Why are We Still Debating Torture?

Four years after President Obama signed an executive order to ban torture, we’re still debating whether it saved American lives. Why? Because the most authoritative record of the so-called “enhanced interrogation” program is classified, allowing torture proponents—mostly former or current government officials—to sell the claim that torture helped protect the country, and would do so again.

Condoleezza Rice recently said, for example, that because of torture, “we have not had a successful attack on our territory.” And in response to the Boston bombing, New York State Senator Greg Ball argues that we should have tortured Dzokhar Tsarnaev:

When you talk about terrorism, information matters. And if getting that information, including torture, would save one innocent life, including children, you know, would you use torture? And I can tell you that, you know, I would be first in line.

But as myriad national security leaders—including Senator John McCain and General David Petraeus— have pointed out, torture threatened American lives. The majority of professional interrogators agree that torture is not necessary to make suspects talk, and that its use undermined U.S. moral credibility.

Former CIA Interrogator and author of The Interrogator Glenn Carle says torture is “un-American, illegal, and immoral.” Joe Navarro, former FBI interrogator, said on NPR that “there is no professional interviewer that subscribes to torture or to advanced or enhanced interrogation techniques to obtain information. It just doesn’t work.” But because we don’t have a declassified record of post-9/11 torture program, torture proponents are able to make headway with their arguments.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has produced and adopted the most comprehensive report on the post-9/11 CIA torture program, based on a review of more than 6 million pages of official records. The report is with the Obama administration, waiting for review.

Those who have read the report—including Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Senator Dianne Feinstein—say that it shows the CIA torture program was much more widespread and cruel than we thought, and much less effective at gathering actionable intelligence than torture proponents claim.

We cannot let America go back to its dark days of torture. It’s time for us to base our national security on facts, not fiction. Let’s end this debate: urge President Obama to work with Congress to release the torture report.


Published on May 3, 2013


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