America is being blind-sided by the sketchily reported use of torture by our intelligence agencies. Not only has there been merely a partial revelation about the scope of torture, but there are other reports which are yet to be made public.
I am a United Methodist Christian who believes that life is sacred. I believe in the importance of treating all people decently. As a result, I am opposed to the use of torture. The United Methodist Church Book of Resolutions 2012 states that “our commitment to human rights is grounded in the conviction that each and every human life is sacred … among the most significant of human rights is the right to security of person, which includes the right not to be tortured.”
What occurred on 9/11 was horrific. There were several thousand innocent people killed without regard to the sacredness of their lives. But this does not justify the use of torture on people. Torture denies both dignity and human worth.
Recently, the non-governmental, bipartisan Task Force on Detainee Treatment of The Constitution Project completed a two-year investigation into the government’s treatment of 9/11 detainees, concluding that the U.S. government engaged in illegal torture. The co-chairs of the Task Force were former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican from Arkansas, and Ambassador and former Rep. James Jones, a Democrat from Oklahoma. The report drew on public records and the task force members’ own interviews with key eyewitnesses and involved persons.
The task force report describes the confusion that was systemic in our response to terrorism. It shows how the United States captured and held as prisoners detainees who have not been charged with any connection to terrorism, and it details how we have mistreated detainees in cruel and capricious ways. And the report found “no firm or persuasive evidence that the use of torture produced significant information of value.” In fact, the task force found “there is substantial evidence that much of the information adduced from [torture] was not useful or reliable.”
However, though it is comprehensive, the task force report is not the final word on torture. The Senate Intelligence Committee has conducted its own investigation into torture for which it reviewed over six million pages of documents. The report on the Intelligence Committee’s investigation is more than 6,000 pages long and was adopted by the committee in December 2012. It is time for the Senate Intelligence Committee to release its findings so the debate on torture will exist no longer; it is time the public has the tools to conclude that torture is wrong in all circumstances.
Our nation’s founders chose our form of government to be accountable to its citizens. As Americans, we have a responsibility to live up to the morality our founders bestowed upon us-we, the people, must hold elected officials accountable for their behaviors and acts. If we as citizens are kept in the dark about government policies and practices, the government ceases to be accountable to its people, and the American public ceases to adhere to our founding principles.
According to the task force report,“Task Force members believe that having as thorough as possible an understanding of what occurred during this period of serious threat-and a willingness to acknowledge any shortcomings-strengthens the nation and equips us to better cope with the next crisis and ones after that. Moving on without such a reckoning weakens our ability to claim our place as an exemplary practitioner of the rule of law.”
As a person of faith, I am opposed to torture. We must not perpetuate torture on others, and we must name it when it occurs. I call on the Senate Intelligence Committee to release its report. And I call on other people of faith to do the same.
Rev. Stephen Copley is chair of the Arkansas Interfaith Alliance and a United Methodist pastor.