Thursday, April 17, 2014
By the Rev. Richard Killmer
YARMOUTH — In 2009, the Senate Intelligence Committee began an investigation into torture, for which it reviewed more than 6 million pages of documents and produced a report of more than 6,000 pages. On Dec. 13, 2012, the report was approved by a bipartisan vote, including that of then-Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe.
Americans should know what was done to detainees who lived in cells like this one in Guantanamo Bay, says the writer, in arguing that the Senate's classified report on the use of torture should be made public.
The Rev. Richard Killmer is founding executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. He lives in Yarmouth.
Though the report has been adopted, the committee has not yet decided whether to release it to the public. The report is classified – which means that it is hidden from you, me and the rest of the American public.
We will never know the facts about torture contained in the report unless it is released. I believe that the Senate Intelligence Committee should release its report as soon as possible because public knowledge of the facts about the use of torture is crucial to ensuring that torture is never used again.
Even without the report, we know a few key things about torture. Earlier this year, The Constitution Project’s privately funded, bipartisan Task Force on Detainee Treatment completed a two-year investigation into the U.S. government’s treatment of 9/11 detainees. The task force concluded that officials at the highest level of government were involved in authorizing and approving the use of torture.
The task force report documents how the United States government used forms of torture on detainees that it had previously condemned as illegal when used by others, including waterboarding and stress positions.
Torture is immoral, runs 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 victim. The Golden Rule makes it clear: Torture should not be perpetrated on others, because we would not want others to torture us.
Torture is illegal, without exception. In 1994, the United States signed the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which binds our country to the following stipulation: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
Unfortunately, we do not currently know enough about our government’s past use of torture to develop the safeguards needed to make sure that torture is not used again. The information we need to develop those safeguards is likely contained in the Senate Intelligence Committee report. There are several critical reasons to release the report:
• If the report is released, we may, as American citizens, have the tools to suggest specific achievable safeguards that would make it more difficult for a future president to manipulate the law in such a way. If the report is not released, then future presidents may have the opportunity to change the law in order to authorize torture.
• Sadly, too many of our fellow Americans believe that under certain circumstances, the use of torture is justified. (This wasn’t the case before the implementation of the CIA torture program.) Video games, films and TV series reinforce that belief by portraying torture as effective. The information in the committee report could help counter those messages.
• Releasing the report will show the moral strength of our nation both to our enemies and our friends. We will demonstrate that we are able to acknowledge and learn from our wrongdoing – an important step, because we have lost significant international prestige as a leader in human rights because of our torture program.
• In November 2008, the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a report on the U.S. military’s use of torture. Our soldiers and sailors were better off for that report because while it disclosed hard, painful facts, it also helped ensure that our military could not be misused by those in authority to carry out human rights abuses that are contrary to the ideals of our fighting men and women. Similarly, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture can help to ensure that the CIA will never authorize or use torture again.
Both Maine senators, Susan Collins and Angus King, are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. They will cast votes that determine whether this report is made public. I urge both senators to vote against torture by voting for release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture. By doing so, they will help ensure that our government never uses torture again – and I ask Mainers across the state to join me in this call.
— Special to the Telegram