Earlier this week, the US Senate released a heavily redacted 540 page summary of a larger 6,000 page report on the CIA’s use of torture. The report, called a “footnote in history” by Senator Richard Burr (NC), detailed some of the torture techniques used in the secret CIA prisons. In addition to simulated drowning, also called waterboarding, some of the captives “were deprived of sleep for up to 180 hours, at times with their hands shackled above their heads,” at least four of them with medical complications in their lower extremities. Reuters reports, the report recorded cases of “sexual abuse, including ‘rectal feeding’ or ‘rectal hydration’ without any documented medical need.” The summary from the Senate states, “The CIA led several detainees to believe they would never be allowed to leave CIA custody alive,suggesting to one detainee that he would only leave in a coffin-shaped box.”
CIA Director John Brennan is not happy, saying the report is flawed, incomplete, and unfair to the torturers. It’s unfair to the torturers, he says, because they weren’t interviewed, and they weren’t interviewed because the Justice Department wouldn’t allow them to be interviewed! The Justice Department wouldn’t allow them to be interviewed because the torturers might then be able to face criminal prosecution for their actions. However, Antiwar.com reports, The Justice Department “insisted that they aren’t even considering reopening the criminal investigation into the torture, saying none of the revelations in the report were anything they didn’t already know years ago.”
Before the report was released, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said the release “is a terrible idea. Foreign partners are telling us this will cause violence and deaths. Our own intelligence community has assessed that this will cause violence and deaths.”
Mike Rogers is trying to shift the debate to one he controls. In essence he’s asking the question: Should the US government reveal the fact that people operating under its authority violated human rights, and committed war crimes? Though he may disagree that rights were violated or that war crimes were committed. The fact remains, that when such information is released people will become angry.
The debate should instead be focused on whether or not the US government condones the torture that happened, and whether or not the torture that happened was specifically authorized by the CIA or even the President. Some will argue that it doesn’t matter whether or not the torturers were told to torture, and will point to the Milgram Experiment, Stanford Prison Experiment, and even Abu Ghraib to prove their point. In Authoritarian Sociopathy, Davi Barker writes of the parallels between the Stanford Prison Experiment and Abu Ghraib, “The officers in charge of Abu Ghraib had no previous experience running a prison, just like in Stanford. The soldiers charged with ‘maltreating detainees’ had no previous record of antisocial or inhuman behavior (unless you count enlisting), just like in Stanford. And even though they repeatedly asked their superiors for instructions and standard operating procedures they were given none, and told only to maintain routine operations and to be creative… just like in Stanford.”
One key difference between the CIA’s use of torture and the use of torture in Abu Ghraib is that the torture summary reports at least twice the torturers were instructed “to continue using the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.” Additionally, “At times, CIA officers were instructed by supervisors not to put their concerns or observations in written communications.”
This seems to parallel the Milgram Experiment, in which test subjects were told “the experiment requires you to continue.” The CIA, it seems, has turned itself into a giant conglomeration of the Milgram Experiment and Stanford Prison Experiment, only with real victims. The only way to end the CIA’s “experiment” that has real life consequences is to abolish the department!