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It's Time to Right the Wrongs of Torture

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"What is right to be done cannot be done too soon" is a line from Jane Austen's 1815 romance novel, Emma.

I presume Ms. Austen would have never imagined her words can be used to describe the urgent need for the U.S. government to uncover the truth behind its past use of torture and cruel treatment.

The government's unlawful, ineffective and misguided torture policies following September 11, 2001, left us with a terrible legacy that continues to trouble our nation today. Torture and cruel treatment have serious consequences for our national security, our commitment to the rule of law and our global leadership in human rights and dignity.

Equally troubling is these policies diminished America's longstanding bipartisan consensus against torture and cruel treatment that was deepened 25 years ago when the Reagan Administration signed the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Yet, a recent Associated Press poll finds that 51 percent favor using "harsh interrogation techniques" against terror suspects. From our work healing torture survivors, we know so-called "harsh interrogation techniques" and other euphemisms equal torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

Perhaps popular culture's depiction of torture and cruel treatment has made people think these forms of abuse work or should be glamorized.

In two glaring examples, Hollywood is wrong on both counts.

The January release of the film Zero Dark Thirty left a false claim that torture and cruel treatment were necessary for intelligence-gathering in the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. Never mind that U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein, John McCain and Carl Levin challenged its portrayal of torture as useful in a letter to the chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Next summer, the television series 24 is scheduled to return. This show popularized the myth that applying physical pain to "make a suspect talk" is effective. The reality is experienced interrogators within the military, FBI, and intelligence sectors have said torture does not work and is more likely to produce ambiguous and false, rather than clear and reliable, information.

Now we have recently learned that the new Grand Theft Auto V video game allows the player to move beyond being a just a first-person shooter but to a first-person torturer as well. That is disgusting.

However, it's not too soon to undo the damage torture and cruel treatment have caused.

The first step is to get the facts. To start, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's 6,000 plus page report on the Central Intelligence Agency's past detention and interrogation program after September 11, 2001, must be released with as few redactions as possible. Releasing the report has earned widespread support, including from Vice President Joe Biden, Senator John McCain and the bipartisan Task Force on Detainee Treatment.

We must do all we can to ensure that we never again resort to official policies of torture and cruel treatment. The most effective protection from this return is transparency.

It is right to get the truth. The time is now.