Torture is wrong. So are less physically brutal but still deplorable “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs) such as sleep deprivation and enforced, humiliating nudity. Torture and EITs aren’t just morally wrong: neither works.
The United States has admitted to using enhanced interrogation techniques on prisoners in the war on terror. Yet Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence recently released information about American use of EITs on suspected terrorists. This was not done for the sake of clarity; most of the information has already been released, just not in one centralized and highly publicized source. This wasn’t to ensure that the use of EITs does not happen again; legislation and executive orders already ban the use of degrading interrogation tactics.
Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.) and her cronies are using their last vestige of power in the twilight of the Democrat’s Senate majority to make a political move. Even former Democratic committee member Bob Kerry condemned the current committee’s Democrats for partisanship. What they are doing is reckless, selfish, and obtuse.
To what degree had the US government already come clean on and corrected its shameful interrogations? It has declassified the CIA’s KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation manual. Authorized books—one here and another here—published by those familiar with CIA interrogations conceded that torture was used. The 2005 Detainee Treatment Act prohibits the use of any interrogation technique not outlined in the US Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation. President Obama issued Executive Order #13491 on “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations” in 2009.
The released report, which was covered widely in national and international media, says the CIA misled the Bush Administration and the public about the brutality of its interrogations. Yet the books mentioned above and a CIA response last year to the Senate Intelligence Committee cochairs about this investigation admits many of the faults the report highlights.
In releasing their report, Senate Democrats likely will temporarily boost their approval ratings among constituents. They will be lauded by human rights activists and pundits. But the global ramifications will be severe. Fundamentalist groups such as ISIS, which already have used American imprisonment of Muslims at Guantanamo Bay for propaganda, will seize on the report to garner more support. Governments already unfriendly to the United States will use it as rhetorical ammunition. The United States, a country with an already low global approval rating, will see its soft power greatly decrease.
Moreover, allies that have allowed us to conduct interrogations in their own countries will face major backlash. Congress has neglected to involve these countries—many of them former Soviet satellites—in any discussion regarding the report’s release. This will damage American credibility not only with these states but also with any other potential partner of the United States in intelligence gathering and sharing.
Many politicians now condemning the CIA were egging it on 10 years ago in the wake of 9/11 to obtain intelligence by any means necessary. Democratic Intelligence Committee member Jay Rockefeller told an interviewer in 2003 that he was open to turning over a captured 9/11 organizer to torture-practicing US allies. “I wouldn’t rule it out. I wouldn’t take anything off the table where he is concerned, because this is the man who has killed hundreds and hundreds of Americans over the last 10 years,” Rockefeller said at the time.
The CIA is obligated to report to Congress any activity it carries out, particularly covert action. It is highly unlikely that members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees were ignorant of interrogation activity. They knew exactly what was going on since 2002 and didn’t stop it until three years later, in 2005.
If Congress wants to guarantee that the CIA will never use EITs again, it should hold closed hearings with those involved in the interrogation programs. The use of EITs is wrong, but that does not mean that Democrats have the right to disseminate information about the CIA’s use of such tactics in one centralized source for political purposes. Intelligence oversight has become a soapbox from which self-righteous members of Congress condemn men and women acting on the orders of Congress and the president. These people have dedicated their lives to serving our country without ceremony or public acknowledgment. They give up their identities to protect us. Most of the time, CIA officers are only recognized for their mistakes by bloodthirsty Congressional committees.
The CIA’s deplorable interrogations were committed in a climate of fear and obsession with preventing another 9/11. Releasing records of them to the public not only creates an immense security threat and undermines American influence around the world, it also diminishes the brave work done by CIA employees.
Alexandra Neenan (CAS’16), an international relations major who is minoring in Arabic, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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