The Common Good

On Anniversary of Bin Laden's Death, Heated Debate about Torture Use

The anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hand of U.S. troops has reawakened the political controversy over the use of torture. 

Guantamo Bay prison image by John Moore/Getty Images.
Detainees stand during an early morning Islamic prayer at the prison for 'enemy combatants', in Guantanamo Bay. Getty Images.

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In an opinion piece today, Jose Rodriguez, Jr., former director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, says it wouldn’t have happened without torture. He writes of an al-Qaeda operative captured in 2004, who was “taken to a secret CIA prison – or ‘black site’ – where he was subjected to some ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’”

Following this, Rodriguez writes, “the detainee became compliant,” providing information which eventually led to the identification of Osama bin Laden’s courier, which eventually led to bin Laden. The President, he notes, within days of his inauguration, ordered the CIA prisons closed and banned the use of harsh interrogation methods.

The current chairs of two Senate committees – Dianne Feinstein of Intelligence and Carl Levin of Armed Services – dispute that claim. In a statement based on a 3-year investigation, they said “…the C.I.A. learned of the existence of the courier, his true name and location through means unrelated to the C.I.A. detention and interrogation program.”

The controversy shows that the debate over torture is not yet over. It should be. Torture is counter-productive (more and better information is secured without it), could lead to retribution (if the U.S. uses torture, it has no grounds to protest if captured Americans are tortured), illegal (violating several provisions of international law), and immoral (violating our basic belief in the dignity of human beings created in God’s image).

The very fact that torture can be discussed and defended should be repulsive to us. It is an offense not worthy of an allegedly civilized nation.

Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor for Sojourners. Follow Duane on Twitter @DShankDC.

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