Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor
This past week’s news reports of the Senate report on the CIA Torture program were both distressing and enlightening. I was dismayed to not only read what the full extent of the CIA’s Torture program was, but also when I read pundits and former CIA officials claim that rectal rehydration was merely a medical procedure! I was further discouraged when commenters on this blog made claims that waterboarding and other torture tactics were either necessary or what the devils deserved.
Very few pundits or commenters seem to care if the so-called Enhanced Interrogation techniques were legal or ethical when the CIA resorted to them shortly after 9/11. This “debate” over the actions taken in our name by the CIA has gone from a report based on the CIA’s own words to denials that the techniques were torture, to claims that great intelligence value was gained using the torture and claims that it was a biased report written by Democrats.
When we were attacked on September 11, 2001, most of the world was supporting the United States in its hours of grief and anger. What happened after the attacks quickly turned the tide of world opinion against us and created new enemies. When the CIA delved into its historical “playbook” to devise black sites and brutal interrogation techniques, the result, in my opinion, was a loss of our ethical and legal bearings that are still out of whack today.
When our greatest generation fought enemies stronger and just as brutal as what we face today, our forces were held to a higher standard than the enemy we were fighting. The idea that America does not torture or mistreat its prisoners or enemies is not a new one. It dates back at least to when General George Washington decided that British regulars and paid mercenaries fighting for the British were not to be mistreated in our detention facilities.
He made that decision knowing what too many of our soldiers had experienced under the hands of the British forces. We were supposed to be better than our enemies.
When the CIA delved into the black sites and torture techniques, another US agency, the FBI balked and questioned the tactics being practiced by the CIA. The FBI was gaining valuable information from al Qaeda operative, Abu Zubaydah, after his capture in March of 2002, but that all changed when he was put into isolation for 47 days.
“The Senate report describes the F.B.I. questioning — both in the hospital and later at the black site — as successful. Intelligence reports indicate he provided valuable information, but denied knowing anything about plots against America. But agency officials believed he was holding out. In response, Mr. Mitchell offered a menu of interrogation options.
While C.I.A. and Justice Department lawyers debated the legality of the tactics, the report reveals, Mr. Zubaydah was left alone in a cell in Thailand for 47 days. The Senate report asserts that isolation, not resistance, was the reason he stopped talking in June. Mr. Soufan said he was livid when he read that. “What kind of ticking-bomb scenario is this if you can leave him in isolation for 47 days?” he said.
For three weeks in August 2002, Mr. Zubaydah was questioned using the harshest measures available, including waterboarding. But the Senate report says he never revealed information about a plot against the United States. The C.I.A. concluded he had no such information.” New York Times
The CIA has used harsh interrogation and torture during past wars and conflicts and eventually the agency was brought under control. Waterboarding is torture, no matter what name it is given. Isolation, rectal rehydration, sleep deprivation, to name a few, are torture. We have prosecuted past enemies for waterboarding and even some of our soldiers who crossed the legal and moral line.
Why is it now only a crime if our enemies do it to us? Will we regain the soul of America again and finally get past partisan grievances to retake the moral standing of our nation?
We talk often on this blog about the rule of law. Whether it is a President who is grabbing more power for the Executive Branch or citizens of color who seemingly are undervalued by our Justice system. An argument can be made that ever since money starting taking control of our government, we have lost our rule of law because the wealthy and powerful seem to be immune to prosecution. Does the CIA stand above the rule of law?
Will the CIA be brought under control? Will government officials who authorized the torture and those that carried it out and those that refused to prosecute it be brought to justice? I submit that if we do not get control over the CIA our collective souls will continue to suffer in our eyes and in the eyes of the world. As Ali H. Soufan, the former FBI interrogator mentioned earlier says, our actions have consequences.
“‘We played into the enemy’s hand,” said Ali H. Soufan, a former F.B.I. agent who clashed with the C.I.A. over its interrogation tactics. “Now we have American hostages in orange jumpsuits because we put people in orange jumpsuits.”’ New York Times It is an overused phrase, but it fits here:
“The whole world is watching.”
Only we can resurrect the soul of America. We are better than torture. At least we used to be.
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