For the first time in more than a decade, Americans are finally seeing a small sliver of reckoning for one of the darkest chapters in our history since slavery: state-sponsored torture post-9/11.
(1) The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) approved a 6000-page report concluding what interrogation experts have known for years: that, aside from being morally reprehensible, torture does not work. The
Washington Post reports:
After a contentious closed-door vote, the Senate intelligence committee approved a long-awaited report Thursday concluding that harsh interrogation measures used by the CIA did not produce significant intelligence breakthroughs, officials said. . . .This conclusion is the polar opposite of what the Hollywood film Zero Dark Thirty is being criticize of making.
Officials familiar with the report said it makes a detailed case that subjecting prisoners to “enhanced” interrogation techniques did not help the CIA find Osama bin Laden and often were counterproductive in the broader campaign against al-Qaeda.
The SSCI Report's conclusion is better late then never. Torture tactics--euphemistically called "enhanced interrogation techniques"--have been banned for over four years, and it is more than a decade since the first American officials began abusing prisoners. And, while SSCI's conclusions are valuable, the report has not been released to the public, and the public is left relying on media coverage and quotes from anonymous "officials familiar with the report" to understand the SSCI Report findings.
(2) The first victim of U.S. state-sponsored torture to receive justice in a court found it not in the American courts, but from the European Court of Human Rights. The European Court of Human Rights found that the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) extraordinary rendition of Khaled El-Masri amounted to torture:
From the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represented El-Masri on a lawsuit in the US:
. . . The European Court of Human Rights . . . ruled that El-Masri’s treatment at the Macedonia airport by U.S. agents in cooperation with Macedonian officials “amounted to torture.”Unfortunately, the European Court's ruling highlights the shameful fact that American courts have offered no justice to the many victims of the U.S. torture program.
The court also found that while in CIA custody El-Masri was subjected to abuses including sodomy, forced nudity, total sensory deprivation, solitary confinement, force feeding, physical assault, sleep deprivation, inadequate food and water and denial of medical care in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that his entire period of captivity constituted a “forced disappearance” in violation of international law
(3) Over the last weeks, Army Private Bradley Manning had a rarity for a torture victim: a day in court. I reported on the hearings into Manning's pre-trial confinement conditions, which included solitary confinement/isolation, humiliation/forced nudity, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and stress positions, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Unfortunately, Manning only got a day in court because the government indicted him under the Espionage Act and aiding the enemy for allegedly exposing classified information, not because he was independently able to challenge his torture in American courts. In fact, no torture victim has been able to obtain even a sliver of justice from American courts.
These glimmers of justice offer some accountability for torture, but nowhere near what is needed to correct the egregious wrongs committed under the guise of protecting Americans. The SSCI report confirms that not only did torture shred America's moral fiber, but it utterly failed to protect Americans.