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New report: Yes, the U.S. tortured after 9/11

Though we're all understandably wrapped up in other breaking news, there's a report in the New York Times today that shouldn't be overlooked:

A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture and that the nations highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.

The Times's Scott Shane calls the 577-page study (which you can download as a PDF here) "the most ambitious independent attempt to date to assess the detention and interrogation programs." The report itself says, "We believe it is the most comprehensive record of detainee treatment across multiple administrations and multiple geographic theatresIraq, Afghanistan, Guantnamo and the so-called 'black sites'yet published." Why is this (still) important? Because, as the report's authors say, unless we know what was done, how it happened, and what resulted, there's nothing to stop us from doing it again.

The use of torture, the report concludes, has no justification and damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive. The task force found no firm or persuasive evidence that these interrogation methods produced valuable information that could not have been obtained by other means. While a person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information, much of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says.

And for a reminder that what happened immediately after 9/11 has present-day repercussions, see this op-ed published in yesterday's Times, which offers testimony from a hunger-striking detainee at Guantanamo. Carol Rosenberg, a reporter for the Miami Herald on the Gitmo beat, wrote a helpful account of why and how prisoners are hunger striking (45 of them at last count, according to her updates on Twitter). To put it simply: they want to remind the world they're there. They are a living legacy of the decisions made and standards set aside in the early days of the "war on terror," and the nation can never just look forward -- as President Obama famously said he would prefer to do -- while their fate remains in limbo.

About the Author

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.



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The report is a bit difficult to download. The first time I attempted it, my computer crashed, and the format is, I find, difficult to navigate. I did manage to read the general findings. Here they are: General Findings and Recommendations Finding #1 U.S. forces, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Both categories of actions violate U.S. laws and international treaties. Such conduct was directly counter to values of the Constitution and our nation.Finding #2 The nations most senior officials, through some of their actions and failures to act in the months and years immediately following the September 11 attacks, bear ultimate responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of illegal and improper interrogation techniques used by some U.S. personnel on detainees in several theaters. Responsibility also falls on other government officials and certain military leaders. Finding #3 There is no firm or persuasive evidence that the widespread use of harsh interrogation techniques by U.S. forces produced significant information of value. There is substantial evidence that much of the information adduced from the use of such techniques was not useful or reliable.Finding #4 The continued indefinite detention of many prisoners at Guantnamo should be addressed.Finding #5 The United States has not sufficiently followed the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to engage its friends to develop a common coalition approach toward the detention and humane treatment of captured terrorists.

Kudos to the evangelical Christian ethicist David Gushee who played an important role on the eleven person committee that worked so hard on this important report.

Interesting that the NYT, as well as the MSM (until finally some were shamed into it bya pro life twitterfest), failed to even report on the greatest serial killer in American History, Kermitt Gosnell, late term abortion doc Gosnell is currently on trial for killing over 100 babies born alive, at least one women, in addition to copious other methods of "torture" done to sentient human beings. Google Gosnell and or read the transcipts if you can even stomach it., I'm against all forms of torture, even for terrorists. However, the evidence is overwhelming that all who are against terrorists, people of their own will tryiing to kill Americans, have absolutely no problem when extreme and deadly torture is applied to the least and most vulnerable and least among us.The silence (and hypocrisy) is deafening!

Patricia: The NYT did report on the Gosnell story at the time it broke, in 2011. See here and here. We have discussed the case and its media treatment over a number of posts here at dotCommonweal, most recently here.

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