I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…
It started with an image of terrible beauty: a man who appeared to be falling gracefully to his death from the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Thirteen years after, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program, released this month, reveals the image of a nation — our nation — fallen from grace.
Four hundred ninety-nine pages detail that fall. That’s just the executive summary; the government won’t let you read some six thousand five hundred pages more for fear you might use them to start a fire to burn down Washington.
United States Senator John McCain — whose body and mind was forged in torture in Vietnam — said CIA torture interrogations “actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world.”
“It’s about us,” he said, “what we were, what we are, and what we should be, and that’s a nation that does not engage in these kinds of violations of the fundamental basic human rights that we guaranteed when we declared our independence.”
These were the key findings:
- Torture doesn’t work.
- The CIA used torture because it mistakenly believed torture does work.
- The torture was far worse than the CIA let on.
- Conditions of confinement were worse than the CIA told policymakers.
- The CIA lied to the Department of Justice so it couldn’t properly analyze the torture program.
- The CIA would rather not be supervised by Congress.
- The CIA would rather not be supervised by the White House.
- The CIA would rather not cooperate with the FBI, the State Department, or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
- The CIA would rather not be supervised by its own Office of Inspector General.
- The CIA told lies to the media about what it was doing, but that was okay because they were telling the same lies to Congress, the Department of Justice, and the President..
- The CIA didn’t know what to do with the suspected terrorists it captured, and had no plan to ever turn them loose if it discovered it was wrong.
- The CIA put people in charge of torture interrogations who had no idea what they were doing.
- The CIA torture interrogation program was designed by two Air Force guys who had no experience in interrogation, had barely heard of al-Qa’ida, and whose knowledge of the language and culture was confined basically to belly dancers.
- CIA detainees were tortured by means not only unapproved by the Department of Justice, but unauthorized by the CIA.
- The CIA was never sure just how many people it detained, why they were detained, or what happened to them.
- The CIA never tried to find out if torture was actually working.
- The CIA rarely reprimanded or in any way held accountable torturers who might have gone a little over the top.
- Criticisms, critiques, and objections about the torture interrogations, even from within the CIA, were like water running off a duck.
- The CIA torture interrogation program essentially collapsed under its own weight when other countries tired of hosting torture sites and started blabbing about it. All but one country, whose name is still classified (but you probably wouldn’t want to live there), bailed on the program.
- The CIA torture program damaged U.S. standing in the world, created tensions with U.S. partners and allies, and screwed up bilateral intelligence relationships.
Welcome to the rabbit hole.