Today a group of national security, interrogation, and intelligence professionals came together in Washington, D.C. to issue a statement of principles on torture. The message: Torture is illegal, ineffective, counterproductive, and immoral.
Their conclusion is based on decades of experience, a strong consensus in behavioral science, and a commitment to American ideals and values.
Torture is illegal based on the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment, which was signed by President Reagan, along with the Geneva Conventions and of course the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. The statement reads, “If we are a nation under the rule of law, we cannot torture.”
Torture is ineffective because it impairs a person’s memory, which is obviously essential to gaining intelligence. It produces unreliable and questionable information. Our national security depends on producing sound, actionable intelligence: “there is no place for questionable, coercion-based information within the U.S. justice, intelligence, or security processes.”
Torture is counterproductive because it increases a subject’s will to resist and serves as a recruiting tool for extremists to gather more to their cause. It corrodes our relationships with allies and intelligence sharing.
Torture goes against core American principles. To torture is to give in to our baser selves, for “it is primitive, unreasoned, and an affirmation of anger.” If the United States seeks for American prisoners abroad to be treated humanely or to condemn the abuses of other governments, in order to claim the moral high ground it must commit to never torture again.
“We categorically affirm that there is no conflict between adhering to one of our nation’s essential and founding values — respect for inherent human dignity — and our ability to obtain the intelligence we need to protect the nation,” they conclude.
This group of intelligence professionals briefed congressional staff on the problems of torture based on their real-world experience, and met with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. They urge for the release of the Senate committee’s watershed report on the CIA’s torture program, which is held up in negotiations over redactions. They also call for legislation to codify further protections against torture and cruel treatment to ensure that America never returns to the “dark side” again.