Hearing: "Is It Torture Yet?" - December 10, 2007
Senator Cardin, I want to thank you for your leadership in convening this field hearing and I’d also like to express my appreciation to President Mote and the University of Maryland for their hospitality today.
This hearing comes just days after the revelation that two videotapes made in 2002, showing the CIA’s interrogation of two terror suspects, were destroyed by the Central Intelligence Agency in 2005. One can only wonder what those videos showed.
The destruction of these tapes is disturbing on many levels, but especially when one considers that the 9/11 Commission specifically and formally sought these sorts of recordings and were not given them. I cannot imagine why, when the 9/11 Commission was investigating one of the worst attacks on American soil in the history of our country, why the CIA did not fully cooperate with that investigation.
Like you, Senator Cardin, I am profoundly frustrated by the damage that has been done to America’s good name and credibility by the documented instances of abuse that have occurred in the context of our country’s effort to combat terrorism, and by the erosion of the legal principles which make torture and other forms of ill-treatment a crime.
Many people have said it, but it seems to me to deserve repeating, and I put this in the context as someone who has visited more intelligence stations than probably any other current Member of Congress: Torture does not make us any safer. Torture does not produce good intelligence.
In fact, there have been several notorious instances of detainees providing testimony under duress that has subsequently been shown to be false. Some of the evidence relied upon by Secretary Powell, in his 2003 speech to the UN making the case for the war in Iraq, came from a detainee who later recanted that testimony and stated that he made his claims as a result of coercive interrogation. Three British detainees at Guantanamo confessed to being at an Al Qaeda training camp, but British authorities later confirmed that all three of the men were in the United Kingdom at the time they told their American interrogators they were meeting with Osama bin Laden. Those men have all been released now.
As we examine the subject of torture today, I look forward to hearing our witnesses discuss various aspect of this issue. But I also hope that the administration will begin to devote some serious attention and resources to study better ways to gain intelligence. Too often intelligence gathering and respect for human rights are presented as a zero-sum game, where more of one means less of another. I think that is a false paradigm. There is more we can be doing to improve our intelligence gathering that does not have to come at the expense of human rights – for example, we could stop kicking people out of the military who have critically needed foreign language skills just because they’re gay. We can provide more training for critical languages. We can study non-coercive interrogation methods – something we haven’t done since World War II. None of those things involve or require torture.
Finally, Senator Cardin, I would like to express my immense disappointment – to say the least – to hear that President Bush is prepared to veto the 2008 Fiscal Year intelligence authorization bill because it would require the Central Intelligence Agency to follow the same interrogation norms that apply to military personnel. As it now stands, the 2006 Detainee Treatment Act prohibits military personnel from engaging in torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees.
Last February, Jeffrey H. Smith, the former General Counsel to the CIA, argued strongly in the pages of the Washington Post that armed services and the CIA should not have different standards for the treatment and interrogation of detainees – and I think he’s right. So I truly hope that the intelligence authorization bill will be passed, including its provision regarding CIA interrogations norms, and I hope that the President will expeditiously sign it into law.
Senator, thank you again for your thoughtful and long-standing leadership on this issue. I am proud to be with you today at your state’s flagship university to explore how this issue impacts the United States-- both right here at home and across the globe. Thank you.