Today, after nearly five years of investigation, the Senate Intelligence Committee — for the moment, still controlled by Senate Democrats — released a report on the torture used by the CIA and approved by the Bush Administration in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
I always thought it was a very sad day when we went down that route. This was one of the things that always distinguished us from so many other countries, that assured that we really were a freedom-loving Western democracy with fundamentally progressive values: that WE DIDN’T TORTURE. Until we did. And really, all our claims to moral superiority went down the toiled in one giant flush.
For anyone who knows anything about investigations — and I’ve been a personnel investigator and have conducted investigations, albeit not police investigations — knows that the information that is revealed as a consequence of torture is inherently unreliable. Because when you’re being tortured, you’ll say anything to make it stop. You’ll say whatever it is that you think your interrogators want to hear.
And now we have Senate investigators saying that the CIA went “far beyond” its “legal boundaries” in its “harsh” interrogation methods of actual or suspected al-Qaeda operatives. Besides the now-well-known practice of waterboarding (simulated drowning), tactics used by the CAI included weeks of sleep deprivation, slapping and slamming of detainees against walls, confining them to small boxes, keeping them isolated for prolonged periods and threatening them with death. If you’ve seen Jon Stewart’s movie “Rosewater” — and the movie is definitely worth seeing — you’ll know that is really no different from what the Iranians now do in Iran when they want to force confessions or information out of their detainees.
And yet, for all the effectiveness in breaking detainees’ spirits, as expected, the “enhanced interrogation techniques” produced almost nothing in usable intelligence. On the other hand the Senate Committee found that the CIA “deceived the nation” with “narratives of useful interrogations” that were “unsubstantiated by its own records.” The report provides a catalog of what it deems “misstatements” by senior CIA officials to the president, the Justice Department, Congress and the American public. And earlier this year, Feinstein accused the CIA of breaking into Senate computer systems in a dispute over documents, as relations between the investigators and the agency deteriorated.
You can’t download the report, but you can read the report in individual pages presented in an iFrame on this Mother Jones page. If you have the patience.
In any case, this is a very sad day for democracy.