Sorry, Senator Risch

But transparency isn't the problem with torture

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee released a report about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. It made clear that the CIA repeatedly tortured prisoners, received little information of value from it and lied to Congress about it.

The report is a disturbing read. It reports that "detainees" were waterboarded, kept naked during interrogations and rehydrated through rectal infusion.

Here's an except from the report:

"For example, [OFFICER 2] placed al-Nashiri in a 'standing stress position' with 'his hands affixed over his head' for approximately two and a half days. Later, during the course of al-Nashiri's debriefings, while he was blindfolded, [CIA OFFICER 2] placed a pistol near al-Nashiri's head and operated a cordless drill near al-Nashiri's body. Al-Nashiri did not provide any additional threat information during, or after, these interrogations."

Oh, and if that doesn't make you shiver with disgust, you should know that more than half of all detainees were sent off to a facility in an unnamed country to be interrogated by untrained officers using even more questionable tactics.

According to Idaho Senator Jim Risch, the big problem with this isn't the actions of the CIA, but that this report has been publicly released. He argues that releasing the report will help terrorist groups recruit, lead to attacks on Americans living abroad and make our allies more skeptical of aiding us in the "war on terror."

All three of these suggestions of increased risks to our nation are credible to some degree, in my opinion, but Senator Risch misapplies the blame. In a joint press release with Senator Marco Rubio, Risch writes that releasing the report "is reckless and irresponsible."

Actually what was reckless and irresponsible were the actions of the CIA. Not to torture the point, but the issue isn't about revealing what we did, but rather with what we did. Torturing people has made our country less safe and tarnished our sense of American exceptionalism.

Idaho's representatives in D.C. have not always been so blind to the need to protect human rights against an overzealous security establishment.

The Church Committee (named and chaired by legendary Idaho Senator Frank Church) held the NSA to task for its early electronic monitoring capabilities and warned of a time when the NSA would monitor everything. He said, "I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. ... I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss."

When now-Governor Butch Otter served in the U.S. House of Representatives, he was one of only a few lonely votes against the U.S. Patriot Act.

The purpose of the CIA is to keep America safe, but its actions over the past decade have fundamentally harmed our security. The solution isn't to blame the messenger and try to further hide unethical acts, but rather to live up to the promise of our values and responsibilities that come with them. ♦

John T. Reuter, a former Sandpoint City Councilman, is the executive director of Conservation Voters for Idaho. He has been active in protecting Idaho's environment, expanding LGBT rights and the Idaho Republican Party.

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About The Author

John T. Reuter

John T. Reuter, a former Sandpoint City Councilman, studied at the College of Idaho and currently resides in Seattle. He has been active in protecting the environment, expanding LGBT rights and Idaho's Republican Party politics.