Dec. 13, 2012 marked an auspicious day for members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and all Americans who oppose torture. The committee voted (with bipartisan support) to adopt the report on the CIA's use of torture as an interrogation technique. This report is the culmination of a more than three-year investigation that involved the review of over five million pages of documents. Its existence is a monumental achievement that will help ensure our country never tortures again.
Now, the committee's next step must be to move forward with making public the information conveyed and the conclusions drawn in the report. Understandably, some parts of the report will need to remain redacted for national security purposes. But it is critical that as much of the report as possible be made public so that the American people can learn facts such as the extent of the use of torture, how the torture program was initiated, how it was carried out, how many people were tortured, how many people were tortured to death, the effects on those who committed the torture, and the consequences to our national security from the use of torture.
Tragedies like that of 9/11 and the national environment of fear which resulted should never again serve as a justification for torture. Statements by key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- including Committee Chairman Senator Dianne Feinstein -- tell us that the committee's report shows that the use of torture undermines our national security. We cannot say whether or not terrorism will impact our nation again; but we can say that we will commit to using better intelligence-gathering alternatives that are both moral and legal.
We have all heard the reports of past government officials who were responsible for authorizing torture continue to defend its use. Consider the recent books by former vice president Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Jose Rodriguez, former chief of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center. Unfortunately, for the sake of entertainment, Hollywood has sometimes aided and abetted in the defense of torture. Sensationalistic movies and TV shows such as 24 and Homeland provide audiences with vivid, but unrealistic, fictional scenarios showing terrorists relinquishing valuable information while being tortured.
On Dec. 19, Kathryn Bigelow's film Zero Dark Thirty will be released. The movie is receiving critical acclaim and is being touted as an Oscar favorite, but it has also become the focus of a national controversy that goes to the heart of the U.S. torture program. Critics who have reviewed the movie report that it graphically depicts the interrogations of 9/11 detainees using torture. Early reviews relate that the torture is portrayed so realistically that it sickens viewers. While difficult to view, a realistic look at what the U.S. government did to certain detainees may be just what we need to force the conversation about what kind of nation we want America to be.
Some have argued that the film links torture to the killing of Osama bin Laden. But both the screenwriter who did the research for the film and the director have said the claim is "preposterous." Screenwriter Mark Boal is quoted by The Wrap as saying "it's just misreading the film to say that it shows torture leading to the information about bin Laden. If you actually watch the movie, the detainee doesn't say anything when he's waterboarded. He gives them some information that's new to them over the civilized setting of a lunch -- and they go back to the research room and all that information is already there."
Senior government officials, including Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Feinstein, and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, all have said that torture repeatedly produces bad intelligence and did not ultimately lead to the CIA locating bin Laden.
Whether the movie actually implies that torture led to bin Laden, or whether, as the filmmakers suggest, that idea is completely outlandish, it is true that a significant portion of the public continues to believe that torture is effective. That is one reason why it is so essential that the Intelligence Committee move forward with releasing as much information as possible from its report on torture to the public. Americans need facts to counter the myth that supports torture.
Torture is a detestable, illegal act, which is deemed immoral by all the world's major religions. Interrogators tell us that torture does not work, soldiers say it puts our military at risk, lawyers know that it is illegal, and people of faith agree that it is wrong.
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture lauds the Senate Intelligence Committee's bipartisan vote to adopt this important report. Now we must move forward and share with the public as much information as possible about torture so that we can ensure that America continues to be safe, just, and a moral leader in the world.