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CIA documents reveal systematic torture – have we forgotten the cost of freedom?

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CIA torture techniques including leashing naked prisoner

New documents were released this week which detail the brutal interrogation techniques sanctioned by the CIA after the 9/11 attacks.  The published CIA guidelines reveal that the acceptable level of prisoner discomfort is measured by the amount of permanent physical damage it inflicts on the detainee and not whether or not it violates our humanity or embarrasses our country.  Is this the cost of freedom?

Forgetting the true cost of freedom

CIA interrogation using dogs to intimidate prisonerAt some point, we (Americans) must admit that our comfortable lifestyles were in large part, handed to us on silver platters from our parents and grandparents. The result has been laziness, apathy, and cowardice. Somewhere along the line we have forgotten that our freedom comes at a cost.

Don’t get me wrong – I have no sympathy for Radical-Islamists (yeah, let’s call it what it is) – and I recognize that extreme interrogation techniques may revealed information that ultimately saves American lives. But we cannot forget that the United States sets the example for the rest of the world. Like it or not, our status and standing in the world includes the shouldering of additional responsibilities and those responsibilities come at a cost. This means we must stifle our fears, remember our humanity, and act as our forefathers would have acted – with bravery, integrity, and determination.

We can’t blame politicians either – we alone shoulder the blame. Politicians know that if intelligence information is not obtained, no matter what the cost, American lives may be lost. And when human lives are lost, Americans act out of frustration. Rather that digging our heels into the ground, accepting the loss of life as the cost of freedom and adjusting our game plan accordingly, we choose to believe the politicians have not done their jobs.  It’s a cowardly way out.

CIA documents reveal terrifying torture techniques

This week, two Freedom of Information Act lawsuits (by Vice News and ACLU) forced the CIA to release declassified versions of fifty documents related to the CIA’s terrorist torture program more humanely referred to as “enhanced interrogation techniques”. The program was authorized by President George W. Bush just six days after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks – a period when the entire country cowered under an umbrella of fear.

The documents reveal that some CIA personnel had concerns over the program including one who wrote:

“This morning I informed the front office [of CIA’s Counterterrorism Center] that I will no longer be associated in any way with the interrogation program due to serious reservation I have about the current state of affairs… This is a train wreck waiting to happen and I intend to get the hell off the train before it happens.”

The documents show others suggested hiding the practices, expressing concern over the legality of the interrogation techniques and cautioning against leaving any sort of electronic or paper trail.

It is believed that Congress likely had knowledge of what was going on but did not act. Vice News, one of the entities who filed and won the FOIA request, reported:

“The disclosures make clear that congressional committee leaders on both sides of the aisle were aware as early as January 2003 that the CIA operated an abusive interrogation program that resulted in the death of a detainee, and that the agency ran black site facilities where captives were held incommunicado.”

Torture methods revealed

WaterboardingThis week we find that the techniques and abuses included sleep deprivation, auditory overload, isolation in total darkness, cold-temperature torture, dehydration and starvation, threatening death via various weapons (including an electric drill), and “rough treatment”. More specifically:


Confirmation of waterboarding – including one prisoner who was waterboarded 183 times. Another was waterboarded 83 times before he began helping the CIA interpret documents and identify new prisoners. More disturbing, a CIA note suggested that because of “psychological pressure techniques”, the prisoner would need to remain in isolation for the remainder of his life.

Extreme-cold temperatures

Stripping a prisoner down to a “diaper” and placing in an extremely cold cell. In one documented instance, the prisoner was wearing only a sweatshirt and a diaper while shackled to a bare concrete floor in 31-degree weather. He died of hypothermia in his CIA detention center cell.

Insect/spider torture

Threatening to place stinging insects and spiders into a confined box with the detainee. Then placing the detainee in the darkened, enclosed box but allowing “harmless insects” to crawl over the prisoner instead.

Simulate buried alive

CIA prisoner covered in fecesA “mock burial” where the detainee is placed in a sealed coffin-like box with hidden air holes to “prevent suffocation”. The detainee would be told they were to be buried alive, then placed in the box while a “burial” was simulated until the terrified prisoner broke.

Lifetime isolation to hide psychological damage to prisoner

The revelation that the CIA wanted detainees who had been tortured to be kept hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross. As the document revealed, it was suggested that they should be hidden for the rest of their lives.

Most CIA documents released still heavily redacted

And these are likely the most minor of concerns. Most of the documents are heavily redacted including one containing “reflections of a CIA medical officer on the program” with “page denied” marked on almost all pages.

Not suprisingly, less than a week after the documents were released, in statements to the Senate Intelligence Committee, CIA Director John Brennan began warning that ISIS was still growing stronger.

Sources: Vice News, CNN, ACLU, Politico, CIA, VOA News
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