The release of a 525 page summary known as the Torture Report, which is part of a larger 6,000 page classified report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, has highlighted a lingering disquiet.
The report attempts to show mistakes and failings by the CIA in dealing with 119 detainees between 2002-2008, and EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques) used to procure information from those terror suspects. Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the committee, declared “history will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say never again.” While the White House has applauded the transparency this report supposedly delivers, much division remains as to the necessity of its public release, and the retaliation it may bring.
America of September 11, 2001 and beyond is very different than before, when the supposed appearance of safety was made so by oceans and distance. We were used to terror taking place on far off fields of conflict, not on our soil and not against our civilians. But it did happen, and the resulting reaction felt by the majority of the nation fell in line with President Bush’s declaration while standing at ground zero: “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people — and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” United against terror, or at least that’s how it felt.
The foreword to the newly released report, written by Senator Feinstein, firstly recalls the horror of that September day, then states: “Nevertheless, such pressure, fear, and expectation of further terrorist plots do not justify, temper, or excuse improper actions taken by individuals or organizations in the name of national security. The major lesson of this report is that regardless of the pressures and the need to act, the Intelligence Community’s actions must always reflect who we are as a nation, and adhere to our laws and standards.
“The report details actions taken against the detainees such as sleep deprivation up to 180 hours, waterboarding, ice water baths, threats, and rectal rehydration. An isolated example involves one detainee who had been chained to the floor, and died from hypothermia. In reviewing these specifics, I can’t help but conclude that some went beyond anything necessary to close in on the goal of obtaining information from suspects. Rehydration, the non-medical kind, and a detainee dying from hypothermia? Those are excessive, in my opinion.
Reaction against the truth in the report has been immediate, with many describing its contents as horrific and brutal. Even Republican Senator John McCain, a Vietnam veteran subjected to torture himself, declared it “stained our national honor.” Furthermore, the effectiveness of these techniques is under just as much scrutiny, with many saying the strength of such claims was not presented in a truthful manner. However, John Brennan, the CIA Director, countered by saying such tactics did in fact provide intelligence of great use, and decried claims about the lack of trust in the agency. Still, brutal and misleading is the conclusion by the media, and many on the Left.
To the armchair observer, a quick summation of the report’s findings leads one to believe in a cruel America, a country stooping to its enemies’ level. As a non-military American citizen, the shocking details don’t so much disgust me as ground me to the reality that is the post-9/11 modern era. I don’t presume to know what occurs behind closed doors here or abroad, among the ones tasked with our defense. I am not privy to these happenings, but I have enough sober sense to realize the uncomfortable does occur. When revealed, as in the case of this report, too many recoil at its findings and deem every aspect it contains to be unacceptable in a “just society.” However, I question those like Senator Feinstein who decry the actions contained in the report, yet stand strongly in support of abortion rights. Does her definition of a “just society” only extend to life outside the womb? Or to the Obama administration, whose support of drone strikes against US citizens was questioned, and disclosure requested. Where is the transparency in those extreme actions, or justification for non-battlefield violence such as that?
To conclude that treatment experienced by terror detainees undermines our entire fight against terror, or our societal leanings as a whole, is a hyper-emotional response to reality. As previously stated, some techniques experienced by just a handful of suspects crossed the line. That being said, I believe the public release of these findings does more harm than good, and incentivizes existing enemies. These days, the previous safety secured by oceans and distance has all but disappeared. That truth was not created by us, but forced upon us by those seeking our destruction. We must answer with force, or risk losing the very society we praise.