CIA Torture Report: Now Is the Time to Act

WASHINGTON - MAY 21: Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney speaks at the American Enterprise Institute on May 21, 2009 in Wa
WASHINGTON - MAY 21: Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney speaks at the American Enterprise Institute on May 21, 2009 in Washington, DC. Cheney spoke about U.S. policies toward terrorism. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Thanks to the extraordinary leadership of Senator Dianne Feinstein and the Senate Intelligence Committee staff, we now have the much-anticipated executive summary of the Committee's historic and bipartisan report on the CIA torture program post-9/11. Its release is an important victory in securing transparency, reform, and accountability.

Senator Feinstein has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to provide the American people an accounting of a CIA torture program that was more brutal and more extensive than previously known. We also now know the CIA torture program was built upon widespread deception and misinformation. In fact, the CIA misled Congress and the Executive Branch about the program, making false claims about its nature, scope, successes, and necessity.

These are some of the horrible truths about an illegal, immoral, and ineffective CIA torture program carried out in our name and in the name of national security.

For more than four years, the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) has worked for the release of the CIA Torture Report. Because of our work extending rehabilitative care to 30,000 torture survivors worldwide, we have a unique knowledge of the impact of torture and a responsibility to speak about its use. We know the ways in which the U.S. government's decision to torture had serious ramifications for the global anti-torture movement, survivors' healing, and U.S. credibility on human rights.

We know, based on the medical, scientific, and clinical facts, the CIA torture program rose to the level of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

Torture is defined by international law as the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, both physical and psychological, by persons in authority to gain information, extract confessions, or to punish. International law forbids torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

It can never be justified.

The proof of torture and cruelty in the CIA Torture Report speaks for itself. The CIA shackled one prisoner partially nude to the floor for hours. He eventually died of hypothermia. The CIA waterboarded one prisoner to the point where he was unresponsive and had bubbles coming out of his mouth. The CIA inflicted "rectal feeding" or "rectal hydration" on prisoners.

As the world-renowned authority on the doctors and torture and CVT board member Dr. Steve Miles has said, "The so-called 'rectal feeding' which is actually a medieval technique in which the intestines are inflated with a viscous material to cause intestinal pain."

And, yet, Vice President Cheney and other torture proponents and apologists continue to shamefully defend torture and deny it ever happened.


It is time to put an end to their baseless and fallacious arguments once and for all. It is time to ensure the U.S. government never again engages in torture and cruelty.

CVT will continue to pursue transparency, reform and accountability. We'll work for release of the 6,000-plus page report. We'll work for legislation to strengthen Congressional oversight to make sure the CIA never uses torture as an interrogation tactic again. We'll work for full accountability -- those who authorized or ordered torture should be held accountable; there should be an investigation and criminal prosecutions as warranted.

The executive summary serves as a stark reminder of the enormous -- and lingering -- costs to America's national security, foreign policy, and its ability to play an effective role globally on human rights when the CIA entered the "dark side."

As Senator John McCain so powerfully says on the question of torture, "I have often said, and will always maintain, that this question isn't about our enemies; it's about us."

It is about us. And it is up to all of us to act.