By Madeleine Oldstone
In early December of 2014, a 525 page report detailing the CIA’s use of torture and enhanced interrogation techniques was published and made available to the public. This report found that the U.S. government used various forms of torture on detainees between 2001 and 2006 that the public was not aware of. During the Bush administration, politically appointed lawyers at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel “essentially wrote a permission slip” allowing CIA agents to use torture techniques during interrogation, according to US News.
As soon as President Obama entered office, he shut down secret detention sites and ordered the withdrawal of these legal opinions. Unfortunately, he did not ensure accountability and bring those involved to justice. There has been great debate between political parties and the public as to whether or not those involved should be tried. Regardless of one’s political party, it is important for us as a nation to bring those accountable to justice and stand by our American values.
The United States has been a leader in promoting human rights globally, and if we do not penalize offenders for the same violations in our own country, we are blatantly wallowing in our own hypocrisy. As a world leader we are undermining our values, and risk further damage to our global image. We must be held at the same standards as the rest of the world, especially when it comes to international law.
Those who defend that these individuals should not be tried believe that the U.S. should move on from these accusations and also claim that these torture techniques were justified. The only way we should “move on” from this situation is by trying those who are accountable.
According to the Senate Intelligence Committee Report secured by CNN, some of the “extensive interrogation techniques” included water boarding, rectal feeding and hydration, sleep deprivation, hypothermia, death threats, and other techniques that led to extreme psychological and behavioral issues. These techniques were “justified” under claims that they were necessary to protect national security from future terrorist attacks. However according the Senate Intelligence Committee report, “The use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information.”
In addition, many of the detainees fabricated information which “led the CIA to pursue dead leads that did not help in the fight against al-Qaeda” according to the report. There is also evidence that torture techniques did not assist in the capture of Bin Laden. In fact, the most accurate information leading to his capture came from a detainee through traditional interrogation, before he was tortured.
Demanding justice for those with direct involvement in the torture techniques would be a step forward in revising the U.S. Criminal Justice System, which has been shown to be deeply flawed and a blatant violator of human rights.
If we continue to let those who stray from our country’s values and international laws remain unprosecuted, we risk further corrupting our own justice system which may lead us down a very dangerous path. We cannot preach the promotion of international human rights and laws if we ourselves refuse to follow it. Surely, there are other alternatives to gaining national security intelligence that would be more effective and more aligned with our American values. It’s time we seek alternative means.