On Thursday, April 3, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) voted to declassify a summary of the report it completed over a year ago investigating the CIA’s use of torture. Over 90 percent of the document will remain secret—only around 480 pages of the 6,300-page report will be declassified. The document won’t be available to the public for several months, as it is in the process of being reviewed for declassification by the White House. This involves the document being edited by multiple agencies including the CIA itself, which seems like a conflict of interest—especially considering the fact that the SSCI suspects the CIA of spying on computers that were used to conduct the investigation.
Within the report are details of how detainees were subjected to what has been called enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding. The report also reveals that at least five detainees died while in CIA custody, including one man that died of hypothermia. Also included is evidence of the CIA repeatedly leaking classified information to the media in order to manipulate public opinion of the use of torture. SSCI chair Dianne Feinstein stated that the report provides evidence that the CIA misled Congress, the executive branch and the American public about the timing, extent, and success rate of the torture program.
To date, no government official has ever been prosecuted for their involvement in the use of torture, although former CIA officer John Kiriakou is currently in jail for speaking to the press and confirming the use of waterboarding on al-Qaeda prisoners. Among those that were involved in the approval and justification of the torture program are former President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.
Recently, the UN Human Rights Committee found the United States to have violated human rights in 25 different ways, which included statements on the CIA torture use. They stated that lack of investigations, prosecutions and convictions of those involved in the program is a violation of human rights and that the details remaining secret creates a barriers for accountability and redress for those that had their human rights violated.
While I understand the goal of keeping our citizens safe, I wonder if the ends can justify the means. How is it justifiable to violate the human rights of some people without their guilt being determined by the justice system in order to promote the safety of others? Are the lives of Americans worth more than the lives of others simply because we pay taxes that enable our government to act virtually unchecked supposedly in our best interest?
If United States citizens were the ones being subjected to this treatment by the governments of foreign countries, I would hope that our government would do everything within their power to end the violation of human rights as an extension of its duty to protect the wellbeing of its citizens. But if this is the case, then they should also be striving for the end of this kind of treatment for citizens of the world, not just its own citizens. It is this kind of thinking that keeps humans segregated into different groups that think and act in their own interests instead of striving for the betterment of our race as a whole.
We should be calling for the release of the full report, as a way to make sure our government can be held accountable for the way it acts and to make sure that it starts acting in ways that its people support. Those that implemented the program as well as those who are now trying to cover it up should be held accountable for their actions. The United States should be leading by example, and act in such a way that reinforces the idea that all humans have rights that should not be violated for any reason.