TORTURE REPORT DRAWS FIRE

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By Miriam Raftery

December 9, 2014 (Washington D.C.) --California Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has released a 500-page executive summary of  the committee’s report on enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA after the 9/11 attacks. Those treatments on 119 suspects amounted to torture in some cases, said Senator Feinstein, who concludes that the CIA’s actions a decade ago are “a stain on our values and on our history.”

The torture began in 2002 under the George W. Bush administration and ended in January 2009 after President Barack Obama took office. The report reveals that the CIA briefed Vice President Cheney and other Bush administration officials on its tactics as early as 2003, but kept President Bush in the dark about details of the program that he authorized until nearly four years later.

When he learned of the harsh tactics, President Bush was uncomfortable with them, but did not order a halt to the torture. The CIA also misled the Justice Department, Congress and the American public, the report reveals. The CIA sought to prevent release of information in the report to the public.

President Barack Obama supports release of the report. But some Republican leaders have criticized the committee for releasing the information, citing fears that it could spark violent retribution against Americans.

But Senator Feinstein said that turmoil and instability in the world are likely to continue in the foreseeable future whether the report was released or not.  In a statement delivered on the Senate Floor she concludes that “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.’”

The committee spent five years poring over more than 6.3 million pages of CIA records.  So far only the executive summary has been released, though Feinstein says it is backed up by a 6,700 page classified report that can be released if necessary at a later time.

The report finds that the tactics used by the CIA were not only brutal and a violation of the International Convention against Torture. Moreover the torture tactics were not effective, failing to provide any useful intelligence.

The report also reveals that the CIA misled policy-makers about the inhumane tactics used and the program’s effectiveness.

One detainee was deprived of sleep for over a week. Some were forced to stand with hands tied over their heads, chained to the ceiling, for extended periods of time and one died of hypothermia under these conditions.  One man was forced to stand on broken feet for a prolonged period. Prisoners were punched, slapped, stripped naked, kept in total darkness, forced to endure rectal feedings and other painful procedures.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed release of the study is  an “ideologically motivated and distorted recounting of historical events” by Senate Democrats.  The GOP leader insists that the torture did result in useful intelligence, yet did not cite specific examples.

Republican Senator John McCain, who survived torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, broke with his party leadership to condemn the CIA’s actions and support release of the Intelligence Committee’s report.  Senator McCain said the torture techniques detailed in the report "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."

He states that the fact the U.S. engaged in torture such as water boarding was already known, thus he sees no reason for withholding the additional details disclosed in the report.

The Arizona Senator says he knows from personal experience that abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. He adds that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it and that it will stop their suffering.

"Most of all,” Senator McCain concludes, “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."