The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report on the torture carried out through the CIA’s detention and interrogation program was made public today. The report confirmed some of what was already known about the abhorrent and illegal treatment of detainees and the uselessness of torture in obtaining accurate intelligence, but it also gives a more complete picture of the kinds of torture that were used, the ineptitude of the interrogators using these brutal methods, and the agency’s efforts to hide these things from Congressional oversight. While it is good that there is at least this much accountability for the wrongdoing of our government, it seems very unlikely that the people responsible for ordering and carrying out these crimes will ever be made to answer for them as they should.
Among other appalling details, the report states that at least seven of the tortured detainees provided no intelligence at all. Many of those tortured unsurprisingly provided faulty intelligence, and none provided any intelligence that could not have been obtained through other methods. It prevented no terrorist attacks, and didn’t contribute to finding any terrorists. Even when judged on its supporters’ own terms, the program was a total failure. Dozens of people were tortured over a period of several years for nothing. In addition to being evil and illegal, it was all completely useless:
The Intelligence Committee’s report tries to refute each of these claims, using the C.I.A.’s internal records to present 20 case studies that bolster its conclusion that the most extreme interrogation methods played no role in disrupting terrorism plots, capturing terrorist leaders — even finding Bin Laden.
Worse still, more than two dozen of those subjected to these barbaric treatments were wrongfully detained, and the CIA kept such poor records of its detainees that the exact number of detainees and how they were treated may never be known. At least one of the detainees died in custody, and no action was taken against the people responsible. These are the inevitable abuses that will come from employing evil means in the name of national security. We can at least hope that policymakers will reject these inexcusable methods in the future. Regrettably, many hard-liners in the U.S. seem wedded to defending the torture regime for reasons of partisan loyalty or ideology, so there is always a danger that these practices could be resumed at some point. We should react to the contents of the report with the appropriate outrage and disgust, and then we need to make a commitment that we will never again permit such evils to be carried out in our name.