists was no place for goddamn candy-asses.”

FBI officials have described the interrogation-strategy sessions they observed as “circus-like.” ?I?ve personally been told by individuals who participated in high-level discussions of U.S. interrogation policy that — as disturbing as it sounds — these conversations were more often than not informed by the participants? recollection of episodes of the TV show 24 than by an understanding of the psychology of interrogation. Meanwhile, defenders of the CIA?s Bush-era interrogation activities continue to cite the murder of nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001 as justification for their actions.

As Senator Feinstein writes in her introduction to the report:

The major lesson of this report is that regardless of the pressures and the need to act, the Intelligence Community’s actions must always reflect who we are as a nation, and adhere to our laws and standards. It is precisely at these times of national crisis that our government must be guided by the lessons of our history and subject decisions to internal and external review.

The SSCI?s report was written to provide those lessons.

While some have and will likely continue to argue that President Obama settled the issue when he, as the president said in his statement today, “unequivocally banned torture when [he] took office,” one might have argued that George Washington actually settled the issue 234 years earlier when he ordered that any American soldier who brought “shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country” by causing injury to a British prisoner could be put to death. ?Our “new country in the New World,” Washington declared, “would distinguish itself by its humanity.” And yet, two centuries after Washington gave that order, agents of the U.S. government subjected “at least five CIA detainees?to ‘rectal rehydration’ ? without documented medical necessity.”

President Obama?s executive order only settles the issue insofar as he remains president. As long as the belief persists that torture is an effective means of interrogation and anyone who doesn?t support ?enhanced interrogation? is a “candy ass” who lacks the necessary stomach to keep Americans safe, there is no assurance that a future president won?t take a different position than our current president.

Some have and will undoubtedly continue to argue that we shouldn?t discuss the efficacy of torture as an interrogation technique — even if it?s to prove that torture doesn?t work — because it suggests that if torture worked, it would be ok to torture people. I believe these people have a point.

The United States is more than a mass of land defined by geographic boundaries, it is a nation of people united by certain, principled beliefs, many of which our forefathers laid out at our nation?s founding. It is not enough to simply protect the people of the United States, one must also protect the principles that define the United States as a people; otherwise, there is no United States to protect. When the CIA and the Bush Administration sanctioned the torture of captured terrorists — regardless of their reasons — they made the United States something George Washington said we?d never be: a nation that tortures. One might argue that made us a little less American.

Some have and may continue to argue that making the CIA?s actions known puts Americans — particularly those serving overseas — in jeopardy. It?s worth noting that these arguments were made by people who know Senator Feinstein in an effort to persuade her not to make the committee report public. I say this is worth noting, because you do not need to know Senator Feinstein very well to know that there is nothing she wants less than to jeopardize the lives of American citizens, particularly those serving in harm?s way, and if there is an argument that would have given her second thoughts about releasing this report, that most likely would have been it.

If Americans are at risk, however, they are not at risk because the Senate Intelligence Committee is publicly acknowledging that the CIA tortured people during the Bush Administration. They?re at risk because the CIA tortured people during the Bush Administration.

The CIA put Americans at risk when they undermined the international agreements that protect Americans detained by foreign powers and sacrificed the moral authority we?ve long used to advocate for the humane treatment of detainees. They put Americans at risk when they made it harder — if not impossible — to prosecute known terrorists and keep them locked up. I’d also argue that defending the CIA?s actions, while refusing to come clean about what was done during the Bush Administration, not only fueled Al Qaeda?s hatred of Americans and put them at risk, it undermines the Obama Administration?s argument that the CIA no longer engages in torture.

Some have and may continue to argue that putting out this report will undermine morale at the CIA and derail its necessary work. Again, I’d argue that any hit to the CIA?s morale began when its agents were ordered to torture detainees without clear parameters and a solid legal foundation.

Some have and will no doubt continue to argue that an act taken to “prevent a threatened terrorist attack” is not as bad as an act taken “for the purpose of humiliation or abuse.” I?d argue that torture is defined not by the torturer but by the person being tortured and that the laws governing torture were put in place because most people who engage in torture think they have a good reason.

There are some who have and will no doubt continue to argue — as they do about all things pertaining to national security — that this report shouldn?t have been made public. To respond to that I will quote directly from page 8 of the unclassified report:

The CIA’s Office of Public Affairs and senior CIA officials coordinated to share classified information on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program to select members of the media to counter public criticism, shape public opinion, and avoid potential congressional action to restrict the CIA’s detention and interrogation authorities and budget.

If the SSCI?s report demonstrates one thing, it?s that the CIA?s unfettered ability to keep information about it?s activities secret gives it virtually limitless ability to control everyone?s understanding of its activities: from the White House and Congress to Hollywood and the American people. I have no doubt they?d argue those actions were necessary to protect national security, because in their mind — it seems — national security is harmed by anything that could potentially limit their authority to do exactly what they want. Someone should really tell them that’s not how we do things in the United States.

And finally there will be some who have and will continue to argue that the CIA?s actions were necessary to protect national security. Those people, I?m guessing, need to make those arguments to help them sleep at night. To them, I?d argue the path to redemption lies not in the perpetuation of that belief, but in its eradication.

Again, please thank the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Jen Hoelzer is the former Communications Director and Deputy Chief of Staff for Senator Ron Wyden.

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Comments on “An Inside View On The Purpose And Implications Of The Torture Report”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Thank you for your initiative and work that made the release of this report possible.

However, I wish Feinstein and her staff would’ve pushed more to PROSECUTE the torturers and NOT those who EXPOSED the torture, such as with John Kiriakou.

Even now President Obama continues to protect the torturers. The problem with this “strategy” if we can call it that, is that such acts will continue, perhaps after he leaves office. Those who commit such crimes in the government need to be PUNISHED, otherwise we’ve learned no less here and NO PROGRESS has been made.

The US EXECUTED the Japanese who tortured American soldiers. Now, US hides the name of its torturers so they can NEVER even be prosecuted and imprisoned.


jim says:

Re: Re:

According to world rule on torture, those who protect the torturer, are just as guilty.
You forgot,nuremburg, where america killed the Nazi courters also. But since then we have become our own worst enemies. We do it here in the states in our prisons to make conformal behavior. We are now an old testament nation, not the beacon we started as. Hell in a hand basket.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: George Washington

“one might have argued that George Washington actually settled the issue 234 years earlier when he ordered that any American soldier who brought “shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country” by causing injury to a British prisoner could be put to death.”

It’s a shame we don’t have those kinds of presidents anymore.

tomczerniawski (profile) says:

I appreciate Senator Feinstein’s resolve in pushing for the release of, at the very least, the summary of the CIA torture reports – but her approving attitude toward the NSA’s un-constitutional surveillance activities means she’s not in my good books just yet.

At least, these things are moving in the right direction now.

Jennifer Hoelzer says:

Re: Re:

As I think you know, i share your view and – to be honest – was a little surprised how good Senator Feinstein has been on this issue. Actually, she’s been great on this issue. if you haven’t read her intro to the report yet, it’s really good.

But two things to think about.

(1) Having worked on Capitol Hill for 10 years, I can tell you, there is value in recognizing/thanking an elected official when they do something good. I know I’ll get ripped apart for that statement, but I’m just telling you this from a strategic perspective… given the current climate, sometimes the best way to stand out and get a member’s attention (so they’ll be willing to listen to you on other issues) is to be the opposite of everyone else and say something nice.

2) When i asked readers to thank the senate intelligence committee, I was mostly talking about the staff that worked on this report. A lot of them donated their time, working on this report in addition to their full time jobs (literally trucking out to the CIA site in VA to spend their free time in a windowless room reading about detainee abuse) for no reward other than wanting to make a difference. On top of all that, they were harassed and threatened by the CIA and it wasn’t clear until recently (after 5 years of work) that anything would come of it. Anyway, they don’t do it for the recognition, but if folks felt like popping a thank you card in the mail or calling the SSCII offices to say something nice, I think they deserve it. (I know I’m appreciative.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

But the Senate intelligence committee didn’t “do something good” here. They took a small step in the general direction of the basic demands of decency.

The ethical, legal and practical right course of action here was to scream this from the rooftops (using the power and protection of the Senate) the second it came to light (many years ago) and not shut up about it until it was stopped and the criminals brought to justice.

_That_ is what would have been “doing something good”. And it’s still the bare minimum required of a decent human being.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“But the Senate intelligence committee didn’t “do something good” here. They took a small step in the general direction of the basic demands of decency.”

Which is doing something good. It may be a small amount of good, far less than we deserve, but it’s something good. I think that thanking the people who did this is a good idea — it might encourage them (and others) to do good in the future. Perhaps even higher amounts of it.

Jennifer Hoelzer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

A smart person once told me that people express cynicism to make themselves sound smart on a subject. The idea being that you’ve got to know an awful lot about a subject to say something positive about it, but you don’t need to know very much to express cynicism.

That said, I know there is a lot to be angry and cynical about here, but as someone who’s been working on these issues for years, let me tell you: This report is a very important step w/out which none of the things you want would be possible.

Leaving aside the fact that producing this “small step” required a team of people to spend tens of thousands of hours combing through more than 6 million documents, not to mention what it takes to write a several thousand page report…and then a year, plus a head-on confrontation with the CIA and the White House to get it made public, prior to the release of this report, those of us in government and out who wanted to push for any sort of change or steps to be taken against these guys had zero ammunition. We could talk about feelings and hunches, but there were no hard facts to point to, nothing we could hold up to say Cheney and Hayden are lying. Hell, we didn’t even have enough facts on our side (at least that we could point to) to discredit Zero Dark Thirty, let alone prosecute anyone.

The reason Cheney et al have gotten away with this for as long as they have is that they’ve controlled the facts. They knew that it’s next to impossible for anyone outside of the intelligence community to get something they’ve stamped classified unclassified. (Look at the legal rulings w/ re: to our attempts to force the declassification of FISC rulings pertaining to NSA data collection – the administration fought our argument that it’s a misuse of the classification system to classify legal documents by arguing that since the intelligence community determines what is and is not a proper use of the classification system, then anything the IC classifies must be properly classified….and the court, of course, agreed.)

Anyway, the torture debate we’ve had the last 13+ years is the torture debate you get when the only facts anyone could publicly point to were the ones put out by those defending torture at the CIA. So, instead of throwing in the towel or simply moving on to other things (as basically everyone else did), the staff of the senate intelligence committee spent five years putting together an airtight, fact-based report discrediting anyone who dares to claim this program did anything but harm our nation’s national security. I’m not saying anyone will get prosecuted, but this report is the thing that makes prosecution possible. More importantly, though, in my mind, this report is what gets held up the next time someone suggests we should torture someone. It’s also what gets held up the next time the CIA says “just trust us.”

I’m sorry that the response hasn’t been fast or big enough for you, trust me, I know how frustrating it can be, but if you care about this issue as much as you say you do, stop whining about the people who’ve been killing themselves to do something about it, take the report they wrote and demand change. Write your members of congress, write the justice department, write the president tell them you want/expect action. You may not think they’ll pay attention, but i promise you they’re a lot more likely to pay attention to a letter you send them than your comments on Techdirt. Beyond that, use your voice. When you see people like Cheney and Hayden lying call them out on it, post links to the report in your comments, organize a boycott of Meet the Press sponsors the next time they book Mike Hayden or write the ombudsman at the New York Times the next time you see Cheney’s comments published as fact….

Again, if you want action to be taken here stop complaining that the people on your side aren’t working to your satisfaction and HELP them. An elected official is only as powerful as the army he/she has behind him. Either get on board and be part of that army or thank the folks who are out there working for the change you’d like to see, but aren’t trying to bring about yourself.

As I said, thank you letters can be addressed to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 211 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510

Joe says:

Uhm, no, It's not.

“The United States is more than a mass of land defined by geographic boundaries, it is a nation of people united by certain, principled beliefs, “
As much as I would like to believe this, Howard Zinn, conclusively dismissed this unfounded idea long ago in a People’s History of the US. Perhaps you should read the book before making such hopeful and optimistic, yet unfounded assertions.

joeg235 says:

Re: Re: Uhm, no, It's not.

The same James Madison who advocated a central bank? LOL
i have and I stand by my comment. The Constitution was written by elitist wealthy landowners who considered it important to keep government out of the hands of the masses. America does share a common set of principles if you are white and wealthy and male. For the black, poor, minorities working poor and WOMEN Jennifer, not it’s not. There have some improvements over time, mostly instigated by the poor, the working class and women, but those gains have been rolled back. Some Chomsky and Zinn for you my dear, Read the Truth.

joeg235 says:

Re: Re: Uhm, no, It's not.

Lets serif I can follow your reasoning. Because someone is born in they country by accident, they therefore share the same principles, embodied in the Constitution? That is patently absurd and I would need proof from you of this. I’m pretty sure most propel can’t enumerate the bill of rights let alone follow them. If what you say is true, why do we have dissension over separation of church and state, for example. Or even has this issue with using torture, a clear violation of the BOR. Seriously, these so called patriots” are violating the bill of rights and they are acting as the representatives of our government, in our name and with manufactured consent.. So, no, I fail to see how a written piece of paper makes this literally a nation of shared set of principles. Heck, naturalized immigrants who have to study and take tests come closer to this.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Uhm, no, It's not.

People born in this country by accident share the same principles, because we added an item to the Bill of Rights (Fourteenth Amendment) to make it that way. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States…” We added that amendment because certain folks were saying that people born in this country “on purpose” did not have any rights because they weren’t citizens; rights such as the right to vote, for example.

You’re probably right that most people can’t enumerate the rights…your lack of knowledge of the Fourteenth Amendment would be a case in point. But it isn’t supposed to be the people following the rights, it is the government that has a duty to respect the rights.

The Bill of Rights, and the laws related to torture, apply to the people doing the torturing. The act of torture is a crime; it is not just a crime to torture citizens, it is a crime to torture anyone.

joeg235 says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Uhm, no, It's not.

I agree we share the same rights and rules and law. That does not mean we share the same principles. But I think it comes down to semantics and what the author meant and we won’t solve that here. Since the constitution has and continues to be interpreted, exactly what “principles” are we then talking about?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Uhm, no, It's not.

“Lets serif I can follow your reasoning. Because someone is born in they country by accident, they therefore share the same principles, embodied in the Constitution?”

No, nobody ever said anything like that. What was said is that our society as a whole is based on a shared set of principles. This seems obviously true to me, and we even have those principles in writing.

That doesn’t even remotely mean that all members of the society accept them, nor does it mean that we successfully uphold them.

Jennifer Hoelzer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Uhm, no, It's not.

Thank you.

I think “not torturing’ people is one of those principles, but free speech would probably be the best example. It’s such a ubiquitous part of our identity as Americans that we pretty much take it for granted, but – to my point – when an action is proposed or taken that would limit free speech, we tend to refer to it as “un-American.” Regardless, I stand by my statement that the United States is more than a geographically defined landmass.

Jennifer Hoelzer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Uhm, no, It's not.

Thank you.

I think “not torturing’ people is one of those principles, but free speech would probably be the best example. It’s such a ubiquitous part of our identity as Americans that we pretty much take it for granted, but – to my point – when an action is proposed or taken that would limit free speech, we tend to refer to it as “un-American.” Regardless, I stand by my statement that the United States is more than a geographically defined landmass.

GeeC (profile) says:

Re: Uhm, no, It's not.

Ah yes, because the words of one man hold so much weight on the true nature of American society. There are those who disagree with the view that the US is unified under common beliefs. They are the same ones who often have issues with them saying that the founders were just wealthy barbarians fighting to hold on to their power riding on the backs of the poor.

Then there are those who work and prove those people wrong on a daily basis. The funny thing is that those who lambast the for fathers for being “elitist wealthy landowners who considered it important to keep government out of the hands of the masses” are the ones who try to disenfranchise the poor by telling them that they can’t do anything or get ahead, that they can’t make more of themselves, that they can’t affect change, that they are being held down by the evil white man. All the while the play off of this and do absolutely nothing substantive to help them change their situation.

Quiet Lurcker says:

Way too little, way too late

The actions admitted to by CIA in the executive report are a drop in the ocean of ongoing criminal misbehavior by the government since 2001.

We (the American people) needed to see the full report several years ago, and people up to and including several presidents did and do need to face the most severe possible consequences.

Over the last 13 years, the problems have just compounded, to the point I’m beginning to consider armed revolution perhaps the only viable recourse.

dleny (profile) says:


Torture is what the u.s. went through on 9/11! Torture is dealing with liberals who are dead set on destroying the united states. Any thoughts or comments today from the media or liberals on the three thousand we lost on 9/11? Any concern for the those who have fought for our country prior to 9/11 or since? No! Zero concern for military or their families! Fuck the liberals america wasnt founded on their beliefs but will eventually die due to their beliefs. Thanks to the cia who interrogated the sobs who killed Soo many americans, thanks to bush, many thanks to reagan! So glad osama bin laden is dead! Was that torture?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: torture?

You sir and/or madam, are a “goddamn candy-ass”.

It takes a not-so-special sort of coward to sell out the noble beliefs that actually make their country great because they’re afraid.

Yes, our nation got it nose bloodied on 9/11. But instead of a calm, brave, and measured response, our government instead decided to have a panicked kanipshin fit and flush the Constitution down the toilet (and our common sense along with it). For heaven’s sake, the 9/11 hijackers were all Saudis – so we invaded Iraq? Terrorists are out to get us – so the President can indefinitely detain (and even kill) American citizens without a trial? Terrorists use digital communications – so all American’s communications are monitored and recorded?

Seriously, WTF!!!

Our government, like you, seems hell bent on making the US a country not worth defending.

Grow a pair.

David says:

Re: Re: torture?

For heaven’s sake, the 9/11 hijackers were all Saudis – so we invaded Iraq?

The Saudis have lots of oil and buy lots of weapons in order to keep their peasants suppressed and maintain an absolutist regime where, say, converting to Christianity is a capital offense and women may not enter the public without their male guardian.

They share so many of our values that their dissenters hate us for our support of them. So naturally we had to invade someone else in order to hit at the Saudi dissenters.

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

“...more often than not informed by the participants’ recollection of episodes of the TV show...”

That shouldn’t surprise anybody. US movies and TV shows have long been an instrument of propaganda. You may not like that word, but the reality is that the most effective propaganda is when you don’t realize it’s propaganda.

And for just as long, the power elites in the US have been taken in by this propaganda. Why do you think Hollywood has had so much influence over the US’ international policy on trade and other matters, totally out of proportion to its actual contribution to the economy? It comes to the point where it is impossible to conduct a conversation on any matter of security, politics etc without analogies being drawn, sooner or later, with fictional movie or TV shows as though they were genuine examples.

In other words, decision-makers in the US can no longer tell the difference between fiction and reality.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: “...more often than not informed by the participants’ recollection of episodes of the TV show...”

Wait, are you saying movies and TV shows are not documentaries on how to get suspects to talk (and how to infiltrate enemy bases and shoot guns)? I’m shocked.
I thought everyone learned interrogation techniques from “24” rather than trained psychologists.
Then again, I’m studying to be a forensic expert by watching “CSI”. And, yes, I try to make witty quips whenever I find a new piece of evidence.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

Results of reports

I do thank all those who worked hard to get this report out-but one question is:
when do the people who did the torture, and enabled the torture get charged with war crimes and prosecuted?

It’s one thing to produce reports. It’s another to make sure it never happens again.

It’s called accountability and I’d guess there are many who should be in prison for what they’ve done in the name of
‘security’ following 9/11.

Everyone in the government at that time (and now, actually) is culpable in one way or another. Guilty until proven innocent.

And we thought the Nazis were monsters.

We didn’t look in the mirror too closely, did we?

David says:

Re: Re: Results of reports

Well, we now have a bunch of psychopaths beholden to the government. That’s our Gestapo. We have the “Patriot Act”, our own Entitlement Act putting the Constitution aside. We have a Reichskanzler with the power to order people killed without process or accountability.

We detain people for decades without accusation or trial or access to lawyers in detention camps, one place where we torture them.

Law enforcement frequently drags people, mostly of unopportune race, into prison under made-up accusations or outright kills them on the street, usually without consequences. The police terrorizes the populace, beats them up and just confiscates their belongings without any discernible justification.

There is growing resentment against bankers and lawyers who seem to have disheveled common sense and made a mockery of the judicial system and commerce. Now granted: this is unlikely to erupt in stately fanned antisemitism (as we conveniently can fantasize about international terrorism rather than the international Jewish Conspiracy and thus still have a reason to beat up, torture and kill brownfaces from the Near East, at home, theirs and ours, and abroad), but the destabilizing effect on democracy and the willingness to dissemble democratic structures is still there.

So yes: we are following the path of the Nazis. We haven’t caught up with them in all respects, but we are giving it a pretty good shot.

Jennifer Hoelzer (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So, when i first heard that only the exec summary of the report was going to be made public, i was more than a little disappointed. But now seeing what the committee staff did, I’m kind of blown away by how smart and strategic they were. First off, you’e got to remember that whatever they wrote they needed the exec branch to declassify it (only the exec branch has classification authorities) and they had to assume they were only going to get the admin to agree to a partial declassification to start. So, what did they do? They wrote a 500+ page exec summary, laying out all of their findings, with evidence and very minimal references to information that would need to be redacted. (In other words this exec summary was written to be made public and back the admin into a corner to do it. Brilliant.)

Yes, I think the rest of the report will likely – someday – be made public, but I think Sen Feinstein makes a good argument in her introduction that they knew it would be such a fight to get this declassified (and it was) that they decided to start with this and push for the declassification of the rest at a later day. But again, what they forced the CIA to declassify is very solid and very informative.

Drones will obviously be a much harder sell. Again, the exec branch are the only ones with the power to declassify, and unlike the detention and interrogation programs, the drone program is ongoing. That said, though, the more it becomes clear that the CIA’s abuse of its power to keep things secret is leading to a lack of public trust, the more pressure they’ll face to be forthcoming. (I think the last 2 years have been a seachange for the intel community in terms of the ability to hide behind secrecy and it will be interested to see where this leads. Would be nice if it was someplace good.)

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

Brilliant writing and a brilliant job

Thank you. Thanks to the staffers. Thanks to everyone who made it possible for us to see this glimpse behind the curtain — not that we wanted to, but that we needed to.

It now remains to finish the task. The full, unredacted report should be published. Those responsible must face the consequences of their actions. And those who’ve blown the whistle need to be recognized for what they are: patriots, in the truest sense of the word.

History will not look kindly on us for allowing this to happen on our watch and in our name. But we can mitigate that — as best as we can after the fact — by trying to make it right, and by making sure that the lesson is learned. This can’t ever happen again: better that we all die, to the very last man, woman and child, than we permit this.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

“Interrogating terrorists was no place for goddamn candy-asses.”

Or was often the case, torturing people just to investigate a vague suspicion that they might have some connection to terrorism.

Candy-ass lib’ruls might object to that.

…there is no assurance that a future president won’t take a different position than our current president

Just so. There’s not a hint of prosecuting those who did it. There’s not a hint of prosecuting those who ordered it. Dick Cheney and friends are still on US news programs and no-one bats an eye. John Yoo, who wrote the torture memos to tell those who did it that torture was peachy-keen, is a law professor at Berkeley for Christ’s sake.

Before the 2004 election it was already known that the US had turned into a torture state. It was already known that it wasn’t just “a few bad apples”; it was US policy and being done on a large scale. Bush II and friends were re-elected.

During the 2012 election Republican candidates Bachmann, Cain, Perry and Santorum each called for torture to resume. Mr. Romney’s advisers have privately urged him to call for a resumption of torture. (Presumably Ron Paul thought that torture is an issue that should be left to the states.) Not only did this not cause a scandal or hurt their chances within the Republican Party, but there wasn’t a hint of a scandal about it with the Democrats or the general public.

This is not a country that has ended torture. At most it’s a country that has paused torture for the current administration.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

  1. WHO KNOWS IF ‘we’ have actually ended torture ? ? ?
    you don’t, i don’t, and i bet no one is telling now…
    (’cause they don’t want to be manning’ed or kiriakou’ed; so you see, torture OF OUR OWN, DOES ‘work’…)

    2. oh, wait: i KNOW we have NOT ended torture, because we have a bunch of poor schmucks the country over who are in solitary confinement, some for years on end…
    THAT is TORTURE, plain and simple…

    3. i will only report again, that which has been stated and re-stated by those who know: THE MOST insidious and harmful forms of torture are the so-called ‘no-touch’, ‘psychological’ forms of torture…
    no marks on the body, just a destroyed mind…

    4. the whole lot needs to be rolled up and put in jail; that it won’t happen is how far we have fallen…

Anonymous Coward says:

First I want to take the time to say thank you for the efforts to expose this wrong doing by our own people. That Sen. and Chairman Feinstein made the effort to expose this is commendable. However I can not help but think she sold out the American people in order to get something put out in public rather than nothing.

POTUS Obama will have the same problem when he leaves office that Bush and Cheney have. They will not be able to go outside the US boundaries without constantly looking over their shoulder for someone wanting to present them with a warrant charging them with crimes against humanity. It says a lot to me that these are the same charges that many of the ex nazi members face. For this country to be the supporter of human rights, I ask, what is wrong with this picture? We have truly lost our way and what we stand for was trashed in the these efforts.

Everyone of them responsible for this needs hauled up to the World Court to stand charges and that includes Obama for both supporting these actions as well as attempting to hide our government’s involvement in them.

Where is the full report? Why is it hidden? It says all it needs to be said that they are indeed scheming to prevent it from seeing the light of day. This introduction is damning enough to know there are more serious parts they are scared will be told.

As for ‘candy ass’ I invite the dumbass that said it out to the target area for the latest drone strike. When it’s over I’d like to see how candy ass he is for another if he survives.

Anonymous Coward says:

Isn’t this more political crap? Will anyone be punished? Will anyone question congress, I mean, they knew it was going on but didn’t act.

Why did john Kerry ask that this report be kept quiet while the White House was saying that it should be made public?

Yep, just more political bullshit to score points, not something that will get things done.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It would be nice to see someone get punished for this, but I’m not sure that it’s really relevant or feasible. The report didn’t find that there were a few bad actors within the CIA that were committing torture. The report found that the entire organization was comprehensively and systematically corrupt. The rot went from the individual agents with the waterboards and the enemas, through their supervisors and supposed overseers, all the way up to the office of the Director. Punishing individual members of the system for a complete failure of the system would be missing the point.

What really needs to happen here is not punishment, but reform. We need to make sure that this sort of thing can’t happen again — and that involves transparency, increased oversight, and continual sanity checks. Picking out a few minor players for punishment and scapegoating won’t fix the system.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Or both, how about both?

If the problem isn’t one or two rotten apples, but the entire barrel, the solution is obvious:

Toss the entire barrel and get a new one.

Everyone involved deserves to be tried and punished for their involvement, both to pay for their crimes, and to send a clear message to anyone that might even think of doing similar actions in the future that such abhorrent activity will not be tolerated.

If that involves gutting entire government agencies, well, it’ll be a pain, but you don’t remove just part of a cancerous growth when you go in for surgery, you cut it all out, because to do otherwise will just allow it to spread again once the surgery is over.

Anonymous Coward says:

Special kind of failure involved

Some have and will undoubtedly continue to argue that we shouldn’t discuss the efficacy of torture as an interrogation technique… I believe these people have a point.

So do I. Torture is morally reprehensible, no matter its efficacy.

Nonetheless, I suspect that to decide to do something totally illegal and immoral just because it allegedly gets better results (whether or not it actually does), and to then do it completely wrong, entirely nullifying any alleged quality advantages, is a very special kind of failure.

David says:

Re: Special kind of failure involved

There are quality advantages. The U.S. government now commands an organized group of tried and proven psychopaths willing to break any law in order to escape accountability and to continue having fun with subhumans handed to them and declared as such by their chain of command superiors.

And the only price the U.S. had to pay for its own reincarnation of the Gestapo was the respect of the world outside of the U.S. U.S. citizens themselves can’t be bothered enough to vote for anything but the incumbent twin party (which should really swap its elephant/donkey mascots for a hydra).

Anonymous Coward says:

I want to start by saying thank you for everything you’ve helped with doing and for this article.

There is, however, one small blurb I want to pull out from there, and I will warn you that I might be taking this way out of context.

from the White House and Congress to Hollywood and the American people.

Since when does Hollywood get a say in anything? And why are they higher up on the chain of command than the American people?

Jennifer Hoelzer (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I was talking about the IC’s direct attempts to control the message/understanding of their activities: whether it was giving half truths/only sharing one side of the story with Congress & the White House to convincing the creators of Zero Dark Thirty that torture led to the capture of UBL to ultimately shaping how the American people understand what their government is doing. I didn’t order them that way as a hierarchy. (As a literary device, I actually tend to put the most important last, because the last gets word in a sentence gets the most attention/focus.) But here, I was thinking more about the sequence of attention the CIA gave each of these groups and while they were trying to shape public perceptions, they didn’t really talk directly to the American people (unless they were talking through the media or Hollywood.) But really, I included Hollywood in there because i’m still ticked about Zero Dark Thirty…. (yes, i know this is a ridiculously ramblely answer, but I don’t have time this AM to edit. Have a great day.)

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Well, that might make things awkward...

From one of the links in that article:

CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Article 2

1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Article 3

1. No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

Article 7

1. The State Party in territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is found, shall in the cases contemplated in article 5, if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.

2. These authorities shall take their decision in the same manner as in the case of any ordinary offence of a serious nature under the law of that State. In the cases referred to in article 5, paragraph 2, the standards of evidence required for prosecution and conviction shall in no way be less stringent than those which apply in the cases referred to in article 5, paragraph 1.

3. Any person regarding whom proceedings are brought in connection with any of the offences referred to in article 4 shall be guaranteed fair treatment at all stages of the proceedings.

Article 8

1. The offences referred to in article 4 shall be deemed to be included as extraditable offences in any extradition treaty existing between States Parties. States Parties undertake to include such offences as extraditable offences in every extradition treaty to be concluded between them.

2. If a State Party which makes extradition conditional on the existence of a treaty receives a request for extradition from another State Party with which it has no extradition treaty, it may consider this Convention as the legal basis for extradition in respect of such offenses. Extradition shall be subject to the other conditions provided by the law of the requested State.

3. States Parties which do not make extradition conditional on the existence of a treaty shall recognize such offences as extraditable offences between themselves subject to the conditions provided by the law of the requested state.

4. Such offences shall be treated, for the purpose of extradition between States Parties, as if they had been committed not only in the place in which they occurred but also in the territories of the States required to establish their jurisdiction in accordance with article 5, paragraph 1.

Article 11

Each State Party shall keep under systematic review interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices as well as arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment in any territory under its jurisdiction, with a view to preventing any cases of torture.

Article 12

Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committee in any territory under its jurisdiction.

Article 13

Each State Party shall ensure that any individual who alleges he has been subjected to torture in any territory under its jurisdiction has the right to complain to and to have his case promptly and impartially examined its competent authorities. Steps shall be taken to ensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of his complaint or any evidence given.

And under the ‘signatures’ link at the bottom, and listed at the very bottom, under ‘States which have Signed but not yet Ratified the Convention Against Torture’, take a wild guess what country is listed? The USG was fine with theoretically signing to a document declaring that they would never practice torture, but never seemed to get around to ratifying it, despite how insanely easy it would have been(seriously, what politician would be stupid enough to vote against something like that?).

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Edit

Looks like that page was out of date, wikipedia has the US signing 18 April 1988, and ratifying 21 October 1994, so the US could be found guilty under the Convention. Only one problem with that…

‘The Committee against Torture (CAT) is a body of human rights experts that monitors implementation of the Convention by State parties. The Committee is one of eight UN-linked human rights treaty bodies.

The CAT usually meets in April/May and November each year in Geneva. Members are elected to four-year terms by State parties and can be re-elected if nominated.’

(Huh, I wonder if that bi-yearly meeting had anything to do with why the USG was so interested in stalling the release of the report so much…)

The current membership of the CAT:

Claudio Grossman (chair) – Chile – Term Expires 2015
Felice D. Gaer (vice-chair) – United States – Term Expires 2015
Satyabhoosun Gupt Domah – Mauritius – Term Expires 2015
George Tugushi – Georgia – Term Expires 2015
Abdoulaye Gaye – Senegal – Term Expires 2015

So the Committee Against Torture, the group who is supposed to be in charge of investigations into torture, has, as it’s second-in-command, someone from the US… yeah, a simple ‘conflict of interest’ just isn’t quite enough to cover it here.

However, this does present a rather nice political opportunity here. If the other members on the committee, after reading the Torture Report, decided to vote to kick out the US representative from the committee, as clearly no longer holding a moral position on the practice of torture, as well as a massive conflict of interest into investigations of accusations of torture, that would make for one hell of an embarrassment for the USG.

David says:

Re: Re: Well, that might make things awkward...

Nothing to worry about. The U.S. declines to accept judgments of the International Court against itself or any U.S. citizen.

The U.S. justice system is so much superior to justice anywhere else in the world that they can’t have their standards watered down. The amount you pay for a war tribunal defense in The Hague will not get you a competent bar brawl defense in the U.S. We really can’t have our prices ruined by outsourcing justice.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I would be willing to trade amnesty for those government employees who have committed crimes in the past for indictments being brought against those who approved it and sweeping policy change and procedural overhaul moving forward.

Thanks very much to Mike/TD for the relentless pursuit of this result, so far! It’s not done yet. There’s more to do. There are far too many victims who’ve long deserved retribution for the crimes committed against them.

I hope this is the beginning of the end of this sorry chapter.

Anonymous Coward says:

"while [Obama] remains president..."

President Obama’s executive order only settles the issue insofar as he remains president.

I wouldn’t even go that far. This administration has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of control and sometimes even awareness over departments in the executive branch. I would not be surprised to find that some division has a novel (i.e. tortured) parsing of his directive such that they can conduct torture despite the plain language of the order telling them not to. After all, the NSA has decided it doesn’t collect information until it looks at the information it has captured. What other divisions will decide, in the name of National Security, that language doesn’t mean what it says?

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