The Central Intelligence Agency allegedly tortured at least 39 of its 119 detainees from 2001 to 2009, according to findings by the Senate Intelligence Committee that were made public last week.
And this time it’s not the $40 million spent unearthing the findings that bugs me. Worth noting, though, is a report found in the National Journal showing the debate over the cause of the high price tag.
I’m not so much bothered by questions of whether the alleged terrorists undergoing the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques deserved their treatment, though according to the report, 26 detainees were wrongfully held. Or whether these EITs yielded useful information, though the idea that torture tends to produce unreliable intelligence is a pretty commonly held view—even one that CIA director, John Brennan stated at a news conference last week. He said earlier in the new conference that it was “unknowable” whether the intelligence gained from the EITs could have been gathered through other means.
More troubling than any of these is a particular attitude toward torture. It’s one of many held by my small government brothers and sisters that I’ve been observing. It’s one that seeks revenge for each of the approximately 3,000 precious American lives lost on 9/11.
And not just revenge, but revenge at any cost.
I’d encourage people who feel that way to look at the report a little differently. Of course, not all interrogators used EITs. But I think the ones who did demonstrated a low view of humanity.
Knowing what we know about torture and its tendency to produce unreliable intelligence, it seems that shaming and terrifying our enemies for the sake of it was a central component in the use of EITs.
But let us not sink to our enemy’s level. If it’s justice we’re actually after, let’s make it swift.
Our criminal justice system hinges on a couple of principles. You are innocent until proven guilty. And you have the right to a trial by jury. But we don’t tend to treat foreigners this way.
We should—and not just because it’s right. We should do it because we want to continue enjoying those provisions.
A government that won’t try a detainee may refuse it’s own citizens a trial. The “slippery slope” argument was demonstrated by legislation authorizing indefinite detention of American citizens, which was ushered in under President Barack Obama in 2012. The country didn’t get to that point overnight.
Some have criticized the release of the report because of the risk of retaliation against American captives. I understand that argument, although indefinite detention—prior to the release of some program details—already put Americans at risk.
But I think Americans ought to know how government officials treat foreigners suspected of ties to criminals or criminal activity. How else are we to hold our government accountable?
Some critics have questioned the validity of the report, saying it was a partisan attempt and an affront to the CIA.
U.S. Senators Jim Risch, R-ID, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., last week released a joint statement explaining why they had voted against their committee’s release of the report. In it, they wrote that the authors never interviewed CIA officials for the report.
Reason Magazine pointed out a footnote in the report that offers an explanation for the lack of interviews.
“October 9, 2009, the CIA informed the Committee that it would not compel CIA personnel to participate in interviews with the Committee due to concerns related to the pending Department of Justice investigations. (See DTS #2009-4064.) While the Committee did not conduct interviews with CIA personnel during the course of this review, the Committee utilized previous interview reports of CIA personnel and CIA contractors conducted by the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General and the CIA’s Oral History Program.”
As for former Vice President Dick Cheney’s stance that waterboarding, as the CIA carried it out, isn’t torture?
I think it’s fair to define torture as a technique that occasionally results in vomiting, convulsions or unresponsiveness.
When it comes to imprisonment of suspected terrorists, let’s not sink to our enemies’ level.