Would you like to read a report documenting the ways the CIA misled not only the U.S. people, but also Congress and the Department of Justice on ‘harsh interrogation techniques’? Well, in the next 30 days, Obama has the option of declassifying the 6,200 page report that the Senate Committee on Intelligence has taken years to assemble. Once it’s been declassified, full details will hit the American airwaves, and we can expect to feel the aftershocks of this for years to come.
During the height of the Iraq war, the United States became embroiled in a debate about what, exactly, torture was. As ‘harsh interrogation techniques’ leaked to newswires, activities such as water boarding and stress positions were decried and supported by pundits on either side. Sean Hannity famously volunteered to waterboarding for charity. Although he never actually went through with it, his stance was firmly in the ‘not that big of a deal’ camp. Others pointed out that if the United States tortures prisoners, then we have no moral standing if our citizens and soldiers are tortured similarly.
During much of this, the Senate Committee on Intelligence began an investigation into detention programs and interrogation techniques. Requesting tapes of interrogation as well as internal memoranda, emails and cabals, complaints were made that the evidence they sought was being systematically destroyed.
When the destruction of the tapes from two major interrogations came to light, it was quick to divide and enrage those on both sides of the aisle. Some argued that this was tantamount to destroying evidence, a felony. Others argued that the notes from the interrogation sessions still existed and should provide more than enough information.
Still, regardless of attempts to conceal techniques, the findings still show just how broken the CIA has become. Not only did the CIA develop methods without any oversight from the Justice System, it actively withheld and misrepresented evidence on numerous occasions. There’s even evidence the CIA used psychologists to give false testimony on the safety issues surrounding the torture.
Yet some of those named in the report, such as psychologist James Mitchell, have come out swinging amid the possible declassification of the report. “I’m skeptical about the Senate report, because I do not believe that every analyst whose jobs and promotions depended upon it, who were professional intelligence experts, all them lied to protect a program? All of them were wrong? All of these [CIA] directors were wrong? All of the people who were using the intel to go get people were wrong? And 10 years later a Senate staffer was able to put it together and finally there’s clarity? I am just highly skeptical that that’s the truth.”
In what has been called a leaked version of the document’s ultimate findings, the Senate Committee seems to counter the idea that the CIA was gathering time-sensitive evidence that would otherwise disrupt the lives of thousands of unsuspecting Americans (you know, the typical 24 scenario).
The findings conclude that not only did the CIA lie to the Justice Department and withhold evidence, the evidence they did provide did not show that any substantial intelligence was gained from the use of these techniques. It also states that the brutality of the techniques were often withheld from the public and Senate Committee, that the CIA leaked certain issues to the media to manipulate its perceived legitimacy, and that such techniques cost the United States its reputation globally.
For many, torture is a black and white issue. We don’t torture not only because it is inhumane, but it is ineffective. For others, who think life is like an action movie, it’s the only way to defuse that nuclear bomb hidden in a subway somewhere. The reality is, the CIA functioned with impunity on a global level. It was funded by our tax dollars and to imagine it has been shut down completely, after so many lies, seems farfetched. The global public will have their own chance to review the document in its entirety when it is declassified. Until then, we can only hope that such programs cease to exist in the future.