In his Senate confirmation hearing, Thursday, CIA director nominee John Brennan noted that the United States "needs to make sure we are setting a standard for the world." We can only hope that when it comes to our country outsourcing torture, Mr. Brennan has learned that's not the way to go.
"Globalizing Torture" a report recently released by the Open Society Justice Initiative names 54 countries which cooperated with our nation in the extraordinary rendition and in many cases subsequent torture of terrorist suspects. This happened during the Bush-Cheney administration while Mr. Brennan was a high-ranking official at the CIA.
Some countries on this torture complicity list, such as Denmark, Canada and Italy, may come as a surprise. But much of the list reads like a "Who's Who in Torture" and it's these countries that we should be most concerned about.
As a doctor who cares for torture victims from around the world, many of the names on this list, including Zimbabwe, Egypt and Uzbekistan, are all too familiar. My colleagues and I at the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture care for individuals persecuted from these countries and over 80 others. Our patients were tortured because of their race, religion, political beliefs and sexual orientation. They suffer from devastating health consequences-both physical and emotional- as a result of their abuse. While there is much we can do to help the individuals we care for rebuild their lives, the demand for our services is daunting. Presently, we have a waiting list of over 4 months.
Torture committed by and at the behest of the United States has exacerbated the normalization and acceptance of torture worldwide. While despots certainly didn't need our permission to torture, we made it easier for them to do so, including by justifying torture in the name of national security. Our nation's global partners in torture know all too well that torture is not useful in eliciting accurate information. Rather, they utilize torture as a means for suppressing opposition through fear and brutality. Given our profoundly flawed record of accounting for the torture we committed and any accountability for this, how can we really expect other countries to follow suit?
If confirmed as director of the CIA, Mr. Brennan needs to not only renounce torture and its outsourcing, but also see that mechanisms are in place to prevent future U.S. torture. He must support declassifying the recently completed Senate Select Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's detention and interrogation program under the Bush-Cheney Administration, so we can ensure this does not happen again. In the meantime, the line outside of our clinic continues to grow.
(This article was drafted with assistance from Parul Monga, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, NYU Center for Health and Human Rights.)