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.

Mollie Wilson O’​Reilly is editor-at-large and columnist at Commonweal.

Also by this author

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

© 2024 Commonweal Magazine. All rights reserved. Design by Point Five. Site by Deck Fifty.