CIA torture report: A programme of cruelty, violence, secrets and lies that didn't work, and has dragged America into a moral black-hole

US officials, diplomats and soldiers abroad, even ordinary citizens, have now been told to be extra vigilant for revenge attacks

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The report by the US Senate into the CIA's interrogation methods presents a dreadful catalogue of cruelty and violence, secrets and lies.

The system being used was sucked increasingly into a moral black-hole in which rules were regularly broken and Agency staff deceived each other, their superiors in the White House and members of Congress.

At the end of it all the damning verdict in the document is that torture just did not work. The investigation examined a number of supposed vital breakthroughs achieved in the war on terror through the use of mistreatment, and finds the claims to range from being highly exaggerated to totally false.

This should not entirely be a matter of surprise. People being hurt while they are being questioned would often give the answers they think their abusers want to hear. At best this leads to the law agencies going off on wild goose chases; at worst innocent men and women are incriminated. Even among the 119 held in CIA custody, 26 were due to mistaken identities and faulty intelligence. No figures were provided on just how many of the dozens subjected to rendition to third countries were the victims of wrong information.

There is, as we see, another highly dangerous result from all this. US officials, diplomats and soldiers abroad, even ordinary citizens, have now been told to be extra vigilant for revenge attacks abroad once the details of the report emerges. In reality, it’s not just Americans who would be targets, but other Western nationals as well.


There is another reason why what took place in the hundred ‘black sites’ in the US is counter-productive. The savagery displayed by Isis in Syria and Iraq has appalled people across the world and built a groundswell of feeling against Islamist extremists. The practices in American detention centres, exposed in this report, does not match the barbarity of the jihadists, but they do weaken the argument of those fighting them supposedly from a moral high ground.  There is also ample evidence that such abuse acts as a recruiting-sergeant for jihad among angry young Muslims seeking to hit back.

It is this issue of moral equivalence which some in the security agencies believe over rides other factors. During an ongoing debate over the water boarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed , the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5, held it was unjustified, however severe was the threat from al-Qa’ida, such action could not be justified. She pointed out that German prisoners were not tortured when Britain faced a Nazi invasion during the Second World War: “If not then, why now?” She asked.

The report notes that one internal CIA memo contains instructions to keep aspects of what was going on from Colin Powell, then the Secretary of State because he would “blow his stack if he were to be briefed on what’s going on”. Officials and agents hid key details of how the interrogation programme was run and its results from each other. One may wonder to just what extent the search for truth and evidence in terrorist plots was affected by such an atmosphere of deceit.