America’s History Of Torture


Beinart wants us to face it:

In the 19th century, American slavery relied on torture. At the turn of the 20th, when America began assembling its empire overseas, the U.S. army waterboarded Filipinos during the Spanish-American War. As part of the Phoenix Program, an effort to gain intelligence during the Vietnam War, CIA-trained interrogators delivered electric shocks to the genitals of some Vietnamese communists, and raped, starved, and beat others.

He argues that “when you claim that the United States is intrinsically moral, and torture therefore represents an aberration, you undermine the fight against such practices”:

Being a successful American politician today requires declaring that America is different, blessed, exceptional. Thus, when other countries torture, it reflects their basic character. When we torture, it violates ours. But the wisest American thinkers have found a way to reconcile this need to feel special with the recognition that, as human beings, Americans are just as fallen as everyone else. In the mid-20th century, men like Schlesinger and Reinhold Niebuhr argued that, paradoxically, the more Americans recognized their sinfulness, and restrained it within systems of law, the more America would prove its superiority over those totalitarian systems that refused such restraints.

(Caption from The New Yorker: “A picture of a “water detail,” reportedly taken in May, 1901, in Sual, the Philippines. “It is a terrible torture,” one soldier wrote. Credit attributed to Corporal George J. Vennage/Ohio State University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library)

Watching Cheney: He’s Got Nothing

[Re-posted from earlier today]

His interview last night is worth revisiting again. He says what he has previously said – adding nothing to the factual record, and addressing none of the specifics in the report. But he is also clearly rattled. He is used to proclaiming categorical truths about things he knows will never be made public. He is used to invoking what he says he knows from secret intelligence without any possibility of being contradicted. This interview is the first time he has made statements about torture that can be fact-checked by the record. And, he is proven to be a liar, as shown below.

When someone presents a public official with a large tranche of the CIA’s own documents and operational cables and internal memos, and that paper-trail contradicts previous statements by the public official, he has a couple of options. The first is to point out where any particular allegation is factually wrong, to show a flaw in the data, to defend himself factually from the claims presented. The second is to flail around, dodge any specifics and double-down on various talking points that evade the central facts at hand.

Cheney picked the second path. That tells you a huge amount, it seems to me. He doesn’t address abugrahib4_gallery-dish-SDthe mountain of evidence. He is simply ruling it out of bounds – after admitting he hasn’t even read it! If you had a two-bit tax evader who is presented by the IRS with a tranche of his own tax records proving he was delinquent, and he simply insisted that he hadn’t read them and still emphatically denies the charge, he’s self-evidently guilty. Why is this not self-evidently the case with Cheney?

His response to the facts as documented is simply: I know otherwise. He gives no specifics. He merely invokes other CIA official denials as an authority – when they too are charged with war crimes. That’s like a gangster claiming he is innocent on the basis of his gang-members’ testimony. He blusters on. In a court of law, his performance would be, quite simply, risible as an act of self-defense. It becomes some primal scream version of “Because I said it worked!”

Now look at what else he said. He describes this as a classic example of politicians throwing the “professionals” under the bus. One is forced to ask: what professionals? All the professionals in interrogation in the military and the FBI were kept out of the torture program, which was assigned to two contractors, who assessed themselves, who had never interrogated anyone in their lives, and who had no linguistic or interrogation backgrounds. What this report does is throw the amateurs under the bus, and among those rank amateurs is Dick Cheney.

When Cheney is asked about a prisoner chainedAbu_Ghraib_56 to the ceiling in a cell and forced to defecate on himself in a diaper, he says “I’ve never heard of such a thing.” As if that is relevant. If he hadn’t heard of such a thing, he should have. And if he hadn’t until this week, he could have read about it in the report. And then, revealingly, he immediately gets angry. He expresses no regret and no remorse about another human being’s unimaginable suffering. He cites the alternative to torture – legal powerful, effective interrogation that the report proves gave us great intelligence – as “kiss him on both cheeks and tell us, please, please tell us what you know”. Again, this is risible as an argument.

In fact, it is prima facie evidence that torture was used as a first resort, and it was a first resort because Cheney already knew it was the only way to get intelligence. How he knew we don’t know. No one in professional interrogation believed or believes it. So you have clear evidence that the decision to torture was taken early on – and nothing was allowed to stand in its way. This was an ideological decision – not a policy judgment based on evidence.

Here’s the truly revealing part. Cheney is told about a prisoner, Gul Rahman, who died after unimaginable brutality – beaten, kept awake for 48 hours, kept in total darkness for days, thrown into the Gestapo-pioneered cold bath treatment, and then chained to a wall and left to die of hypothermia. The factors in his death included “dehydration, lack of food, and immobility due to ‘short chaining.” This is Cheney’s response:

3,000 Americans died on 9/11 because of what these guys did, and I have no sympathy for them. I don’t know the specific details … I haven’t read the report … I keep coming back to the basic, fundamental proposition: how nice do you want to be to the murderers of 3000 Americans?

But Gul Rahman had nothing whatsoever to do with the 9/11 plot.

He had engaged in no plots to kill Americans. He was a guard to the Afghan warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, part of an organization that began by fighting the Soviets in occupied Afghanistan. It had alliances with al Qaeda at the time, but subsequently engaged in peace negotiations with the Karzai government. His brother claims Rahman was even involved in rescuing Hamid Kharzai in 1994.  To equate him with individuals who committed mass murder of Americans or who were actively plotting against Americans is preposterous. He was emphatically not a threat to the US. Yet we tortured him to death. And the man running the torture camp was promoted thereafter.

To put it more bluntly, Cheney’s response is unhinged. It is suffused with indiscriminate rage which is indifferent to such standards as whether the prisoner is innocent or guilty, or even if he should be in a prison at all. He is acting out a revenge fantasy, no doubt fueled in part by the understanding that 3,000 Americans lost their lives because he failed to prevent it – when the facts were lying there in the existing surveillance and intelligence system and somehow never got put together.

What we have here is a staggering thing: the second highest official in a democracy, proud and unrepentant of war crimes targeted at hundreds of prisoners, equating every single one of the prisoners – including those who were victims of mistaken identity, including American citizens reading satirical websites, including countless who had nothing to do with any attacks on the US at all – with the nineteen plotters of one terror attack. We have a man who, upon being presented with a meticulous set of documents and facts, brags of not reading them and who continues to say things that are definitively disproved in the report by CIA documents themselves.

This is a man who not only broke the law and the basic norms of Western civilization, but who celebrates that. If this man is not brought to justice, the whole idea of justice in this country is a joke.

(Photos: scenes from Abu Ghraib prison, showing the results of torture techniques pioneered by Dick Cheney.)

The Notorious E.I.T.

May I just second the Motion?

Meteor Blades of Daily Kos picks up on the CIA director’s favorite term for torture :

Come the next crisis, nothing—certainly not John Brennan—stands in the way of CIA “mistakes” being made again. We also learned that the euphemizing of torture just hadn’t gone far enough. So, instead of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which sounds like the title of a panel at a management seminar, Brennan introduced us to EITs, which sound like stock market derivatives.

One day, I promise you, they will either look back on this acronym as a stain on this generation and an embarrassment to the world. Or it will not be a world worth living in.

John Brennan Is Still Lying


I watched the CIA Director’s speech today, in which he actually described the CIA as an agency “speaking truth to power.” He got that the wrong way round. There is no organization in the US government that exercises the kind of power the CIA does – over the presidency, and the Congress, and the media. It is unimaginable that any other agency in government could commit war crimes, torture innocents, murder people, wreck this country’s moral standing … and yet escape any consequences for their actions. There is no other government agency that launches elaborate public relations campaigns to discredit and undermine its Senate oversight committee. There is no other organization whose head can tell blatant lies about spying on its overseers and receive the president’s wholehearted support. There is no other agency where you can murder someone already in your captivity and get away with it. That is incredible power – and there is no greater power than the power to torture.

As for the truth part, Brennan has to concede what the CIA has already conceded: that they lied to the president and to the Congress many, many times on the efficacy of torture. But Brennan describes these lies, as the CIA did in its formal response to the report, as “imprecision”. It was therefore merely “imprecise” that, to take one of many examples, the “Second Wave” attack was discovered thanks to torture. But either something was procured through torture, or it wasn’t. That’s not imprecise; it’s an either/or. And it was presented by the CIA as a categorical product of torture – which played a part in devising the legal memos that gave these crimes a patina of temporary formal legality. That is not imprecision; it is misrepresentation.

Here’s the most we’ll ever get from our dark side overlord:

CIA officers’ actions that did comport with the law and policy should neither be criticized nor conflated with the actions of the few who did not follow the guidance issued. At the same time, none of these lapses should be excused, downplayed or denied. In some instances, we simply failed to live up to the standards that we set for ourselves, that the American people expect of us.

Translation: the bulk of the torture was perfectly acceptable; a small part of it wasn’t. Have there been any consequences for those who committed the war crimes outside those allowed for by the spurious legal memos? Nope. Has anyone been fired? Not that we know. Are most of the people involved in these war crimes still walking the halls at Langley? You bet they are. And Brennan admitted today that he knew full well what was going on as the torture program was constructed.

Now this weird circumlocution on a central question:

I have already stated that our reviews indicate that the detention and interrogation program produced useful intelligence that helped the United States thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives. But let me be clear: We have not concluded that it was the use of EITs within that program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them. The cause and effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable.

So we are now in Rumsfeld’s post-modern universe. What Brennan has repeatedly said was that we got intelligence from those in the program, but now he is saying that the intelligence was not provably a result of the torture. What he is trying to insinuate is that long after being tortured, some suspects may have given intelligence under legal and humane interrogation that helped. All I can say is that the report meticulously demonstrates that this is not the case. Or let me allow Dianne Feinstein to put it succinctly:

This is a simple matter: before or after? In the coming days, the Dish is going to go through critical cases in the report to show that Brennan is still lying about this, seeking refuge in bullshit notions of “unknowability” because what we do know from the CIA’s own documents absolutely refutes his case.

And notice the only reason Brennan objects to torture:

I believe effective, non-coercive methods are available to elicit such information; methods that do not have a counterproductive impact on our national security and on our international standing.

Brennan goes on to lie again that torture helped us find Osama bin Laden. This is disproved – not challenged or questioned, but disproved – in the report. And continuing to suggest – against the evidence – that torture may have helped get that monster is an invitation for such an evil to be imported back into the the US in the future. And, indeed, Brennan concedes that it is perfectly possible that torture will return:

I defer to the policymakers in future times when there is going to be the need to be able to ensure that this country stays safe if we face a similar type of crisis.

We have a CIA whose head believes in the efficacy of torture, and that the only reason to refrain from it is that it hurts our national security and international standing. We have a CIA head who will not rule out the use of torture in the future. We have a CIA head who believes that much of the torture conducted in the Bush-Cheney years was legal. And we have a CIA head prepared to argue in public that the facts and documented evidence in a summary of the CIA’s own documents are untrue. Because he says so.

And he wants us to end this debate and move. He has to be kidding.

(Photo: Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan talks with the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper  before US President Barack Obama spoke about the National Security Agency and intelligence agencies surveillance techniques at the US Department of Justice on January 17, 2014. By Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.)

Darkness Visible: Your Thoughts, Ctd

Below are more emails from you on a range of things related to the Senate report:

I’ve been a registered Republican since ’84, the year I became eligible to vote.  Although since the GW Bush era I’ve voted and thought much more like an independent, I had never gotten around to re-registering as an independent for a variety of reasons, mostly inertia.

Until today.

I am so repulsed by many Republicans’ support for torture and their general reaction to this torture report, that I am unable to align myself with them any more.  On a chat board today, I read a description of McCain as a “RINO and a scumbag” for his having denounced torture, and the poster was unaware of how damning this was of the GOP.  You reminded me of how conservative stalwarts like Starr, Buckley and Will unequivocally rejected torture just a few short years ago, and compared it to McConnell’s and Butters’ reflexively cynical response to the report. Oh how fast and far we have fallen!

I just went on-line and re-registered as an independent.  I’ll be writing Reince Preibus to let him know why. I feel a bit cleaner now.

Send one to the White House as well. Another reader:

There’s something I haven’t ever seen you address but that I now see all the more clearly with the publication of this report: why we really did it.  It was NOT for the value of the information gained.  That much is clear.  So, what then? This was not a Foucauldian effort to scare the potential terrorists.  It happened because we feel that these people deserve some form of punishment deeper than prison.  Until we really call that out and confront it, I don’t think there is much point in the discussion at all.  We tortured because it felt good.

Another would agree:

Go back and watch the Jose Rodriguez 60 Minutes interview. When asked explicitly whether waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammad 183 times was justified (or, rather, being subjected to 183 “pours” in a half dozen sessions), he replies:

Can I say something about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? He’s the one that was responsible for the death of Danny Pearl, the Wall Street reporter. He slit his throat in front of a camera. I don’t know what type of man it takes to cut the throat of someone in front of you like that, but I can tell you that this is an individual who probably didn’t give a rat’s ass about having water poured on his face.

It wasn’t about collecting intelligence.  It was about punishment and revenge.

Moreover, another turns to popular culture:

Reading through your live-blog post of the torture report was surreal.  Really, that’s the only word I can use.  You commented at one point that if we were watching this in a movie, the perpetrators would be Nazis.  Sadly, I think that’s wrong in today’s America.

Think of the network TV that we have been fed since 9/11.  Jack Bauer’s 24, Criminal Minds, Stalker – a plethora of violence that is somehow “ok” because it’s gotten past network censors, because the censors are far more concerned with a kid seeing a naked body part or hearing a person say “shit” than letting the kid watch a serial killer kidnap someone and, yes, torture them for a solid hour of TV.

Beyond what this report says about America and our indescribably stupid paranoia and fear post 9/11, it is a reflection of what we’re seeing in popular culture every day.  We are celebrating people who torture people, whether it’s the government calling them patriots because they were willing (and some probably enjoyed) seeing a man repeatedly almost drowned, or it’s the media-consuming public who make Criminal Minds (a torture porn show if I’ve ever seen one) or 24 top-rated television shows.

We’ve simply become immune to abject violence. Combine that with the idea that was pounded into our heads for the last 13 years that EVERYONE is out to get us and we must do ANYTHING to stop them and I can sadly understand how this happened, how this was justified, and how everyone who should’ve known better turned a blind eye to what we as a people were becoming.

Another sees abject violence carried out by our current administration:

I am usually a bleeding heart, but as horrific as the details in the report are, I feel mostly ambivalent and I’m tying to figure out why. I think there are a few reasons. After Bush, the Pentagon, CIA, and White House have switched from black sites and EIT to signature strikes and a disposition matrix. The fact that innocent people were caught up in the black sites and tortured is the worst part of the program, but thousands have been incinerated or torn to pieces by hunks of metal because they were standing too close to a person the White House wanted permanently disposed of.

Another turns back to the previous administration:

Why won’t Bush or Rubio call Lynndie England a patriot? She seems to fit the bill now right? Her and 10 others were court-marshaled for doing their job according to Bush and Cheney.

Another has a bit of dark humor:

Oh, how I would have loved to have heard Hitch respond to a Vanity Fair editor asking him to try rectal-feeding after waterboarding.

Another is just dark:

I can’t say that I disagree with why you’re feeling such anguish.  I certainly feel it, and I don’t know how anyone with any heart at all couldn’t feel it after reading about what happened in those dank torture chambers and rape rooms.  Who’d have ever thought we’d be talking about American rape rooms?

But I think your (and your reader’s) immigrant love of America is a bit too forgiving of this country.  We are a country founded on slavery; we believed in Manifest Destiny and destroyed the indigenous population (because we could); we acquiesced to Jim Crow after a bloody Civil War; we dropped nuclear weapons on civilians; our own CIA had already perpetrated illegal acts on humans in the name of interrogating and torturing them; we had assassination units, and it wasn’t the first time.  When you express shock about the CIA treating the human body as an experimental subject, I think of how they’ve done that on American civilians.  When you are surprised about a PR campaign for torture by the CIA, I can’t help but think how it makes sense, because they have such practice at media manipulation.  The list goes on and on.

To only see the United States as a shining city on a hill is a mirage.  It has never been that.  We are a gray capital, compromised and stitched together as a kludge.  This is not “America hating” or self loathing.  We simply are what we are.  This isn’t an excuse for torture; it’s context for our national capacity for depravity.

We’re a great country.  And we’re criminal fuck ups.  That our tax dollars paid the CIA to torture innocents is not “the end of America as much of the world has known it.”  It’s just America.  It’s the United States removed from its ludicrous bumper-sticker sentimentality and empty words.  It’s our truth.  I hate that, but it’s our truth.

Another reader, however, looks at the glass half full:

Like most, I’m horrified by what the torture report reveals. I also worry how the report will influence how Americans are treated in other countries and by other regimes – whether they will use the report to justify their treatment of our soldiers. Of course that’s exactly how we should determine whether we think something is torture – if we would deem it so if it was how captured Americans were treated. (There, I think there’s little question.) I’m also angered by the response by many on the right.

BUT, I think the one bright spot in all of this is the very fact of the report and that it’s being publicly released (albeit in redacted form). As much as other countries may justifiably complain about what this says about our own human rights and asking what right do we now have to question theirs, can anyone imagine that countries like China, North Korea, Russia, Syria, etc. would ever release such a report. Hopefully, this report is what will push us to correct our behavior. Without such reports, what would provoke other countries to ever correct theirs.

Another also tries to stay positive:

Patience, patience. I do believe that prosecutions are better handled internationally and those prosecutions will take time.  Will all the bad actors be prosecuted no, but just as Nazis are still hunted and tracked US War Criminals will be hunted down and some will be brought to justice.  Look at the length of time it has taken dictators in other countries to be brought to justice, often it takes decades. Personally, I am unhappy that this is the political reality, but I do know that these kinds of crimes are likely to be punished, probably within my lifetime.

However,  often the punishment is not what brings healing and stability.  It is telling the truth and honoring the victims that brings healing.  The Senate Committe did what it had to do: oversee the CIA, and the world has not crumbled overnight.  I am willing to bet that the world will not crumble and that as others see that the truth can be told,  more and more secrets will come to light in the future. Eventually we will be able to move away from the paranoid world-view these torturers let loose.

Bad Cop, Evil Cop

A reader writes:

I was shocked by something James Mitchell (one of the supposed architects of the torture program) said in his VICE interview: torture wasn’t supposed to yield actionable intelligence and he’d be “stunned” if it did. Why? Because we tortured people just to play good cop/bad cop and to loosen them up to other questioning!  Seriously.

I’m in disbelief, and I just wanted to make sure you all saw it.  Thanks for all your hard work on this incredibly important story.


Every Dishhead with a Twitter account should RT this tweet from Senator Feinstein:

Let’s spread #ReadTheReport far and wide (and blow #IHateCartmanBrah out of the water). Read all of DiFi’s tweets thus far, in chronological order, below:

Follow Feinstein here.

Quote For The Day II

“That there are elements of the American government still arguing against this cold blast of truth, offering up the craven fear that the rest of the world might see us as we actually are, or that our enemies will perhaps use the evidence of our sadism to justify violent retribution or political maneuver — this further cowardice only adds to the national humiliation.

This is not one of the world’s great powers behaving as such, and it is certainly no force for good in the world.  This might as well be the Spanish national amnesia following the death of Franco, or a post-war West Germany without the stomach for the necessary self-reflection. Shit, even the fragile, post-apartheid democracy of South Africa managed to openly conduct hearings and attempt some measure of apology and reconciliation in the wake of the previous regime’s brutalities.  Not us. Not the United States. We’re too weak to endure any such moral reflection without the attempt itself descending into moronic partisan banter. That’s right. Here, in America, we are — today — actually torturing other human beings with exacting cruelty in secret and then arguing about whether we can dare discuss it in public” – David Simon.

Darkness Visible: The View From Abroad

Ugh. On top of its illegality, moral bankruptcy, and utter uselessness, the torture program under the Cheney administration was a disaster for US foreign policy, providing grade-A propaganda fodder to our enemies and rivals, infecting our allies, and making it difficult for the US to be taken seriously as an advocate of human rights. The reactions to the Senate report from around the world make these depressing facts even more obvious. Here’s China, thumbing its nose at us:

State news agency Xinhua’s website dedicated a special page to coverage of the Senate report, titled: “How long can the US pretend to be a human rights champion?” A commentary carried by several mainland news portals, originally from the Beijing-backed Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao, said that while the excessive use of torture by the CIA had been widely known, the report showed some of the methods were “almost medieval”. Turning to the question of how its release would damage the social and constitutional values the US prides itself on, and whether it would cause the country’s moral high ground to erode more rapidly, the author said that in any case “so-called ‘human rights’ were merely a veil and the excuse to put pressure on others”. The report was a heavy blow to the credibility and global image of the US, it added.

Russia joins in:

“The information that has been publicized is yet another confirmation of gross and systemic human rights violations on the part of the American authorities. Despite the fact that this Inquisition-style torture was carried out by CIA agents outside U.S. territory, this does not exempt them from principal responsibility for such deliberate actions. Simultaneously, the question arises about the involvement in these crimes of the governments of those countries (their names have been prudently erased from the report) that agreed to host the secret prisons,”[said Konstantin Dolgov, Foreign Ministry Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law].

And jihadists are having a field day:

“Read [the Senate report] my brother and stick your shoe in the mouth of those who say that the Islamic State distorts Islam,” one Isis supporter tweeted. Another, a Syrian, wrote: “Getting beheaded is 100 times more humane, more dignified than what these filthy scumbags do to Muslims.” Hani al-Sibaei, a prominent radical Islamist scholar, commented: “American politicians consider CIA report on torture of Muslim detainees a disgrace to America! Damn you! Your entire history is a stain on the face of humanity.” Nabil Naim, a former Egyptian jihadi leader, announced that he was ready to raise a 10,000 strong force of suicide bombers to attack America. Isis itself issued no official response.

The torture apologists will spin this as proof that Dianne Feinstein is somehow giving aid and comfort to our enemies, but the fallacy at work here is so transparent as to barely merit a response. It was the architects of this program, not the people who brought its horrors to light, who handed this talking point to our enemies.

Then there’s the reaction from our allies and clients. Hanna Kozlowska reports on how officials in Poland, which hosted one of the CIA’s black sites, is responding to the news of just how dirty their hands are:

The report, which US president Barack Obama and Polish prime minister Ewa Kopacz discussed ahead of its release, put Poland’s involvement back in the spotlight. At yesterday’s press conference, former president [Aleksander] Kwaśniewski conceded that the US had asked for a “quiet site” where they could “obtain information” from cooperative suspects. But neither he nor then-prime minister Leszek Miller, also at the press conference, said they were aware of the harshness of the interrogations. …

Among the new, alarming details revealed by the report is that the US offered Poland payment for its role in the CIA program after the detention site was up and running. According to the report, the CIA offered Poland an undisclosed sum and refused to sign an agreement with Poland outlining the CIA’s role and responsibilities at the site. Polish officials said at yesterday’s press conference that the memorandum included demands to guarantee humane treatment of the prisoners. “What country will respect us if it turns out that our authorities will agree to anything for several million dollars, even if it is against the Polish constitution?” Polish member of parliament Łukasz Gibała wrote on his Facebook page.

Poland was not the only European country complicit in the torture regime. Natalie Nougayrède wonders whether these countries will own up to it:

European countries failed to conduct effective investigations into the agencies and officials who facilitated the CIA’s work. Sweden is the only country to have paid compensation to victims of extraordinary renditions. Italy is the only country where officials have been convicted by a national court for their involvement in the CIA programme.


According to information compiled by Open Society Foundations, at least 54 governments cooperated with these CIA activities. Twenty-one of those are European, of which 17 were at the time members – or soon to become members – of the European Union. In addition to the countries above, the list of European states that were complicit in CIA rendition flights and other unlawful activities includes Lithuania (there are strong indications that this country also had a “black site”), the UK, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania.

While Canada’s Stephen Harper bragged that his country had nothing to do with the torture program, some Canadian intel experts say otherwise:

“It gives us a good conscience” to be able to deny participation in torture, but “it doesn’t take away the fact that we’re as guilty as them,” says Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former senior intelligence officer with CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. As Juneau-Katsuya sees it, Canada’s spy agencies have a tremendously close relationship with the CIA and probably had a pretty good idea how the intelligence was generated. Adds security expert Wesley Wark, “When Prime Minister Harper says it’s an American problem with an American issue with no Canadian ramifications, that’s not really accurate – or oversimplified on any number of fronts. We tapped that intelligence. We relied on that.”

In Afghanistan, where our abuse of detainees is coming under additional scrutiny from the ICC, President Ashraf Ghani didn’t mince words:

“This is a vicious cycle. When a person is tortured in an inhumane way, the reaction will be inhumane,” Ghani told a specially convened news conference in Kabul. “There can be no justification for these kinds of actions and inhumane torture in today’s world.” His announcement was a reminder of how the impact of a programme that was shut down in 2008 is still felt in Afghanistan – and how news of abusive detention still fuels anger. In part this is because it spawned a wider culture of abuse among other US security forces stationed in the country, human rights activists say, with reports of torture and extrajudicial killings by special forces as recently as last year.

Egypt’s government has remained tight-lipped, but the official line is leaking out:

Those who did react said the report highlighted the hypocrisy of the US, who have often condemned Egypt’s recent human rights abuses. “America cannot demand human rights reports from other countries when this proves they know nothing about human rights,” said a pro-regime television host, Tamer Amin, on his show.

However, not everyone was quick to denounce the torture program. The French far-right superstar and Putin admirer Marine Le Pen had this to say:

The rising leader of the Front National (FN) party said that she “did not condemn” the use of torture when questioning terror suspects, in an interview with BFMTV. “Of course [torture] can be used,” she said. “It’s been used throughout history.”

“I believe that the people responsible for getting information out of terror suspects that can save civilian lives do a responsible job,” she added. “There are times, such as if a bomb is about to go off, when it is useful to get a suspect to talk…by any means.” However, she later backtracked saying on Twitter that her words had been “misinterpreted”[.]

Unlikely that endorsement will be appearing in the CIA’s PR packet anytime soon.

Can The CIA Be Controlled?

One reasonable reading of the report is that the CIA cannot be relied upon to share accurate information about controversial practices with its overseers in Congress and the executive branch. That would mean effective oversight is not possible. And if a congressional inquiry of CIA practices triggers a full-scale battle between the agency and the committee, that, too, would indicate the CIA might be too tough to monitor. Moreover, if the agency and the lawmakers tasked with scrutinizing CIA actions cannot agree on basic realities, that also does not bode well for oversight.

The torture—as far as we know—is over. But the CIA’s secret war against Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other extremists continues, as does a host of other covert actions conducted by US intelligence agencies and military services. The Senate intelligence committee’s torture report and the conflict surrounding its investigation call into question the basic rules that are supposed to ensure accountability when American spies and soldiers have to toil in the shadows. This is a matter for President Obama and Congress to come to terms with—though there seems to be little appetite for such follow-up to the Senate torture report. The report is not merely an accounting of a dark past that can now be permitted to slip away; it is a warning sign of an alarming and fundamental problem: Secret government is not working—and it might not be workable.