On any other day, the release of the results of the Constitution Project's two-year nonpartisan inquiry into post 9-11 interrogation and detention programs would be--or at least should be--today's lead story. But the report's finding--that the United States indisputably engaged in torture after 9-11--is earthshattering enough that it still ended up on the front page of this morning's New York Times (though yesterday's horror in Boston drove it below the fold).
The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.”The report will be rolled out in full this morning at 9 am Eastern--watch a Webcast of the press conference here. It minces no words. Not only did we engage in torture, but the highest officials of the government--all the way up to President George W. Bush--were responsible for implementing it. Such action, the report says, had "no justification" and "damaged the standing of our nation" It also put our troops in danger in case they were ever captured.
While the task force did not have access to classified records, it is the most ambitious independent attempt to date to assess the detention and interrogation programs. A separate 6,000-page report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s record by the Senate Intelligence Committee, based exclusively on agency records, rather than interviews, remains classified.
“As long as the debate continues, so too does the possibility that the United States could again engage in torture,” the report says.
The study was led by Democrat James R. Jones and Republican Asa Hutchinson. Jones, for those who don't know, was White House chief of staff under LBJ, a former Democratic congressman from Oklahoma, and our ambassador to Mexico during Clinton's first term. And don't laugh--this is the same Asa Hutchinson who crafted the NRA's inane armed-guards-in-schools program. But he told the NYT that after reviewing the evidence, he has no doubt that we engaged in torture.
Hutchinson was no doubt swayed by the report's considerable detail. Among other things, it confirms a Human Rights Watch report that the CIA waterboarded at least one Libyan dissident--likely demolishing the CIA's longstanding insistence that only three Al-Qaeda operatives were waterboarded. It also confirms that CIA agents slammed prisoners against walls, stripped their clothing, forced them to stay awake for days and chained them in uncomfortable positions for hours on end. It also found other instances that, on the face of it, would violate numerous international agreements we've signed on torture--such as forced disappearances and secret detentions.
The report also details the legal gymnastics employed by Bush administration lawyers to justify these methods, and also details how medical professionals violated their oath by directing and monitoring them. It also contains a 22-page legal and historical analysis that proves what we did was indeed torture, based on several cases here in this country where those who engaged in similar treatment were brought up on criminal charges. It likens our actions to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
Jones put it bluntly to the NYT--"We lost our compass." Hopefully this report will put us on the path to regaining it.