Fyodor Dostoevsky author of 'Crime and Punishment' is arguably one of the most celebrated writers throughout history. In his memoirs of his account of 4 years imprisoned in a Siberian gulag he wrote of being haunted by an insoluble problem, the inequality of punishment for one and the same crime. Those words were put to paper in 1862 and 153 years later his assertion could not be truer of America today, especially with the handling of General David Petraeus.
Some of these horrors make agonising reading - but it is incorrect to say that they defy description. In the cold, expressionless language of the Senate report, even blunt, mechanical phrases can contain the key to understanding a world of pain. 'Rectal feeding' is one. 'Stress position' is another. Through reams of inert prose, an appalling picture of abuse is built up and solidified.
If torture worked, the need to criminalise it would be even more imperative than if it were ineffective because the temptation to use it would then be even greater. If torture did not work there would be no need to use it. It was largely because the CIA believed, or persuaded itself, that it did work that it became such a widespread practice.
It came as little surprise that the official inquiry into the circumstances that led to the Woolwich attack paid scant attention to the role UK intelligence played in the abuse of Michael Adebolajo in Kenya. In his court appearance last December Michael Adebolajo himself did not mention whether or not the incident had an impact on his own thinking in the run-up to Woolwich.
The release of this report teaches us an important lesson; that it is easy for the rule of law and our own civility to be lost in a climate of fear, where pressing concerns are focused on finding ways to protect ourselves from dangerous and evil forces like Al Qaeda or ISIS. Behaviour that compromises such principles, however, will invariably fail to keep us safe.
If a drastic change in policy towards the Middle East and the wider War on Terror is not made by America and its allies the world is going to be dragged into deeper and deeper crisis. Post-9/11 world has become more unsafe and we are now at a tipping point of further catastrophe. It is time we build bridges, not create walls of hatred.
More must be done to tackle online crime, and Facebook should cooperate. But expectations of pre-emptive screening of social media content to detect threats are fantasy. Suggestions of wide-scale, pre-emptive internet surveillance probably aren't nefarious, 'Orwellian' attempts to watch our every move; but they do misunderstand what's really possible when dealing with the internet.