Regarding CIA torture, only the truth shall make us free

By Donna Brazile, NEA Columnist

In a March 2014 letter to CIA Director John Brennan, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) wrote, " ... on only his third day in office, President Obama issued Executive Order 13491 ending the use of abusive interrogation techniques.

On Dec. 9, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), in a speech on the Senate floor on the newly released Senate Intelligence Committee report on Bush-era torture policies, stated simply, "Our enemies act without conscience ... We must not. We need not risk our national honor to prevail in this or any war."

President Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain ran against each other for the presidency in 2008, but were as one in opposing the use of torture as American policy, including during times of war.

Recording artists often become famous for creating what's called "crossover music," reaching into different cultures, uniting them for mutual enjoyment. Politically, opposing torture is a crossover issue.

The Christian Science Monitor told readers that, "a consensus does seem to have formed around the idea that torture is a moral abomination." Indeed, an Amnesty International survey published in May, found that 53 percent of the American public "strongly" opposes torture. Following the findings of the Senate report on CIA Torture, that number will likely rise.

In case you missed the news, the Senate investigation found the following about the use of CIA torture:



Using the CIA's own internal records, the Senate Intelligence committee examined 20 CIA cases where the agency claimed torture had produced "critical and unique information." Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said that a thorough review found that "not a single case holds up" that claim.

The CIA repeatedly provided misinformation about the program to President G. W. Bush, the Congress, the media, and thus, the public.

The torture did not provide any "imminent threat intelligence." In other cases, the attacks never existed. Nor did torture lead to intelligence that led to the capture of Bin Laden.

The torture methods were more brutal and more extensive than reported, some bordering on outright sadism, such as one threat to rape a detainee's mother.

There were also those in the CIA who opposed the torture program, because of its macabre brutality.

The CIA failed to provide adequate oversight of its detainees, losing count of their total numbers and their whereabouts. In one case, the CIA mistakenly tortured two of its own secret agents.

Some of the most stomach-churning details are to be found in the summary report's footnotes. A mentally challenged boy, the brother of a detainee, was taped crying and shown to the detainee as leverage. This depravity was early in the report and doesn't reflect the nadir of its tortures.

Reporters, commentators and politicians have to manage a difficult balance, shining the light on practices abhorrent to our deepest values while rejecting sanctimonious and self-righteous attitudes about those who carried them out.

We were all pretty rattled after 9/11. If we recall the atmosphere fairly, it was one in which we felt our national survival was at stake. Those charged to see that no more attacks occurred were under far greater stress than the public.

President Obama has said, "nobody can fully understand what it was like to be responsible for the safety and security of the American people in the aftermath of the worst attack on our national soil."

Yet, there must be some accountability. Dick Cheney is right when he says CIA torture was no rogue program. It was conceived in the Executive Branch, planned within it, and carried out by the CIA.

We need to confront those who say there was no torture. We know the term "enhanced interrogation techniques" was dreamed up because it's not as repulsive as the word "torture."

But torture it was. "I have long believed some of these practices amounted to torture, as a reasonable person would definite it." said Sen. McCain, " ... especially, but not only the practice of waterboarding, which is a mock execution and an exquisite form of torture."

One of the detainees was waterboarded 83 times. He cried and "whimpered" and "pleaded," but had nothing to give up. Others faked information that didn't check out. "I know (prisoners) will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering," McCain said.

The CIA is not being truthful in its depiction of what it did. Harry Truman, who created the CIA during his presidency, wrote in Look Magazine in 1964 that, "The CIA was set up by me for the sole purpose of getting all the available information to the President. It was not intended to operate as an international agency engaged in strange activities."

I recall a major's comment to a reporter during the Vietnam War that, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." It's the same thinking here. Those public officials who support torture are saying we must abandon our values to preserve our values.

The motto of the CIA is a quote from the Bible, "And Ye Shall Know the Truth and the Truth Shall Make You Free."

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