Published in Athens Views (print – no longer in circulation) on 12 December 2014 and The GW Post on 10 December 2014 (with the title The Day After the Trture Report)
After a long wait and many delays the US Senate’s infamous ‘torture report’ was released on Tuesday 9th December. The torture report is 528 page document entitled ‘Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program’ written by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The released document is an executive summary of a more than 6,700 page report which analysed more than 6 million memos, statements and other documents and focuses on the CIA’s detention and interrogation programme from 2001 until 2009 – when the programme was officially terminated. The gruesome torture techniques used by the CIA remained a well-guarded secret until Tuesday despite a decade full of accusations and rumour games.
Although the CIA’s programme had begun immediately after 9/11, the first report was presented to the White House in 2006. The committee also found that the CIA gave “inaccurate and incomplete information” to White House as well as classified information to the media regarding the programme’s operation and effectiveness. It is also noteworthy that the CIA had contracted two psychologists as external consultants who helped enhance interrogation techniques. These contractors prior to the termination of their contract were paid $81million while their whole contract was worth $180 million.
What is more shocking though is the interrogation (torture) techniques that were used to the detainees. According to the report, “CIA detainees were subjected to coercive interrogation techniques that had not been approved by the Department of Justice or had not been authorized by CIA Headquarters.”Some of the techniques, such as waterboarding and sleep-deprivation, documented in the report were already known since the Bush era, the extend of these techniques, however, was not. One of the detainees was subjected to waterboarding 183 times; another one was kept inside a coffin 266 hours; several detainees were kept awake for up to 180 hours – the integrators did not stop even when some were experiencing hallucinations caused by sleep deprivation; at least five people “were subjected to ‘rectal rehydration’ or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity”.
The report concluded that “the CIA did not conduct a comprehensive or accurate accounting of the number of individuals it detained”. Of the 119 detainees held in CIA’s secret prisons 39 were subjected to torture, 26 remained without the standard for detention, the CIA did not admit holding 20 detainees. According to the Washington Post, although the report refers to the agency’s sites with colour theme codes, other details related to these colours locate the centres in Poland –also confirmed by former president Aleksander Kwasniewski, Lithuania, Romania, four in Afghanistan, Thailand, and Guantanamo which is referred as is. Moreover, according to the Guardian, 47 countries facilitated CIA torture – including Greece and Cyprus.
International reaction was immediate. The UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights said that action should be taken and those responsible should be brought to justice. China’s state news agency Xinhua said that “America is neither a suitable role model nor a qualified judge on human rights issues in other countries, as it pertains to be”, and in the similar lines were Iran, North Korea and Russia’s reactions. It is more than obvious that the torture report gives the perfect pretext to USA’s opponents to hit the country where it used to hit them – human rights.
Now that the report is finally public, Barack Obama should seriously think the way he will handle the next days. Although the programme was terminated as soon as he was elected, all those involved and especially higher ranking officials were not persecuted. If the US president wants to remain true to his proclamations it is more than obvious that these individuals should be brought to justice. Following the Wikileaks, and the NSA scandal, the torture report only confirmed that the USA should seriously rethink the way it collects information and conducts its war on terror.
Moreover, it is now on the Administration’s and the Justice Department’s discretion to not only fully investigate the CIA’s former and current operations but also the operations of other agencies including the NSA and the Homeland Security. The USA’s reputation has sank once again and in order to mend it Obama should finally start confronting one of his biggest fears but at the same time one of his pre-election promises – the full investigation and closure of Guantanamo and it is the Congress’ responsibility to agree with any action taken towards this action.
The report only confirmed and enriched something that was already known – the use of torture by US officials. The CIA’s programme might be over yet the war on terror is not – only the methods the agencies collect information have changed. Unless a strong national as well as international stance is taken demanding the persecution of those involved, this report will become just another part of a vicious circle.