Torture report: CIA was ‘brutal,’ ineffective and deceptive in its interrogations


This is what everybody is leading with at this hour.

Here’s the NYT version:

WASHINGTON — A scathing report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday found that the Central Intelligence Agency routinely misled the White House and Congress about the information it obtained from the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects, and that its methods were more brutal than the C.I.A. acknowledged either to Bush administration officials or to the public.

The long-delayed report, which took five years to produce and is based on more than six million internal agency documents, is a sweeping indictment of the C.I.A.’s operation and oversight of a program carried out by agency officials and contractors in secret prisons around the world in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It also provides a macabre accounting of some of the grisliest techniques that the C.I.A. used to torture and imprison terrorism suspects….

From the WashPost version:

The 528-page document catalogues dozens of cases in which CIA officials allegedly deceived their superiors at the White House, members of Congress and even sometimes their own peers about how the interrogation program was being run and what it had achieved. In one case, an internal CIA memo relays instructions from the White House to keep the program secret from then-Secretary of State Colin Powell out of concern that he would “blow his stack if he were to be briefed on what’s going on.”

A declassified summary of the committee’s work discloses for the first time a complete roster of all 119 prisoners held in CIA custody and indicates that at least 26 were held because of mistaken identities or bad intelligence. The publicly released summary is drawn from a longer, classified study that exceeds 6,000 pages….

From The Guardian’s version:

The investigation that led to the report, and the question of how much of the document would be released and when, has pitted chairwoman Feinstein and her committee allies against the CIA and its White House backers. For 10 months, with the blessing of President Barack Obama, the agency has fought to conceal vast amounts of the report from the public, with an entreaty to Feinstein from secretary of state John Kerry occurring as recently as Friday.

CIA director John Brennan, an Obama confidante, conceded in a Tuesday statement that the program “had shortcomings and that the agency made mistakes” owing from what he described as unpreparedness for a massive interrogation and detentions program….

I’m up against a deadline in my day job, but y’all go ahead and start chewing on this, and I’ll join you later…


55 thoughts on “Torture report: CIA was ‘brutal,’ ineffective and deceptive in its interrogations

  1. Silence

    Snooze. No new information here to anyone who’s been paying any attention all along.
    Synopsis: The CIA used “enhanced interrogation” techniques that may or may not have been torture, including: waterboarding KSM, threatening someone with a power drill (but not actually using it on them), threatening to sodomize a prisoner with a broomstick (but not actually doing it), and feeding prisoners rectally, thereby humiliating and attempting to “break” them.
    The techniques may or may not have produced accurate or actionable intelligence. The CIA may or may not have briefed the GWB administration fully on their activities, possibly to shield the administration from charges of promoting torture. Congress may have also been kept in the dark to prevent leaks.
    None of this bothers me in the slightest. With the exception of the waterboarding, it all seems like standard fraternity initiation hijinx, and if we have to detain and question a few jihadis, mostly captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan, in order to save American lives, I’m fine with that too. This seems like a political stunt designed to damage the GOP, and possibly to further degrade American influence overseas as well.

    1. Doug Ross

      ” it all seems like standard fraternity initiation hijinx,”

      I hope old Kappa Kappa Kappa has stopped feeding pledges rectally.

      Seriously, too many people excuse a lot of wrong behavior simply based on “We’re America and we can do whatever we want”.. or “They did it first and worse!” We have bad characters throughout the intelligence community.

      I personally believe Bush, Cheney, and Powell knew exactly what was going on but made sure to maintain a level of deniability by using other channels.

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      Well, first off, we don’t know who all was detained at Gitmo. We do know several people were detained there who were confused with others, but released eventually. I care that America the Beautiful is America the Frat Bro. Frat pledges volunteer for such treatment, which is often against the law and university rules, but the detainees certainly didn’t.

      1. Silence

        When someone takes up arms against the US government, or really, any government, they should not be suprised when bad things happen to them.
        Here’s what the French did in Algeria: (warning, Not Safe for Lunch)
        I could provide literally hundreds of other examples. My point isn’t that it’s right to commit atrocities. It’s not, and we shouldn’t do it. My point is that I don’t think that anything we have done since 9/11 rises to the level of atrocity, or even torture, by historical standards.

        1. Mark Stewart

          This does not in any way make what happened in a post 9/11 world acceptable on any level. The CIA – again – has stained America in incalculable ways. I understand operating in secrecy and the need to do things which don’t translate well to public disclosure; but it only works when there is a very strong system of oversight and control in place. The Bush (43) White House made horrendous mistakes of judgment here. Quite literally, this idea that any sort of torture is legitimate in a moral and ethical capitulation. There is no honor here and we need to say that clearly and with resonance.

          We only reflect our values if we are willing to bring this to light and address it – and learn from it.

    3. bud

      People died, at least one from hypothermia. Perhaps worst of all, many of these guys were wrongfully detained. And it was useless for obtaining Intel.

      But you’re right about one thing silence, the Bush administration is shown to be a bunch of cruel liars. Nothing new there.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    Here’s what Lindsey Graham had to say:

    Graham on Release of CIA ‘Torture’ Report

    WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on the release of a Senate Intelligence Committee report regarding the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation techniques.

    On Timing and Release of the Report:

    “The timing of the release is problematic given the growing threats we face. Terrorism is on the rise, and our enemies will seize upon this report at a critical time. Simply put, this is not the time to release the report.

    “I believe its release at this time is politically motivated. I have no doubts that it will create problems for our country and the men and women serving our nation around the globe.”

    On Support for Investigating CIA Interrogation Techniques:

    “As a military lawyer for more than 30 years, I believe we can and must fight this war within our values. I supported the investigation of the CIA as the problems of interrogation policies were obvious to me. I do not condone torture and continue to believe abusive detention and interrogation techniques used in the past were counterproductive. I’m very happy the techniques in question are no longer utilized.”

    On Obama Administration Detention and Interrogation Policies:

    “We have now gone from one extreme to the other. We’ve gone from waterboarding to reading Miranda Rights and providing taxpayer funded lawyers to foreign terror suspects within days of capture. In addition, we no longer hold and lawfully interrogate High Value Targets who can provide valuable intelligence to prevent future attacks.

    “The policies the Obama Administration has employed treats terrorists as common criminals, not enemy combatants. I’m convinced their criminalization of the war is causing our nation to lose valued intelligence which can help protect our nation.”


    1. M.Prince

      Well, once again the senior senator from Seneca gets it wrong. He forgets that the CIA works for us and so it’s only proper that we should have an official public accounting of the actions it took in our name. The good senator seems to believe that we as a people can’t be honest with ourselves for fear that someone, somewhere may think ill of us on account of our forthrightness and turn it against us. He forgets that it’s not them we owe this to, but ourselves.

      What the senator also fails to appreciate is that by dignifying these assailants as “combatants,” he is unwittingly placing them on an equal footing with our own soldiers.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        The “enemy combatants” vs. “uniformed soldier” distinction is important. In war, there are lines that we shouldn’t cross. It’s fair that we can have a reasonable disagreement about where those lines are. I respect that I don’t draw the line in the same place as others, and that’s ok.

        However, where we draw the line for treating unlawful combatants is different for where we should draw the line for uniformed soldiers. Why? Because the line SHOULD be further when dealing with unlawful combatants. If it isn’t, then what incentive is there for them to abide by the rules of war? There should be a disincentive for being an unlawful combatant vs. uniformed soldier. Note, I am not doing away with drawing the line. It’s still there.

        Interrogation methods, like detention and surveillance, have tradeoffs at every level, wherever you decide to draw your line. However, you can’t have a debate with someone who refuses to acknowledge that tradeoffs exist.

        1. Doug Ross

          Do you think there is some level of interrogation that will dissuade people from becoming enemy combatants? We obviously haven’t reached the tipping point yet…

          Maybe if we start burning them alive in the public square? Surely that will do it.

          There seems to be a segment of the population that wants to pat ourselves on the back for not being as heinous as the other guys. That we know just where the line between righteous and awful is. The line is actually very easy to see: when you subject a person to physical or mental abuse in order to gather information that you have no clear evidence the person can provide.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            “The line is actually very easy to see: when you subject a person to physical or mental abuse in order to gather information that you have no clear evidence the person can provide.”

            Sure, but when do our CIA officers (who live in the real world) have “clear evidence” of who knows what? Obviously, they wouldn’t attempt to obtain information from someone they themselves did not believe had the information. They aren’t doing this for fun.

            So if I don’t have “clear evidence” that a detainee cannot tell me something, what then?

            The question is: What are you prepared to do to someone you believe has actionable, valuable information?

            Do you acknowledge a tradeoff in the information gathered vs. what you are prepared to do to gather it?

            1. Doug Ross

              > They aren’t doing this for fun.

              Some of them (a small percentage) do it for fun, for sadistic reasons, for misguided blind patriotism… They aren’t all pure of heart.

              >So if I don’t have “clear evidence” that a detainee cannot tell me something, what then?

              You detain them. Then you gather evidence to prosecute them. Then you try them.

              Should we allow our own criminal justice system to work under the same rules? “I know you did something wrong or know someone who did and I will inflict pain until you admit it”.

              >The question is: What are you prepared to do to someone you believe has actionable, valuable information?

              Question them. Trade leniency for information that leads to higher ups in the organization. Allow them to starve themselves to death if they choose.

              >Do you acknowledge a tradeoff in the information gathered vs. what
              >you are prepared to do to gather it?

              Only if there is certainty that the person has information to gather. That’s the difference. The CIA was employing torture to go on a fishing expedition that appears to have come up empty more often than not.

              How about this – let’s implement a three strikes and you’re out rule. Anyone who authorizes or participates in enhanced interrogation that does not result in meaningful information loses their job and pension after the third mistake? Maybe that would put some checks and balances into the system. If my job depends on having a firm belief that a terrorist has important information, maybe that would limit the application of torture techniques. Right now, there is zero accountability for bad behavior.

              Based on what I read, the head of the CIA basically lied to the American public over and over for years. Is that what we want?

        2. M.Prince

          My disagreement with the senator had nothing to do with legal definitions. In contrast to him, I do feel that terrorists should be viewed as common criminals and not as enemy soldiers. To do otherwise elevates them in a manner they do not deserve.

          But as for the tortured legal niceties, the concepts “enemy combatant/unlawful combatant” (used pretty much interchangeably by the GWBush Administration) and “unformed combatant” were created under conventional understandings of war, battlefield, battle lines, etc. The connotations of the terms were always rather vague and it was clear they no longer comported with contemporary realities at the latest by the time we went into Afghanistan and were then rendered largely moot by Supreme Court action in 2008 when it granted habeas corpus rights to detainees taken as part of the so-called “GWOT”. Clearly we do not simultaneously grant habeas corpus rights to people whom we are submitting to “enhanced interrogation”. The Obama Administration was, therefore, correct in returning to the rule of law by abandoning the term “enemy/unlawful combatant”. Which also explains my preference for a term from criminal law: “assailant”. But more importantly, no definition of detainee status should have or may be interpreted to countenance torture. The Bush Administration tried to twist the definitions to place some persons outside the protections of law (i.e. Geneva Conventions), but it was rightly criticized for its attempt and, in the end, failed.

          1. Mike Cakora

            Kill but don’t question? So the Obami’s reliance on Hellfire missiles fired from drones is preferable in a moral and practical sense?

            1. M.Prince

              The use of drones to kill “extremist targets” is excessive in my opinion.

              But as Gen. Stanley McChrystal, among others, has said, the problem with torture is what it does to the torturer — and to the society that condones it.

              As I’ve said elsewhere, I think we as a country have gotten a bit too wrapped around the axle when it comes to terrorism.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    I have a technical question regarding the rectal feeding…

    Does that work? I mean, can you stay alive just being fed that way? I know you can take drugs that way, but this goes way beyond that…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        It appears the official term is “rectal hydration”. From the Medical College of Wisconsin:

        “Rectal Hydration (proctoclysis) Rectal hydration is an alternative only when other resources are not available. A 22 French nasogastric catheter can be inserted approximately 40 cm into the rectum. The patient can be positioned as for any rectal procedure. Tap water can be used, and the rectal infusion increased from 100 ml to a maximum of 400 ml per hour, unless fluid leakage occurs before the maximum volume is achieved. The majority of patients can successfully tolerate this approach at a volume of 100 to 200 ml per hour.”

        Obviously, you can use tap water, but that’s only if nothing else is available. The discerning CIA Officer prefers to use Perrier on his detainee, as it pairs so much better with the “22 French nasogastric catheter”.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Food is digested in the stomach and small intestine. Fluids are absorbed in the small intestine, but more in the colon.

      Nature devised this rational system that works in one direction. That’s why in medical settings people use a feeding tube into the stomach. The CIA seems to have been on some alternate Freudian/fraternity sadistic wavelength.

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    Now there’s this from the Council on American-Islamic Relations:

    CAIR Seeks ‘Accountability’ Following Release of Senate Torture Report

    (WASHINGTON, D.C., 12/9/2014)
    – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today said a long-awaited report from the Senate Intelligence Committee on the CIA’s use of torture in the years following the 9/11 terror attacks should prompt “accountability,” along with changes in law and government policies.

    A 600-page summary from the 6,000-page report has been declassified after months of disputes between the committee and the CIA over redactions. It concludes that the CIA repeatedly tortured detainees, including using the simulated drowning technique called “waterboarding.” The report also concludes that the information gathered using torture produced no security benefits and accuses the CIA of repeatedly lying to Congress, the White House and the American public.

    SEE: Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and
    Interrogation Program

    In a statement, CAIR said:

    “This disturbing report clearly demonstrates the need for those who approved of and carried out this campaign of torture to be held accountable for their actions. It also shows that strong legal and policy measures need to be enacted in order to prevent such illegal actions being taken during any future security crisis.”

    “Torture is not an American value. We should not be questioning whether or not it worked, but why we ever used such brutal and illegal interrogation techniques.”

    The Washington-based civil rights organization plans to review the summary report and urges the Senate Intelligence Committee to release the full report to ensure full disclosure and transparency of America’s counterterrorism and torture programs.

    CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

    – END –

  5. Bryan Caskey

    Quote from above:

    It concludes that the CIA repeatedly tortured detainees, including using the simulated drowning technique called “waterboarding.” The report also concludes that…”

    Actually, the report “alleges”. First, at a minimum, serious people should note that the conclusions of the Senate Democrats’ report are disputed. I mean, since they are. Don’t worry, I’m not putting CAIR in the category of “serious people” so they’re free to be fast and loose with the facts.

    Second, I would note that no CIA officers responsible for establishing, implementing, or evaluating the program’s effectiveness were interviewed. Third, this is a reminder that CIA had legal opinions from DOJ that approved the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, just in case anyone forgot.

    Finally, President Obama would like to remind us that sleep deprivation/threats/waterboarding are unconscionable, but summary, intel-free executions via drone are cool. Because “values”, or something.

    1. Juan Caruso

      Excellent points all, Bryan.

      I would only ask, the succession of wimpy CinCs since Ronald Reagan when and why spending American blood and treasure without the will to win convincingly ever become “an American value”? Rather, it is a U.N. value that has yet to encourage much less assure world peace.

      And to ask Bill Clinton: Why did you consider Islamist attacks on USS Cole, the 1993 WTC, etc.
      laissez-faire, situation normal criminal events acts with slow=paced trials that ultimately failed to dissuaded escalation?


      The Department of State allegedly employs more attorneys than any other cabinet office. One lawyer, former Secretary of State and future CinC candidate Hillary Clinton told a Georgetown audience:

      “Showing respect even for one’s enemies. Trying to understand, in so far as psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective and point of view. Helping to define the problems, determine the solutions. That is what we believe in the 21st century will change—change the prospects for peace.”

      Our military has more of a stake in peace than lawyer-politicians. Yet Hillary and the State Department condone Feinstein’s provocative but unnecessary “torture” self expose.


      Reply to: Hillary Clinton’s and Diane Feinstein’s “Empathy” …
      The level of respect given, or attempts at understandingcannot be the same for each culture. Those who forget that the Islamist enemy is anathema to our way of life, to the U.S. Constitution, and its freedom of religion (including atheism), well deserve to be sent to their side of the line to preach State Department empathy and see how what it gets them.

    2. bud

      The drones are wrong. Why can’t conservatives acknowledge CIA during the Bush years was also wrong? And by the way the drones started under Bush.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        Where do you draw the line with respect to interrogation of unlawful combatants? Is it the same line for uniformed soldiers?

        What is out-of-bounds, and why? What is acceptable, and why?

    3. bud

      The word “alegedly” has become overused. I don’t think it applies here. These charges seem factual.

  6. Brad Warthen Post author

    My default position is pretty much the same as Graham’s and McCain’s: Torture is wrong. We don’t do that. It’s not consistent with who we are, Jack Bauer aside.

    But then I remember watching “Zero Dark Thirty,” which pushed the idea that “enhanced interrogation techniques” DID lead us to bin Laden.

    But THEN… I think, was it essential that we get bin Laden? I mean, if we had to torture people to get him, did we have to get him (and by get him, I of course mean kill him)? Because the conditions that lead to terrorism still exist.

    Of course, one of those conditions is that because we are the world’s largest liberal democracy, we air this dirty laundry, and that leads to more terrorism — like Abu Ghraib.

    Things that SHOULD redound to the credit of the United States and make it more respected — the fact that we will blow the whistle on ourselves, and act to correct abuses, rather than hiding them — so often have the opposite effect…

    1. bud

      Geez Brad is it so damn difficult to grasp the obvious duh lesson from all of this? We need to stay away from the ME. Then we won’t have so much dirty laundry to air.

  7. Brad Warthen

    John McCain has a different take from his friend Lindsey Graham…

    Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today delivered the following statement on the floor of the U.S. Senate on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on CIA interrogation methods:

    “Mr. President, I rise in support of the release – the long-delayed release – of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s summarized, unclassified review of the so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that were employed by the previous administration to extract information from captured terrorists. It is a thorough and thoughtful study of practices that I believe not only failed their purpose – to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the U.S. and our allies – but actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world.

    “I believe the American people have a right – indeed, a responsibility – to know what was done in their name; how these practices did or did not serve our interests; and how they comported with our most important values.

    “I commend Chairman Feinstein and her staff for their diligence in seeking a truthful accounting of policies I hope we will never resort to again. I thank them for persevering against persistent opposition from many members of the intelligence community, from officials in two administrations, and from some of our colleagues.

    “The truth is sometimes a hard pill to swallow. It sometimes causes us difficulties at home and abroad. It is sometimes used by our enemies in attempts to hurt us. But the American people are entitled to it, nonetheless.

    “They must know when the values that define our nation are intentionally disregarded by our security policies, even those policies that are conducted in secret. They must be able to make informed judgments about whether those policies and the personnel who supported them were justified in compromising our values; whether they served a greater good; or whether, as I believe, they stained our national honor, did much harm and little practical good.

    “What were the policies? What was their purpose? Did they achieve it? Did they make us safer? Less safe? Or did they make no difference? What did they gain us? What did they cost us? The American people need the answers to these questions. Yes, some things must be kept from public disclosure to protect clandestine operations, sources and methods, but not the answers to these questions.

    “By providing them, the Committee has empowered the American people to come to their own decisions about whether we should have employed such practices in the past and whether we should consider permitting them in the future. This report strengthens self-government and, ultimately, I believe, America’s security and stature in the world. I thank the Committee for that valuable public service.

    “I have long believed some of these practices amounted to torture, as a reasonable person would define it, especially, but not only the practice of waterboarding, which is a mock execution and an exquisite form of torture. Its use was shameful and unnecessary; and, contrary to assertions made by some of its defenders and as the Committee’s report makes clear, it produced little useful intelligence to help us track down the perpetrators of 9/11 or prevent new attacks and atrocities.

    “I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering. Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored.

    “I know, too, that bad things happen in war. I know in war good people can feel obliged for good reasons to do things they would normally object to and recoil from.

    “I understand the reasons that governed the decision to resort to these interrogation methods, and I know that those who approved them and those who used them were dedicated to securing justice for the victims of terrorist attacks and to protecting Americans from further harm. I know their responsibilities were grave and urgent, and the strain of their duty was onerous.

    “I respect their dedication and appreciate their dilemma. But I dispute wholeheartedly that it was right for them to use these methods, which this report makes clear were neither in the best interests of justice nor our security nor the ideals we have sacrificed so much blood and treasure to defend.

    “The knowledge of torture’s dubious efficacy and my moral objections to the abuse of prisoners motivated my sponsorship of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibits ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ of captured combatants, whether they wear a nation’s uniform or not, and which passed the Senate by a vote of 90-9.

    “Subsequently, I successfully offered amendments to the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which, among other things, prevented the attempt to weaken Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, and broadened definitions in the War Crimes Act to make the future use of waterboarding and other ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ punishable as war crimes.

    “There was considerable misinformation disseminated then about what was and wasn’t achieved using these methods in an effort to discourage support for the legislation. There was a good amount of misinformation used in 2011 to credit the use of these methods with the death of Osama bin Laden. And there is, I fear, misinformation being used today to prevent the release of this report, disputing its findings and warning about the security consequences of their public disclosure.

    “Will the report’s release cause outrage that leads to violence in some parts of the Muslim world? Yes, I suppose that’s possible, perhaps likely. Sadly, violence needs little incentive in some quarters of the world today. But that doesn’t mean we will be telling the world something it will be shocked to learn. The entire world already knows that we water-boarded prisoners. It knows we subjected prisoners to various other types of degrading treatment. It knows we used black sites, secret prisons. Those practices haven’t been a secret for a decade.

    “Terrorists might use the report’s re-identification of the practices as an excuse to attack Americans, but they hardly need an excuse for that. That has been their life’s calling for a while now.

    “What might come as a surprise, not just to our enemies, but to many Americans, is how little these practices did to aid our efforts to bring 9/11 culprits to justice and to find and prevent terrorist attacks today and tomorrow. That could be a real surprise, since it contradicts the many assurances provided by intelligence officials on the record and in private that enhanced interrogation techniques were indispensable in the war against terrorism. And I suspect the objection of those same officials to the release of this report is really focused on that disclosure – torture’s ineffectiveness – because we gave up much in the expectation that torture would make us safer. Too much.

    “Obviously, we need intelligence to defeat our enemies, but we need reliable intelligence. Torture produces more misleading information than actionable intelligence. And what the advocates of harsh and cruel interrogation methods have never established is that we couldn’t have gathered as good or more reliable intelligence from using humane methods.

    “The most important lead we got in the search for bin Laden came from using conventional interrogation methods. I think it is an insult to the many intelligence officers who have acquired good intelligence without hurting or degrading prisoners to assert we can’t win this war without such methods. Yes, we can and we will.

    “But in the end, torture’s failure to serve its intended purpose isn’t the main reason to oppose its use. I have often said, and will always maintain, that this question isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be. It’s about how we represent ourselves to the world.

    “We have made our way in this often dangerous and cruel world, not by just strictly pursuing our geopolitical interests, but by exemplifying our political values, and influencing other nations to embrace them. When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea, not for a tribe or a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion or for a king, but for an idea that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights. How much safer the world would be if all nations believed the same. How much more dangerous it can become when we forget it ourselves even momentarily.

    “Our enemies act without conscience. We must not. This executive summary of the Committee’s report makes clear that acting without conscience isn’t necessary, it isn’t even helpful, in winning this strange and long war we’re fighting. We should be grateful to have that truth affirmed.

    “Now, let us reassert the contrary proposition: that is it essential to our success in this war that we ask those who fight it for us to remember at all times that they are defending a sacred ideal of how nations should be governed and conduct their relations with others – even our enemies.

    “Those of us who give them this duty are obliged by history, by our nation’s highest ideals and the many terrible sacrifices made to protect them, by our respect for human dignity to make clear we need not risk our national honor to prevail in this or any war. We need only remember in the worst of times, through the chaos and terror of war, when facing cruelty, suffering and loss, that we are always Americans, and different, stronger, and better than those who would destroy us.

    “Thank you.”



    1. M.Prince

      Although I often disagree with Sen. McCain on other matters, here I applaud his position and his consistency over time in speaking out against these practices.

      In this context, it’s also useful to recall some pertinent lines from one of the most intelligent films ever made: A Man for All Seasons, where the main character, Sir Thomas Moore, says:

      “I think that when statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties they lead their country by a short route to chaos.”

      And later, speaking with an overzealous William Roper:

      “William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

      Sir Thomas Moore: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

      William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

      Sir Thomas Moore: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”

  8. bud

    I thought the discussion would focus on the timing of the report. I never dreamed people would be defending freezing people to death.

      1. bud

        Apparently Silence:

        None of this bothers me in the slightest. With the exception of the waterboarding, it all seems like standard fraternity initiation hijinx, and if we have to detain and question a few jihadis, mostly captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan, in order to save American lives, I’m fine with that too.

  9. Bart

    On 9/11/2001, America was attacked on home soil for the first time in 60 years. No one was prepared for it and no one had any idea a terrorist cell could or would slaughter 3,000 in one morning. The Twin Towers were not a military target, they were a civilian target intended to do as much damage to the American psyche as possible. We all watched in horror as the buildings collapsed and killed so many innocent civilians. America was saddened and angry at the same time because this was not an act of war; it was an act of inhumane terrorism on people who had never done anything to deserve their fate on that morning.

    America wanted action and America was angry as hell over the attack. They wanted something done and done immediately. In response to the failure of our intelligence apparatus which had been reduced to relying on other countries for intelligence, the Patriot Act was hastily put together and passed by 357-66 in the House and 99-1 in the Senate. War was declared on the Taliban and al-Quida but the difference between the two and a standing army presented a whole new set of problems that our military and intelligence operatives had to address. The administration knew it had to do something and in order to obey the rules as best as it could under a totally different situation than the ones we faced in a conventional war, the treatment of a uniformed soldier was already established but not so much for the terrorist who could not be easily identified. This was not the Russian army marching on America, it was a terrorist organization and terrorists do not wear uniforms or headbands announcing who they are.

    The administration did consult legal authorities but even the legal authorities had a problem deciding what was acceptable and what was not. Eventually they did decide it was legal to engage in enhanced interrogation techniques because of the difference in status of combatants.

    An inexperienced and decimated CIA with vague and unclear guidelines was given the task to glean information from combatants but without clear guidelines, they went too far in many instances but based on legal opinion at the time, they remained within the law as far as they were concerned. They had no previous experience in situations like this one to draw upon. It is a safe bet that the ones doing the interrogations were not graduates from the Nazi or Stalin Torture Academy either.

    During the time period when the “torture” was going on, 2001 thru 2006, Americans were still angry and wanted results. No one gave much thought about how the “sausage” was made at the time and in most instances, didn’t care. When the methods were revealed, the practices of enhanced interrogation methods were stopped. America realized at the time it was wrong to torture but just as it is in any war situation, even good people will take things a step further than they would under ordinary circumstances.

    Since not once of us who are regulars on Brad’s blog was sitting in the president’s chair and had to make decisions about how to protect the citizens of this country and to prevent another 9/11 can sit in judgment after the fact. Opinons yes, judgment no. Answer this – what would you have done under the same set of circumstances and in the same time period? Would you have a “beer summit” in the Rose Garden with representatives of the Taliban and al-Quida to discuss our differences? Or would you have taken the gloves off and went after the cowardly terrorist organizations who perpetrated the atrocity? It is easy to preen before the cameras and make moralistic judgments on what happened a decade ago.

    McCain has every right to his opinion but when torture is based on the situation in North Vietnamese prison camps and reports coming from tortured prisoners, the torture was not to gather information; it was intentional simply for the sake of inflicting pain. An example was the prisoner who was tortured and beaten after Jane Fonda’s friend commented to one of the guards that the particular prisoner should be taught a lesson in manners.

    The point is that 8 years after the fact, what is the point of releasing the report now that the situation in the ME has flared up again and again, American troops are in the line of fire whether the administration will admit it or not. Americans abroad in countries that present a clear danger when provoked are placed in the necessary position of extra security due to potential and real endangerment of their lives and lives of their friends and family. Will Feinstein and the senators responsible for releasing the report be willing to accept the harm or death of any American or American ally due to the release of the report? Will the harm or deaths be justified if they come to pass because of political expediency?

    I do not buy the reasons Democrats were so anxious to release the report, not for one moment. It is 100% political and deserving of Hillary’s response during the Benghazi hearings: “What difference at this point does it make?”

    For the record, I am not in favor of torture, never have been.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      The civility guideline on this blog (and my own sense of decorum) prevents me from saying what I really think of the politicians who asked CIA to do a job, but then subsequently throw CIA under the bus for doing what everyone asked them to do.

      1. Doug Ross

        But, Bryan, they didn’t just “do their job”. They did whatever they wanted to do and LIED to the people and Congress about what they did, The head of the CIA sat in front of Congress and lied repeatedly. Who asked him to do that job? These are people who believe they are above the law.

        As for Bart’s statement about “based on legal opinion at the time”, I can only say that I’d like to be informed of the last time a President wasn’t able to find a legal opinion that supported his desires. How many of those lawyers offering opposing views remain in their jobs? We all know how it works: The president’s chief of staff goes to the Department of Justice and says “We want to do X. Find a way to justify it.” Even if they know it won’t hold up, it gives the President cover long enough to do it.

        Bush and Cheney (my guess, mostly Cheney driving Bush to “man up”) had an agenda and did what they had to do to get it done. And it failed.

        Seriously, they waterboarded one guy 183 times! 183! And they got nothing meaningful out of it. Whoever authorized it should be in prison.

        1. Mark Stewart

          Cheney, Rumsfield, Gonzales, Card – and of course George W. Bush. And I am sure many others, unfortunately, are either guilty of supporting this “policy” or (really just as bad though more understandable) condoning its implementation.

          It’s amazing that the CIA got this so wrong, given their long history of getting publicly whipped for implementing ill-considered actions. Just because they were ordered to do something does not fully absolve the CIA – especially when they did repeatedly lie to Congress (even behind closed doors) about the very sorts of things that the legislature ought to be aware of. However, first and foremost this was a moral failure of the White House to provide proper leadership and executive direction.

        2. Mike Cakora

          My goodness, our modern society has such a loose definition of torture. In the good old days, severing limbs or, in the case of males, appendages used for evacuation of liquids for insemination or wastes disposal, or even piercing / slicing / burning the flesh to elicit information, that was torture. Using a power drill or saw or electric knife today produces the same effect.

          Their torture manuals provide instruction on removing eyeballs. Is that temporary inconvenience or permanent disfiguration?

          Yet that you would equate such barbarous behavior with keeping some captive awake for extended periods, causing discomfort in breathing and the like to be outrageous? What permanent damage is done?

          And what do you expect of the civil servant charged with protecting the nation who is confronted with a person or persons that may have knowledge of an attack that may kill one or ten or ten thousand Americans? Recite the Miranda rights or do whatever seems prudent to get the information?

          1. M.Prince

            I expect that civil servant to abide by international norms and laws as agreed to through treaty and custom. You are simply wrong (and so was the Bush Administration) when it comes to defining torture. The International Committee of the Red Cross, one of whose missions is to monitor compliance with the Geneva Conventions, says in its report on detainee treatment:

            “…the ill-treatment to which they [the detainees] were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition, many other elements of the ill-treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment.”

            Both torture as well as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are illegal under the Third Geneva Convention. They are also illegal under the 1984 Convention Against Torture and under the War Crimes Act of 1996.

            These may seem like mere legalisms to you, but they are the glue that holds things together. The fact that someone or group does something bad to you does not give you the right to do likewise to them. Moreover, I would suggest that much of what was done likely occurred more to quell the desire for retribution than out of any need to obtain information. It’s the keenness to appease powerful, ugly emotions that we have to guard against. And that’s the purpose of law.

    2. bud

      McCain has every right to his opinion but when torture is based on the situation in North Vietnamese prison camps and reports coming from tortured prisoners, the torture was not to gather information;

      And so do you Bart, but in this case you are wrong about virtually everything. First of all we don’t know exactly why McCain was tortured but it was at least in part to gather information. Second, it seems plausible that given the tawdry background of some of our people they were torturing as much for entertainment as information gathering. Plus, we imprisoned Japanese “interogators” for waterboarding citing the obvious fact that it was torture. And torture not only runs against our sensibilities as a nation but it’s also illegal under international law. You can holler 9-11 all day long but we are not entitled to implement any activity we wish just because of 9-11. And frankly it’s an intellectually lazy argument.

      The folks who orchestrated this torture rampage should be brought to justice. It seems our former “5 deferments” VP is a likely felon.

      1. Bart

        bud, apparently comprehension is beyond your “comprehension”. There were other prisoners in North Vietnam other than McCain and their recounts pretty much confirm the fact that they were tortured for no other reason than to inflict pain.

        What is intellectually lazy is your constant meme and harping about the evil empire of GWB and hearkening back to Japanese war crimes which by the way, to this day they won’t accept responsibility. No, continue with your constant diatribes against anything that is reasonable or doesn’t agree with your closed little world of leftist delusion. It makes for good entertainment and a hearty laugh.

        Maybe you should read former Senator Bob Kerry’s comments about the report. He makes the same points I did on almost everything.

        Looking forward to your next post, I need a laugh to end the week.

  10. Brad Warthen Post author

    I don’t have time to get into this today, but I plan to write a post explaining why THIS is an actual problem with our intelligence apparatus, unlike the stuff Edward Snowden made such a ruckus about. THIS was wrong; what the NSA does is not. Torture is worth getting upset about, metadata is not…

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