Without a doubt, the United States tortured detainees taken into custody after 9/11. Without a doubt, it was illegal, immoral and counterproductive.
These are the unanimous conclusions of a two-year investigation and recent report produced by the Task Force on Detainee Treatment sponsored by The Constitution Project. The impressive high-level committee - which was bipartisan -- was co-chaired by Asa Hutchinson, former Republican member of Congress from Arkansas, and Ambassador James Jones, former Democratic member of Congress from Oklahoma.
At the same time that the report was issued in April 2013, pop culture's acceptance of torture in films such as Zero Dark Thirty and video games -- consider the recently released Grand Theft Auto V, for example -- has been growing. These cultural expressions encourage people to believe that torture is okay.
Yesterday, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture is released five short films to counter that message and to show that torture is never acceptable -- it is not glamorous nor healthy, honorable nor legal nor faithful.
These short films encapsulate the message of the report of The Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment that there is no doubt that the United States engaged in torture of detainees taken into custody after 9/11, that the torture was authorized at the highest levels of government, and that the use of torture was clearly illegal.
In addition to the five shorts, NRCAT produced a new 11-minute film, No Doubt, It Was Torture! The film includes members of the Task Force discussing their key findings and offers responses from leaders of several faith traditions.
The Task Force's report details how:
• The United States used interrogation techniques that it had previously condemned as illegal when used by others, including waterboarding, stress positions, extended sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation and prolonged solitary confinement. • Our top political leaders, through both their actions and failures to act, bore ultimate responsibility for the use of torture. • The United States violated international legal obligations and broke national law prohibiting torture. • There is no persuasive evidence that the use of torture produced significant information of value. In fact, the Task Force found substantial evidence that much of the information obtained from torture was not useful or reliable.
The faith community rejects any moral ambiguity of torture. It is contrary to the teachings of all religions and dishonors all faiths. It is an egregious violation of the dignity and worth of every human being -- both the torturer and the tortured. Torture violates humanity. No doubt, there's nothing faithful about torture.
Yet, our society too often accepts and even glorifies torture. Fifty years ago, the international community established international norms and laws prohibiting torture and inhuman treatment via the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Today, though, torture is seen by too many as acceptable.
While very comprehensive, the findings of The Constitution Project's report are not the final word on torture. The Senate Intelligence Committee has conducted its own investigation into torture during which it reviewed more than 6 million pages of documents. The report on the Intelligence Committee's investigation is more than 6,000 pages long and is based in part on information contained in classified documents.
The Intelligence Committee approved its report in a bipartisan vote on Dec. 13, 2012. That was almost a year ago. Chances are good that the committee will vote on whether or not to release the report this fall, which is why we must come together in urging them to do so.
This report must become available to the public so that the American people can see the whole truth about torture -- that it is shocking, horrible, ineffective, and, ultimately, harmful to our nation's long-term security.
The Task Force report proves that our government authorized and encouraged the use of torture. Now, the Senate Intelligence Committee should release its report as well, so that we can end the debate on torture by doing the right thing -- agreeing that torture is always wrong in all circumstances and taking concrete steps, based on the information in the Intelligence Committee report, to ensure that torture is never used again in the future.
Without a doubt, it is time that the truth about U.S. government-sponsored torture sees the light, that our nation openly deals with the legal and moral consequences of our past policies, and that once and for all, we relegate torture to where it belongs -- shameful history never to be repeated.