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In an interview in September 2006 with then-CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, President George W. Bush said, “I’ve said to the people that we don’t torture, and we don’t.”
Today, eight years later, a 528- page summary report, the result of “an exhaustive, five-year Senate investigation of the CIA’s secret interrogations of terrorism suspects” tells a much different story.
According to the Washington Post, the investigation “renders a strikingly bleak verdict of a program launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, describing levels of brutality, dishonesty and seemingly arbitrary violence that at times brought even agency employees to moments of anguish.”
The report by the Senate Intelligence Committee delivers new allegations of cruelty in a program whose severe tactics has been abundantly documented, revealing that agency medical personnel voiced alarm that waterboarding methods had deteriorated to “a series of near drownings” and that agency employees subjected detainees to “rectal rehydration” and other painful procedures that were never approved.
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.”
Almost as damning, “The report’s central conclusion is that harsh interrogation measures, deemed torture by program critics including President Obama, didn’t work.”
Read more here
Of course, Dick Cheney, who has not read the report yet and who has been a staunch supporter of torture has come out to praise the torturers: “They deserve a lot of praise,” Mr. Cheney said. “As far as I’m concerned, they ought to be decorated, not criticized.”
Hubristic and petulant as always Cheney added, “[the program was] the right thing to do, and if I had to do it over again, I would do it.”
To Cheney’s “credit” — if that is an appropriate term under the circumstances — he admits that he and the rest of the White House knew all about it, and, characteristically, calls the reported conclusion by the Senate Intelligence Committee that the C.I.A. misled the White House, “just a crock.”
Read more here
And, in contrast, the statement by Secretary of State John Kerry:
“Release of this report affirms again that one of America’s strengths is our democratic system’s ability to recognize and wrestle with our own history, acknowledge mistakes, and correct course. This marks a coda to a chapter in our history. President Obama turned the page on these policies when he took office and during week one banned the use of torture and closed the detention and interrogation program. It was right to end these practices for a simple but powerful reason: they were at odds with our values. They are not who we are, and they’re not who or what we had to become, because the most powerful country on earth doesn’t have to choose between protecting our security and promoting our values.
Now this report sheds light on this period that’s more than five years behind us, so we can discuss and debate our history – and then look again to the future.
As that debate is joined, I want to underscore that while it’s uncomfortable and unpleasant to reexamine this period, it’s important that this period not define the intelligence community in anyone’s minds. Every single day, the State Department and our diplomats and their families are safer because of the men and women of the CIA and the Intelligence Community. They sign up to serve their country the same way our diplomats and our military do. They risk their lives to keep us safe and strengthen America’s foreign policy and national security. The awful facts of this report do not represent who they are, period. That context is also important to how we understand history.”
Lead image: www.shutterstock.com
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.