Carroll County Times Opinion

Release Senate report on torture

Twelve Nobel Peace Prize winners recently wrote a joint letter to President Barack Obama asking him to release a report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the CIA's use of torture in the years after the September 11, 2001 attacks on America.

In the letter, the writers stated it is important "for the country and the world to see, in at least some detail, the extent to which their government and its representatives authorized, ordered and inflicted torture on their fellow human beings."


The Senate committee voted in April to publish a 500-page executive summary of the 6,000 page report. However, negotiations with the White House and CIA have stalled the release of the summary. If the report is not released by the end of this Senate session, a Republican controlled Senate next year is unlikely to release a report on the use of torture during President George W. Bush's presidency.

For now, the hold-up on the release of the summary report seems to be how much information the CIA is willing to declassify. According to press reports, about 5 percent of the 500-page summary has been redacted so far.


The letter to Obama states that, "by accepting the flagrant use of torture and other violations of international law in the name of combating terrorism, American leaders have eroded the very freedoms and rights that generations of their young gave their lives to defend."

The authors outline four recommendations to President Obama: 1) Full disclosure to the American people of the extent, use and authorization of torture and rendition by American soldiers, operatives and contractors; 2) closure and dismantling of 'black sites" abroad for the use of torture; 3) the closure of Guantanamo prison and putting an end to indefinite detention without due process; and 4) adoption of policy upholding international law, including the Geneva Convention and the UN Convention against torture.

Outside of the Senate select committee there appears to be little interest in Washington to release this report of American war crimes in Iraq and in secret CIA sites around the world. The use of water-boarding, for example, is already being copied by ISSI forces against American and European prisoners. Some wonder why we would want to give them additional ideas.

The Obama administration ended these practices, but it is not interested in having this report made public, either. Perhaps it believes the report will make it even more difficult for the U.S. to advocate for human rights around the world with a straight face.

Several studies have already documented much of what is in the Senate's report, including a comprehensive study sponsored by the ACLU's National Security Project available online at In this report, researchers found that "The most senior members of the Bush administration, up to and including the president, broke international and domestic laws banning torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Worse, they had subordinates in the military and in civilian intelligence services break these laws for them."

On a positive note, the ACLU report also found that "Over and over again, men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Guantanamo, in secret CIA black sites, in Langley, in the Pentagon, in Congress and in the administration itself recognized the torture for what it was and objected, protested and fought to prevent, and then to end, these illegal and ill-advised interrogations."

While these reports are certainly embarrassing, the release of the official Senate report would send a strong message that America is willing and able to officially admit our mistakes, and that we can restate our values and continue to advocate for human rights around the world.

Contrary to the concerns of some, the release of the Senate's report is a demonstration of our nation's strength, not weakness.


Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at