In December 2014 the long awaited publishing of the CIA Torture Report, on the treatment of detainees between the years of 2001 - 2006 was released. What followed in the immediate aftermath was mostly wide spread condemnation.
The report itself is over 6,000 pages long but two short extracts I want to focus on are as follows; firstly 'The CIA's use of it's enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees'. Secondly 'The CIA has actively avoided or impeded congressional oversight of the program'. What the first point effectively conveys is the summation of the ends not justifying the means, although devoid of the moral and legal implications there would be an argument for this kind of torture if it had proven to be a successful method of deterring crime or protecting the American populace. The second point alludes to the fact the CIA acted with impunity, deliberately forgoing the checks and balances of democratic government. Arguably this is in direct breach to the core values of America, freedom and liberty. Thomas Paine (in a letter to Thomas Jefferson) famously stated 'We give up rights in exchange for more security, liberty is often mistaken for security'. The idea of giving up liberty in the name of protecting liberty is both oxymoronic and in this particular case unconstitutional.
Although the report is entirely based around torture within a 5 year period of CIA detainees, it helps brings to the fore the bigger picture of perception of torture. Torture is something that we tend to view as despicable if undertaken by our enemies or countries with a different set of values than traditionally in the west. However if done by ourselves it becomes much easier to excuse with the perceived notion of 'the greater good'. This was exemplified this week with the comments of the former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, who was questioned on the legitimate use of torture. On the use of water boarding as a means of interrogation Mr Giuliani conveyed the idea "it depends on the circumstances, it depends on who does it". This aptly explains the position some take on torture, on one level moral indignation at the thought of others utilising such methods, but on another excusing our own participation. The belief of a moral clarity or superiority on our part allows for a double standard.
Although the methodology of torture is perhaps irrelevant if you hold the position of being unilaterally against it in any form, I feel some of the methods revealed in the CIA report are worth mentioning. In particular 'strappado' (a medieval inquisition technique) where a victim is hoisted into the air via rope attached to the wrists, in turn this dislocates both arms, and anal penetration (usually via bottles).
Although as aforementioned the CIA report highlighted torture was not an effective means of achieving reliable intelligence, there is a feeling perpetuated that if torture was resultant in finding Bin Laden or other wanted terrorists, this would be acceptable. However the Senate Intelligence Committee refutes such claims, with allegedly most reliable intelligence on the location of Bin Laden actually stemming from 'Kuwaiti sources'.
For me, torture should be treated in the same vein as capital punishment. In which my opinion the potential execution of just one innocent due to human error trumps all other moral arguments supporting the death penalty. With this in mind however the CIA report also revealed the death of detainee Gul Rahman in November 2002, who died of hypothermia being chained almost completely naked to the floor. Mr Rahman died as a direct result of torture without being found culpable legally of any particular crime.
This report was published on December 9th 2014, the day preceding December 10th, World Humans Right day.