Religious leaders have been at the forefront of the fight to end torture, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 500-page summary on the CIA’s treatment of terrorism suspects seems to have only added fuel to their fire.
The report, released Tuesday, suggests that the CIA’s torture tactics were much more gruesome than the agency has previously maintained -- with details of alleged waterboarding, sleep deprivation and “rectal feeding.” The Senate committee also accused the CIA of mismanaging the program and lying to Congress and the White House about its techniques.
Rev. Ron Stief, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, said the report described a “system of complete moral bankruptcy on all levels of the government.”
Still, he thought it was an important step forward.
“Now that it’s part of the official record, we can build forward to say we need some legislation . . . and a humane standard for interrogations,” Stief told Huff Post, “So that we can get the CIA out of the business of interrogations in the first place.”
Other faith leaders across the country echoed Stief’s sentiments and demanded that the CIA put an end to its torture tactics.
T’ruah, a Jewish human rights organization, called torture a deeply “immoral” act that is an affront to k'vod habriot, or human dignity.
As the Talmud teaches, “When a human being suffers, what does the tongue [halashon] say? My head is too heavy [kalini] for me, my arm is too heavy [kalini] for me. Thus God suffers over the blood of the wicked, how much more so over the blood of the righteous.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 6:5) Jewish law forbids the mistreatment of prisoners whose guilt has not been established, such as suspects in an interrogation. The assertion that every human being is created in the image of God applies to all people, friend or enemy.
“As a nation, we have much to repent for--and true teshuvah, repentance, requires both acknowledgement and accountability for what we have done,” executive director Rabbi Jill Jacobs said in a statement. “The report is a step toward acknowledgement. A step toward accountability would be for Congress to act to make clear that the CIA will never be allowed to torture again."
Father James SJ, the editor at large of America Magazine, also said that torture violates religious notions of human dignity.
"Respect for human dignity is a foundation of Catholic teaching," Martin told HuffPost through email. "It's essential to remember that the one who is at the center of our faith was himself a victim of torture. Any Christian who weeps when looking upon the Cross should then also weep when hearing about torture today. Whenever someone is tortured, Christ is again crucified."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an advocacy group, said that the use of torture undermined traditional American values and asked for accountability.
This disturbing report clearly demonstrates the need for those who approved of and carried out this campaign of torture to be held accountable for their actions. It also shows that strong legal and policy measures need to be enacted in order to prevent such illegal actions being taken during any future security crisis.
Torture is not an American value. We should not be questioning whether or not it worked, but why we ever used such brutal and illegal interrogation techniques.
For more religious reactions go to the National Religious Campaign Against Torture