The Ethics of Torture may be an oxymoron. The use of torture used throughout history provokes much
discussion. Can the use of torture be justified on ethical grounds? There may be pragmatic reasons to
favor its use in extreme situations like the war on terror. But the ethics of government and society are
based on the rule of law; both national laws and the constitution, and international laws to which our
Torture is prohibited under international law and the domestic laws of most nations, including the United States. Torture is considered a violation of human rights, unacceptable by Article 5 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States signed the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the additional Protocols 1 & 2 of 8 June 1977. By doing so the US officially agreed not to torture captured persons in armed conflicts, whether international or internal.
The war on terror has led to violations of the national and international laws against by the armed services and the CIA, and we examine the evidence of these violations at Guantanano and in other American overseas prisons.
The Ethics of Torture.
The war on terror which we have been waging for a generation has led our nation away from the
founding ideals of the constitution. In order to further our war aims, we have stooped to the use of
torture, thus deeply affecting our moral stature with our allies and indeed throughout the free world.
There is no system of ethics that can condone torture, though frequently its use is allowed for pragmatic
Torture is prohibited under international law and the domestic laws of most nations, including the United States. Torture is considered a violation of human rights, unacceptable by Article 5 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States signed the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the additional Protocols 1 & 2 of 8 June 1977. By doing so the US officially agreed not to torture captured persons in armed conflicts, whether international or internal. Torture is also prohibited by the UN Convention against Torture, which has been ratified by 157 countries. (United Nations Treaty Collection) So why you may ask is the United States and other nations still using torture in the 21st Century.
What are the ethical arguments either in favor of, or against the use of torture in war and peace?
There are many issues to be raised, and many questions to be asked. Despite UN and other treaty provisions that ban the use of torture, why do some countries, including the United States, still use it? Does the US war on terror have to involve the use of EITs (Enhanced Interrogation Methods) of suspects, which the US practices only outside the USA at sites in Cuba, Poland, Rumania, Thailand, Jordan and Egypt? Do other Western nations object to this US flouting of International Law and the Geneva Conventions. Will any American ever be held accountable by law in future years for grievous violations of the Geneva Conventions against torture? Can other Western free nations do to help stop the Pentagon and the CIA’s grievous violations of both American and International law by their torture of unconvicted suspects? What can the United States do to help stop torture in other parts of the world ? This paper will seek to answer questions which American journalists have repeatedly asked their own American government, only to be told that many answers are classified and cannot be published.
We will then examine if the use of torture can be ethically justified in any scenarios? Then we move on to evidence of past and present use of torture by American governments in the war on terror, a war that may continue indefinitely. Next we will examine how former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and former Vice President Dick Cheney used a specific attorney, former Deputy Assistant Attorney- General John Woo, to provide a legal fig leaf to justify their orders to the US military. We will show how the permission to use enhanced interrogation techniques (often excused as ‘flexibility’) led to the corruption of torture first of the military At Guantanamo, and later in Iraq. Corruption spread to the CIA and its black sites in various overseas locations. Lastly we will speculate how the war against terror
may be continued in a legal and just manner. In 2006 when the torture policies mostly came to an end Attorney General of the United States Navy, Albert Mora summed up the tragedy of the war succinctly. “When you put together the pieces, it’s all so sad. To preserve ‘flexibility’, they were willing to throw away our values.”
Moral philosophers often present their arguments in favor of, or against the use of torture as between utilitarian versus deontological viewpoints. Utilitarian thinkers that torture can be justified if it results in obtaining information that saves many lives, i.e., that the ends justify the means and they often employ the “ticking bomb case argument.” Here the suspect must be made to confess as quickly as possible, even though the “ticking bomb” may be purely theoretical. The opposing view of torture, the deontological argument (from the Greek “deon” meaning duty) proposes moral absolutes, values and rules which must be observed, regardless of consequences.
Some scholars have argued that the pressingly urgent need for information outweighs any moral and ethical arguments against torture. Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz argues that “in extreme situations, in order to prevent a tragedy, a “torture warrant” should be issued by US courts, to use hot needles under the nails, for example. This warrant would be open to public scrutiny, even though it would be against the Geneva Conventions and other international treaties. (Yasmin Alibhai-Brown)
One of the reasons torture endures is that torture indeed works to extract information or confessions. Judge Richard Posner of the United States Courts of Appeal Seventh Circuit argues that “if torture is the only means of obtaining the information necessary to prevent the detonation of a nuclear bomb in Times Square, torture should be used - and will be used - to obtain the information…no one who doubts that this is the case should be in a position of responsibility.”(Posner, US Court of Appeal, 7th Circuit).
Recent academic justification for using torture came from two Australian professors at Deakin University in Victoria, Australia. Professor Mirko Bagaric, a Croation–born, Australian-based author and lawyer and his fellow law lecturer Julie Clarke in their article published by the University of San Francisco law review argue that “when many lives are in imminent danger, ‘all forms of harm’ may be inflicted on a suspect, even if this might result in annihilation”. (Bagaric1) They propose that it would be better to legalize torture because “as a society we would accept that one person being killed to save thousands is legitimate.” Professor Bagaric concedes that “it is far more repugnant to inflict harm on an innocent person than a wrongdoer”, but he asserts his main position that “in some extreme cases, where it is almost certain someone has information that could prevent many lives being lost and there is no other way to obtain that information, the mere fact that they are not directly involved in creating that threat doesn’t mean they can wash their hands of responsibility.” (Bagharic2)
In complete contrast to Bagharic and Clarke’s opinion, experienced CIA Intelligence officers have recently come forward to state that not only does torture not save lives, but it can result in false information, since people undergoing torture will say anything just to make the torture stop (Rothrock). Neuroscientists have added that torture may damage a person’s mental ability to tell the truth. (The Daily Beast)
Worse still, many governments use torture ” not as a method of gaining information, but as a method of terrorizing and subjugating the population, enabling state forces to dispense with ordinary means of establishing innocence or guilt, and with the whole legal apparatus altogether.” (Dershowitz 134) Dershowitz goes on to argue that it may be better “for a few individuals be killed by suicide bombers than that thousands of innocent people may be tortured and murdered and legal and constitutional protections destroyed.”
Let us turn to a Christian viewpoint in favor of torture from Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in his speech on “Torture and the War on Terror.” He argues “under certain circumstances, most morally sensitive persons would surely allow interrogators to yell at prisoners and to use psychological intimidation, sleep deprivation, and the removal of creature comforts for purposes of obtaining vital information. In increasingly serious cases, most would likely allow some use of pharmaceuticals and more intensive and manipulative psychological techniques. In the most extreme of conceivable cases most would also allow the use of far more serious mechanisms of coercion – even what we would all agree should be labeled as torture.” (Mohler) So there you have it: most Baptists would allow all these torture techniques if the circumstances demanded it.
Although the case against torture is argued by many who contend that it is an unreliable means of obtaining useful information, and even though it is an effective method of controlling a population, the author and philosopher Frantz Fanon argues in The Wretched of the Earth, his remarkable book about the French occupation of Algeria, that torture is a great way to terrorize a people. The French Army used “preventative torture” on entirely innocent people to stop them doing anything in future; the most effective method of terror was to force large amounts of water into the suspect’s colon, leaving no marks on the body; the victim usually died within a week of a ruptured colon. Those of you who have seen the Israeli feature film Behind theWalls will have seen the Israeli intelligence interrogating and breaking down Palestinian prisoners using the same humiliating methods.
Torture has been the subject of philosophical discussion through the ages. The European statesman Machiavelli writes in his Advice to Princes that violence is sometimes necessary, but that princes’ behavior will affect his public image, and his reputation will affect his ability to keep in power. In general, Machiavelli feels that the ends justify the means. He holds that violence may be necessary in the establishment of power and the introduction of new state legal institutions. Force may be used to eliminate political rivals, to coerce resistant populations, and to purge the community of other men strong enough of character to challenge the ruler.
Interestingly, Machiavelli in his writings on “The Mirror for Princes” recommends that leaders be models of virtue, always upholding the highest moral standards and being honest, trustworthy, generous and merciful. But he also says that since a prince is surrounded by unscrupulous people he must compete with them if he is to survive. So a prince should be careful to avoid all those who would severely damage his reputation and therefore his power. “Many things that appear good would damage a prince’s power, and many things that appear bad will enhance it.” (Machiavelli)
In the 21st Century, besides the ethical arguments against torture already discussed, there are very practical reasons why the US should not use torture in its war on terror. Amnesty International’s article “torture and Ill-treatment in the ‘war on terror’ demonstrates that torture is not only immoral, but is also impractical. (Amnesty International 2005) Yet reports from international organizations that monitor abuses of human rights indicate that torture is still widely used by many countries throughout the world. (Amnesty international Report 2006) Legally unable to torture captives on American soil, the CIA has set up “black sites” in countries overseas, including Cuba, Thailand, Poland, Rumania, and Afghanistan. At least 81 world governments currently practice torture, some of them openly. (Amnesty international 2008)
There are several definitions of torture, many of them detailed; U.S. code 2340 is only applicable to persons committing or attempting to commit torture outside the United States. (18 US Code #2340A-Torture). It reads
“A. ”torture means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering upon another person within his custody or physical control. (Examples include the Army at Abu Graib, the CIA at various camps)
B.“the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality. (Examples include CIA sleep deprivation, acute noise, acute cold, forcible feeding via the anus.)
C. the threat of imminent death (the Army at Guantanamo & Special Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan).
D. the threat that another person will imminently subject to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality. (Examples from Special Forces and CIA overseas)
The use of torture has an interesting history. Torture has been used by nations throughout history; Pope Innocent XIV authorized the Inquisition to use torture in 1252 with the papal bull Ad Extirpanda; the bullwasfinally revoked nearly six hundred years later by another papal bull in 1816. But limits to the legal use of torture began much earlier in England. Judges in 1628 declared the use of torture to be contrary to the laws of England (Jardine 1-12), reinforced in 1689 when the British Bill of Rights denounced “cruel and unusual punishment,” a principle later enshrined in American law. In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte wrote to Major-General Berthier that “this method of torture, by putting men to the torture, is useless. The wretches say whatever comes into their heads, and whatever they think one wants to believe.” (Bonaparte 274) Torture was largely outlawed in most European countries in the early part of the 20th century. Tragically, Germans, Japanese and Russians all returned to the use of torture in World War two. By the 1980s torture returned for the purposes of “ideological warfare, political mobilization and the need to win hearts and minds.” A scholarly article, “Tortured Confessions” (p.3) documents the return of torture in the 1980s; the use of torture is now common world-wide.
We cannot just blame the Nazis, KGB and Japanese prison camp commanders. Professor Darius Rejali, in his article Torture American Style asserts that “though dictatorships may have used torture more and more indiscriminately, it is modern democracies, the United States, Britain and France who “pioneered and exported techniques that have become the lingua franca of modern torture, methods that leave no marks. “(Rejali) These interrogation techniques include “sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, fear and humiliation to severe sexual and cultural humiliation and the use of threats and phobias to induce fear of death and injury.” (google.com) Though both the United States Constitution and United States law prohibit the use of torture, it has occurred during the war on terror under the euphemism EIT, which stands for “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
So lets get to the documented facts of torture by the US, released by various government investigations and numerous reports following the wake of the public outcry over the Abu Ghraib torture and abuse. The Taube, Schlesinger and Fay-Jones reports all criticize the interrogation methods and confirm that the entire government chain of command was responsible for the torture and abuse at the Iraqi prison. (voices4democracy.org.39)
If torture is considered a war crime, then many of the Bush Administration personnel who ordered or legitimized the use of EITs could be accused of war crimes. The list would include former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA director George Tenet, former Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Dr. Stephen Cambone, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, Major General Walter Wojdakowski, Major General Geoffrey Miller, Colonel Thomas Pappas, Major General Barbara Fast, Colonel Marc Warren, former Chief White House Council Alberto R. Gonzalez, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, former General Counsel of the Department of Defense William James Haynes II, and former Chief Counsel David S. Addington.
Because torture is still considered illegal in most civilized countries including the United States, there can be no normal framework for establishing guilt or innocence, either of the torturers, or of their victims. A large percentage of torture victims are innocent of crimes, or are victims of mistaken identity. One widely recognized example of an innocent man be tortured is Khalid el-Masri, an innocent German citizen who was kidnapped and sent to a ‘black site’ for torture by the CIA, because he had the same name as the Al_Quaida chief Khalid al-Masri. The Red Cross estimates that 80% of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were the “wrong people.” (Washington Monthly 16). The New York Times estimates that as few as two dozen of the 600 detainees once held at Guantanamo had any potential intelligence value even if it could be tortured out of them. Meanwhile The New YorkTimes states that there are still over 100 prisoners held without trial at Guantanamo who cost the taxpayer $3 million a year each to detain for no good reason. (New York Times)
The author Pierre Vidal Naquet in his book The Cancer of Democracy argues that toleration of torture and arbitrary detention begins to undermine all other aspects of a state’s legitimacy. On the 20th anniversary of the coming into force of the UN Convention against Torture, Naquette is supported by the journalist Philip Henscher of The Independent: he writes “Civilization is at once compromised if, in defense of other freedoms, it decides to accept the possibility of torture.” (Henscher)
If we agree that civil society is compromised by the acceptance of torture, what happens to the victims of EIT torture applied by the officially sanctioned US army and Navy .
In the last fifteen years the White House and the Pentagon has given permission for the use of EITs by the armed forces in contravention of military law. US torture in the Iraq war began on January 19th, 2002 when Secretary Rumsfeld told the chief of US military at the time, Richard B. Myers that those captured in Afghanistan would not be granted prisoner-of-war status as required by the Geneva Convention. Nor would they be given hearings to appeal against this. Instead in a masterpiece of evasive eloquence the government would “mostly treat the prisoners in a way somewhat in accordance with the Geneva Conventions to the extent appropriate.” Six days later Chief White House Counsel Gonzalez sent a memo to President Bush stating his reasons why the US should not follow the Geneva Conventions.
Secretary of State Colin Powell was horrified; he stated that such a decision would undercut America’s moral authority and endanger our soldiers. Journalist Michael Ratner sums it up like this: White House Counsel Gonzalez said to the President in effect: ‘Look, the definition of inhuman is vague; some prosecutor may come along in the future and decide that the way we are treating people is inhuman, and therefore we might be prosecuted, so the best way to avoid prosecution is simply to say the Geneva Conventions don’t apply. If they don’t apply, we can’t violate them.”
President Bush was pleased to agree with this Gonzalez legal opinion and on February 2, 2002 issued a public statement denying prisoner-of-war status to the Taliban and Al Quaida operatives, and also any Geneva Convention protection to alleged terrorists. Assistant Attorney-General Jay Bybee and Deputy Assistant Attorney-General John Woo who advised Gonzalez stated firstly that the president is exempt from laws prohibiting torture, because the President can do whatever he wants in the name of national security. Secondly, Bybee redefined torture so narrowly that almost all coercive interrogation techniques would not constitute torture; for the next two and a half years interrogators could do what they wanted to detainees. In the words of author Michael Ratner, “Taking a growling dog up to a naked man and saying “It’s going to bite your genitals off” today is not torture under the Bybee/Yoo memo. Hanging someone by his wrists is not torture….only physical pain that leads to organ failure or death is torture.” (Ratner). Three years later at a hearing in January 2005 Gonzalez admitted that the Bush Administration no longer supported that narrow John Wood definition. But that was too late; the scandal of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse had grabbed the headlines around the world, and severely damaged the moral authority of the United States.
Nearly a year after President Bush denied Geneva Convention protection to those described as
terrorists, on December 2, 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed a significant
memorandum that permitted hooding, stripping, intimidation by dogs and sleep deprivation. These methods of interrogation have a remarkable history - the Pentagon had captured a manual of enhanced interrogation techniques from the North Korean army back in the Korean War days, but had never used them. Now The Pentagon was copying some of the North Korean techniques. However, two years later Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld grew worried about the process which he himself begun. It might expose him to the charge of war crimes. On January 15, 2004 Secretary Rumsfeld sent the Pentagon’s general counsel, William Haynes II, a memo requesting that he form a “working group” to decide what methods military interrogators could use to extract information from a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. Early drafts of the report suggested the following: intimidating prisoners with dogs, removing prisoners’ clothing, shaving their beards, slapping prisoners in the face and waterboarding. One member of this working group raised objections: Rear-Admiral Michael Lohr asked “How such perceptions affect our ability to prosecute the global war on terrorism?” (Leopold June 13, 2009) Major-General Jack Rives, Judge Advocate-General of the Airforce, also a member of the working group, wrote a letter warning that the interrogation techniques in the report would violate military law. He clearly stated, “Some of the exceptional techniques, on their face, amount to violations of domestic criminal law, and the Uniform code of military justice…..“Treating detainees inconsistently with the [Geneva] Convention arguably lowers the bar for the treatment of U.S. POW’s in future conflicts.” (cited in Meyer)
At last, opinions in the Pentagon turned against the use of torture. The Bush Cabinet had willingly been led astray by Deputy Assistant Attorney-Generals Yoo’s expansive attitude towards presidential authority. When Jack Goldsmith took over as chief of the Office of Legal Counsel he rescinded Woo’s opinions. More changes in policy were to follow: in April 2004 Alberto Mora, General Counsel of the United States navy, warned his superiors of the dangers of the Administration’s policies which he believed would lead to “outrages on personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” (cited in Mayer) Mora was directly at odds with the official White House narrative, where President Bush had declared in 2002 that “detainees should be treated humanely, and to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Geneva conventions.” It is possible that President Bush was kept in the dark about Army torture until 2006; but we may never know. Sadly the phrase “consistent with military necessity” (used by Bush) was an open doorway to abuse, and gave Vice President Cheney and Secretary for Defense Rumsfeld , the loophole in the law that they wanted.
Though General Counsel for the Navy Albert Moro knew the truth about torture, the White House either did not know, or did not want to know, what was going on. Mora got his information from David Brant, head of the Naval Criminal [investigative] Service. His agents were working with FBI agents to find out incriminating information from the nearly 600 detainees at Guantamano. Soon nearly 400 were to be released without charges. The other two hundred were not so fortunate. The Army kept interrogation logs at Guantanamo; among those logs were those detailing the brutal handling of a Saudi detainee, Mohammed al-Qahtani. He spent 160 days of isolation in a pen perpetually flooded with artificial light; “he was interrogated on forty eight of fifty four days, for eighteen to twenty hours at a stretch; he had been stripped naked, straddled by taunting female guards, in an exercise called “invasion of space by a female” forced to wear women’s underwear on his head, and to put on a bra; threatened by dogs, placed on a leash, and told that his mother was a whore. By December, Qahtani had been subjected to a phony kidnapping, deprived of heat, given large quantities of intravenous liquids without access to a toilet, and deprived of sleep for three days. Qahtani’s heart rate dropped so precipitately to thirty five beats a minute, that he required cardiac monitoring.
Mora wanted more confirmation of the truth of this abuse, so called on his friend Steven Morello, the General Counsel of the Army. Morello showed a group of secret documents which indicated that when Major General Geoffrey Miller, newly appointed to the command of Guantamano Bay, asked for more “flexibility” in interrogations. Miller got what he wanted when Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld gave formal approval to what is now known as the “Torture Memo”. It permitted the use of “hooding”, “exploitation of phobias”, “stress positions”, deprivation of light and auditory stimuli’ and other coercive methods ordinarily banned by the Army Field Manual. Rumsfeld reserved judgment on other methods including waterboarding. Mora went directly to William Haynes the Pentagon’s General Counsel to tell him that Rumsfeld’s memo permitted torture. Haynes replied “No, it isn’t [torture]”. Moro left the meeting with Haynes to go on a two week holiday, certain that Haynes would get Rumsfeld to withdraw his “torture” memo. On his return he learnt that the torture at Guantanamo had not stopped; it was worse. Army Interrogation reports showed that Qahtani had been stripped and shaved and told to bark like a dog. He’d been forced to listen to pop music at a ear-splitting volume, deprived of sleep and kept in a painfully cold room. Between confessing to, and then recanting, various terrorist plots, he begged to be allowed to commit suicide. (Mayer).
On hearing this, Mora, a courageous man, took a step guaranteed to antagonize Haynes, the Pentagon General Council; Mora planned to release a document describing the interrogations at Guantanamo as “at a minimum cruel and unusual treatment, and , at worst, torture.” (Mayer) Haynes quickly called Mora to say that Rumsfeld had suspended his authorization of the disputed interrogation techniques. But It was a short lived victory of a mere 24 hours. From the Office of Legal Council at the Justice Department, John Woo, co-author of the original document stating that President of the United States was above the law, produced a new document re-iterating that harsh military interrogations were perfectly legal. In June 2004 the press reported that the US was subjecting detainees to ‘stress and duress’. Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, wrote asking for a clear statement of Pentagon detainee policy; Haynes wrote back stating untruthfully that the Pentagon’s policy was never to engage in torture, or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. In fact the Pentagon was following two different secret detention policies; the first was to deny that any abuse was taking place, and the second was to give operations officers legal indemnity to engage in cruel interrogations, and if the Commander in Chief George W. Bush thought it necessary, actual torture. Yet none of the legal advisers like Mora were informed of this official secret policy. (Mayer) In December 2003 the Office of Legal Counsel quietly withdrew the Yoo opinion, but this was too late.
Major General Miller and his team of Guantamano interrogators (known as the Tiger Team) was sent on a mission from Guantamano to Abu Ghraib in Iraq to advise American generals of the new policies that applied to treatment of suspects. On April 28, 2004, the first pictures from Abu Ghraib became public; Ab. As Mora feared, bad practices had spread, though Abu Ghraib is the only prison about which we know specifics. What happens in the CIA “black sites” in Bagram Afghanistan, Poland, Jordan, and Thailand we may never know.
Eventually honor, and a respect for the rule of military law returned. Gordan England, the deputy Defense Secretary called together the civilian secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force to suggest that the Pentagon should make it official policy to treat detainees according to Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions, which bars all cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, as well as outrages against human dignity. This standard had been in effect for fifty years until Rumsfeld became Secretary for Defense. By 2009 almost every military officer supported returning the US to what they termed the high ground. But there were two objectors; Stephen Cambone, the Under-secretary for Defense for Intelligence, and the other was William Haynes, General Council for the Pentagon, solid proponent of enhanced interrogation policies in the name of “flexibility”. Both argued that the standard would limit America’s “flexibility” (to torture, that is). Secondly they argued in favor of self-preservation; to adopt Article Three might expose Administration officials to charges of war crimes, because if article three became the standard again, then it would become a crime to violate it. The proposal to abide by the Geneva Conventions was abandoned quickly, since no-one in the Administration wanted to be charged with war crimes. (Mayer)
Attorney General of the United States Navy, Albert Mora summed up the tragedy of legitimizing torture. “When you put together the pieces, it’s all so sad. To preserve ‘flexibility’, they [the Secretary of Defence his Departments, and their legal advisors] were willing to throw away our values.”
Today the Pentagon now regards the whole subject of Iraqi interrogations as old history which took
place under the last Administration; the new President prohibited such practices.
In December 2014 the Senate Intelligence Report on torture was published to Republican
protests. This 6000 page report is mostly still classified as secret; only 525 pages have been published. The report which took five years and $40 million dollars to complete shows that the CIA provided misleading or false information to the media about their classified secret programs which included torturing prisoners. The CIA deliberately made government oversight difficult, and certainly mismanaged programs. The report also reveals the names of previously unknown prisoners, who were much more harshly treated than the CIA had admitted. There were more forms of enhanced interrogation techniques than were previously known. (Ackerman/Guardian 12/09/2014) The report finally concludes that torturing prisoners did not extract useful information, or gain prisoner cooperation. More seriously, the report also agreed damaged the international reputation of the United States as a bastion of freedom and justice. (US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence)
CIA officials and US Republican senators have criticized the report as an incomplete or inaccurate picture of the torture program. But both President Obama and former Presidential candidate John McCain praised the release of the report. President Obama said, “One of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better.” Californian Democratic senator Diane Feinstein said the report was commissioned on March 5, 2009 after the CIA Director of the National Clandestine Service Joseph Rodriguez destroyed almost one hundred video recordings of the CIA detention and interrogation program. (This was reported by the Los Angeles Times on December 9, 2014)
Over 6 million pages of documents, cables, emails and other materials were provided by the CIA, but another 9400 documents were withheld by the White House claim of Executive Privilege.(Watkins Huffington Post). The CIA was criticized under 20 separate headings; the most serious charges was that the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program was deeply flawed. The program is described as having relied heavily on the advice of two contract psychologists, with no previous experience of interrogation, who were paid $85 million for their help and guidance.
The report detailed that the conditions for detainees were much harsher than admitted by the CIA in earlier enquiries. “CIA detainees at the COBALT facility were kept in complete darkness and continuously shackled in isolated cells with loud music and only a bucket to use for human waste…..Detainees were subjected to what is described as a “rough takedown”, in which approximately five CIA officers would scream at a detainee, drag him outside of his cell, cut his clothes off, and secure him with Mylar tape. The detainee would then be hooded and dragged up and down a long corridor while being slapped and punched.” Not surprisingly detainees showed psychological and behavioral difficulties, “including hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts of self harm and self mutilation.” Several detainees were led to believe they would never leave the detention site alive. One was told he would never go to court, because “we can never let the world know what I have done to you.” CIA officers threatened three detainees with harm to their families - to include threats to harm the children of a detainee, threats to sexually molest the mother of a detainee, and a threat to cut mother’s throat.” (Senate Report) The House and Senate Conference Committee had voted to limit the CIA to using only interrogation techniques authorized by the Army Field Manual back in February 2008, , but this was vetoed by President Bush on March 8th, 2008.
I want to conclude this investigation into the Ethics and practice of torture both historically and today.
Torture still occurs in liberal western democracies throughout the world, despite the fact that liberal western governments have signed treaties like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention against Torture which make torture illegal. The US Constitution and US Law still prohibit the use of torture. Yet under the euphemism EIT, “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” human rights violations were constant during the War On Terror. The 2004 Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal was permitted by senior personnel of the U.S. Army, and carried out by junior personnel, but only junior personnel were punished. However the United States revised its torture policy in 2009 by revoking Executive Order 13440 of July 20, 2007, under which the Abu Ghraib scandal was permitted to take place. Two days after the revision of the torture policy, the Bush Administration attempted to further define US policy on torture and interrogation techniques, by Executive Order 13491 “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations.” It was hoped that this revision would help to avoid another torture outcry. (White House E.O.13491.) Judging by the long delayed 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture it would appear that The Central Intelligence Agency largely ignored the White House Executive Order 13491. But because the work of the CIA is secret, we the people may never be allowed to know the truth.
What we do know is this, in the words of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report, on the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program (para#20, page 22) “the program caused immeasurable damage to the United States’ public standing, as well as to the United States’ long standing global leadership on human rights in general and the prevention of torture in particular.”
The faulty vision of our leaders, political, military and legal, led our great nation into a deep moral
Akerman, Spenser (December 9, 2014) CIA’s brutal and ineffective use of torture revealed in landmark report. (http://www.tehguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/09/cia-torture-report-released) The Guardian. Retrieved Dec 9th, 2014.)
Alibhai-Brown, Yasmin: “People Matter More than Holy Books” UK, The Independent . 23 May 2005. p.31. (http://comment.independent.co.uk/columnists_a_l/yasmin_alibhai_brown/article 22235.ece)
Amnesty International 2005: “Torture and Ill-treatment in the ‘War on Terror’ 1November 2005. Retrieved 22 October 2008
Bagaric, Mirko & Clarke, Julie (2005) “Not Enough Official Torture in the World? The Circumstances in which Torture is Morally Justifiable.” University of San Francisco Law Review 39 (3): 551-616. (http://www.usfca.edu/lawreview/Vol39number3.htm)
Bennett, Brian: “Senate report says CIA torture methods yielded no useful intelligence.”. Los AngelesTimes December 9, 2014. (http://latimes.com/nation/la-fg-torture-report-20141210-story.h...)
Bonaparte, Napoleon; Letters and Documents of Napoleon, Volume I: The Rise to Power, selected and translated by John Eldred Howard (London: The Cresset Press, 1961), 274