a stain on values

Those are some of the emotions I feel after hearing of the way the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States has treated people in detention in the War on Terror. For this to be happening in a nation that says that all individuals have certain human rights, no matter what their station, the CIA actions are the highest of hypocrisy, which also goes against the basic principles that the American people hold high.

On top of that, the prolonged detention of these detainees, some later found not to be terrorists at all, shows what can go wrong when a unit of our government, in this case the CIA, is not properly scrutinized by oversight authorities.

It’s even worse than that. Apparently the CIA was not even telling our leaders the whole truth, and even lulling them into thinking that matters were not as bad as they appeared.

The Torture Team: Yoo, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld by DonkeyHotey
The Torture Team: Yoo, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld (DonkeyHotey CC)

As one report called the activities of the CIA were from a “broken agency” using “a failed approach” to mislead the White House and Congress. For instance, the agency had secret prisons around the world and failed to provide basic oversight of them.

As is often the case, our government, in a more-than-panic mode after the September 11 terrorist attacks, took the “usual approach” of throwing money after the problem, hiring consultants to handle the problems. They used unapproved, grotesque techniques. Hard to believe but, the so-called consultants had little experience in this field, and were working with little supervision. Of course, the CIA should have been more aggressive in its supervision, and ultimately bears the blame for these excesses.

What will happen, we fear, is that the CIA will deny all it can, politicians will try to make it all seem like someone else is to blame, and in the long run, no one will be punished for these atrocities. It’s the similar old story we have heard before, with no one really being punished for these crimes. (Think of how few bankers have gone to jail for their misdeeds.) All this undermines confidence in our government, and little is changed.

Our nation owes Senator Dianne Feinstein and her Intelligence Committee a major thank you for not letting this horrible chapter in the CIA history be merely swept under the rug. Though some people within the government criticize the release of this information, the American people need to know more about this, and take measures to insure that it will not happen again. If similar tactics happen to crop up once more, the perpetrators should be severely punished, and banned from any future engagement in government.

What particularly worries one after reading about these atrocities is that the various brutal techniques yielded little, if any, intelligence that the CIA did not already know. No lesser authority on such techniques than once-tortured Sen. John McCain has spoken out about these revelations with his condemnation of the use of torture. Does his earlier suffering go for nothing? But many would want to skip over the recognized fact that nothing good comes out of such tactics.

These revelations are a stain on the USA’s values and heritage. It has diminished the way other nations look upon us. However, we admit to the world that it happened, and must do our best to see that it never happens again. It will take lots of time, but we hope that some day that our country will be recognized again for being a nation of high moral force.

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Image: The Torture Team: Yoo, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld by DonkeyHotey via flickr and use under a Creative Commons license.
Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, and Georgia news, http://www.georgiaclips.com.