America’s military might, foreign aid and diplomatic outreach are all essential elements of U.S. foreign policy. But they’re far less effective if the United States itself does not live the values it espouses. The use of torture in the post-9/11 era not only violated those values but contradicted national and global conventions.
It’s well past time to reckon with this recent past, in order to avoid repeating similar mistakes in the future. Accordingly, three key documents detailing and analyzing the use of torture should be made public.
It has been a year since the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence produced a 6,000-plus-page, 35,000-footnote report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. These practices were carried out in America’s name, and Americans have a right to know what happened. The committee is negotiating with the CIA on how much of the report needs redaction. We urge that only portions needed to protect sources and methods be redacted, and that the CIA not be allowed to use this process as a way to protect itself and sympathetic lawmakers.
A unanimous, bipartisan vote to release the report would send a strong global signal that the United States will hold itself accountable. A partisan split, conversely, would confirm that there is opposition even to this fundamental American value. The committee should heed the bipartisan call of 58 notable national-security, military, diplomatic and religious leaders who have signed a statement drafted by four human-rights groups, including the Minneapolis-based Center for Victims of Torture, that supports the report’s release.
In addition, the CIA-produced rebuttal to the Senate report — as well as another internal, undisclosed CIA analysis — should be released with as little redaction as possible.
President Obama was elected in part because of his clear and correct opposition to such practices. He should use his power to coalesce senators and prod the CIA to cooperate. It’s time for transparency, and for America to live up to its values.