June is Torture Awareness Month as acknowledged by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). I am pleased to be a citizen of a country willing to admit its mistakes, and I am grateful for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, and the huge amount of work done by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee eliciting a massive 6,700-page report on the CIA’s use of torture.
While The Republic’s article on May 11 reflected former CIA Director Michael Morrell’s suggestion that the report was not impartial, the conclusions held by both the original Panetta review and the executive summary made public by the U.S. Senate committee held similar conclusions: The CIA program was badly managed by inexperienced operators; it was more brutal than anyone expected, even resulting in loss of life through hypothermia of one victim; and that it failed to produce any helpful intelligence.
In addition, the reports noted that the CIA repeatedly lied to the Department of Justice, Congress and the presidential administration to justify its use of torture. The CIA even destroyed videotapes documenting torturous acts.
Such heinous acts are reprehensible to all faiths as well as being in violation of international laws and a blight on the basic values of our nation. It puts our military at greater risk if captured in war. How we respond to these reports is so very important. If we are a nation that values life and respects human dignity, we should not look away or remain silent. We are responsible for each other.
Of great concern is the fact that no new policy details have been negotiated and the current head of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Richard Burr, has make little comment and taken no action. Those of us guided by our faith must demand that we remove torture from our nation’s present and future.
We have seen precious few bipartisan actions from Congress lately, but this huge amount of investigation and fact finding should result in putting the CIA out of the detention business and disallowing any government agency from kidnapping and torturing individuals in “black sites” or secret prisons built in foreign countries and as the report shows, paid for with bribes given to foreign officials.
We can do better. Congress can ensure that the CIA never uses torture again by passing legislation creating one common humane standard for all interrogations.