Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs), a euphemism for the practice of torture, have been critically exposed by the Senate Intelligence Committee to have been based on deceit and violations of human rights.
By Mahmood Monshipouri
The Dianne Feinstein report found that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials routinely misled the president and Congress about information they obtained and failed to provide oversight of the secret prisons they erected around the world. The report suggests that more prisoners were subjected to waterboarding than the CIA has revealed in the past.
Further proof that the U.S. government and its European allies engaged in cruel treatment of suspected enemy prisoners in the name of national security and surely in violations of the Geneva Conventions has emerged.
Many experts in the European Union (EU) argue that the time has arrived that their countries’ parliaments follow this example of democratic transparency and investigate what went on. In the years that followed September 11 attacks on the U.S. soil, several European states helped the CIA do its dirty work. According to the EU Parliament, three countries—Poland, Rumania and Lithuania—even allowed the CIA to set up secret detention centers on their territory that operated totally outside the legal realm.
We have also learned about a new technique, namely, "rectal feeding” or "rectal hydration” which is a form of rape and thus an egregious human rights violation and even a "war crime.”
The torture report implicates CIA for giving millions of dollars in secret payments between 2002 and 2004 to other governments to agree host black sites—or secret prisons—for suspects.
Much evidence today points to the fact that EITs were not only immoral but illegal.
It is not clear how torture contributed to producing valuable intelligence and reliable information. Even if coercive intelligence may at times yield actionable intelligence of high value, it is debatable whether it is worth the trade-offs. The EITs—that is, cramped confinement, sleep deprivation, waterboarding—were defended by the Bush administration on the grounds that such techniques fall short of posing "threat of imminent death” or "long-lasting mental harm.” The subcontracting of security to private contractors, such as Blackwater, who were under no legal binding law or jurisdictions and hence accountable to any institution, has proven to be both politically irresponsible and morally deleterious.
More insidiously, the Bush administration sanction of torture encouraged ordinary soldiers to engage in inhumane acts, believing all the while that following orders was a matter of patriotic duty.
The so-called "ticking bomb scenario,” much touted by CIA lawyers, has proven fundamentally misguided, as it has yet to be shown that torture program has produced a type of intelligence that could have averted a terrorism threat. Moreover, the problematic treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay by the United States has prompted other governments to consider similar policies.
In the wake of the Feinstein Report, CIA Director John O. Brennan addressed the revelations contained in the torture report released on December 9, 2014 about the agency’s use of enhanced interrogation methods from 2002 to 2009, calling some of the techniques "harsh,” "abhorrent,” and "outside the bounds” of the rules but defending the program nonetheless.
While admitting that mistakes were made that have undermined the credibility and reputation of the CIA, Brennan called the results of torture as "unknowable”—that is whether the intelligence obtained through EITs was consequential remains difficult to determine when compared with other methods of acquiring information. Regardless, these reports have also raised the familiar question of whether CIA should be directly embroiled in the business of fighting counterterrorism.
Whether the new Congress — now dominated by Republicans — will prosecute the architects of torture policies remains to be seen. The odds of conviction of those involved in promoting the practice of torture are less than assured. President Obama has indicated that there were no prosecutable crimes committed by federal career professionals and that he was willing to concede the findings of the U.S. Justice Department that no crimes were committed. In the meantime, some senior politicians, such as Senator McCain, have noted that "it is time to close this chapter given that the United States faces a new enemy such as ISIS that is hell-bent over destroying us.” That may be so, but history will judge the U.S. actions and its European allies’ participation in such operations in the post-9/11 era, which led to the blatant abuse of detainees and their internationally recognized human rights, with great disdain and alarm. It is worth noting the global public opinion demands a different kind of reaction to these outrageous human rights violations rather than remaining resigned to these acts as standard operation procedures to which governments under duress will commit.