Debate Cheat Sheet on Torture | The Center for Victims of Torture

Debate Cheat Sheet on Torture

Monday, September 26, 2016

Melina Milazzo is CVT senior policy counsel.

Monday’s first presidential debate is anticipated to break viewership records. “Securing America” will be one of the debate’s hot topics. If you are planning to watch by yourself or with others, and the issue of torture or what has been euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation” comes up, here’s what you, your friends and family should know about torture. Pass it on.

Torture is not a policy option, it’s a crime. Torture is illegal under both U.S. and international law. It is never justified – not in war, not in a state of emergency, not ever. Like genocide and slavery, torture is so widely condemned that it has reached a rare status in international law – no country can exempt itself from the absolute prohibition. President Obama signed an executive order on his second day in office to end the immoral and unlawful practice of torture and cruelty in interrogations. And in November 2015, Congress, in a rare showing of bi-partisan unity, passed the McCain-Feinstein anti-torture amendment which codified many aspects of the President’s executive order into law. In so doing, Congress sent a clear message to any future administration that torture is off the table.

Torture makes us weak, less safe. According to Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, America’s use of torture post 9/11 served as a recruiting tool for our enemies, incited violence against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, hampered cooperation with allies, and weakened U.S. diplomacy. It also undermines what the U.S. has often touted as one of its greatest foreign policy assets – its moral authority and leadership on human rights. Far from being “tough” on terror, torture makes us weak and less safe.

Torture leads to failure. As an effective interrogation tool, torture is a complete failure. Historically, torture has been used to force confessions, spread fear, silence dissent and exact vengeance. Unlike the fictionalized versions of torture shown on t.v. or in film, torture is not likely to lead to actionable information. The popular plotline that requires torture in order to stop a ticking time bomb from going off and save lives is used in t.v. or film because it creates drama; experts have said repeatedly this not a real scenario—and, even if it was, torture wouldn’t be the way to solve it. In real life, torture is more likely to produce false information and send investigators on wild goose chases. A strong body of scientific evidence finds that torture simply doesn’t work because it affects memory and other cognitive abilities to recall accurate, actionable information. Indeed, the Senate’s torture report found that the CIA’s torture program was ineffective in gathering actionable intelligence that wasn’t already known. By contrast, it found that multiple detainees fabricated information and provided faulty intelligence.

Torture is opposed by prominent Americans across political lines. Recently, over 100 senior U.S. leaders in national security, foreign policy, military and faith sectors from diverse political affiliations endorsed a declaration rejecting torture unequivocally and without exception. This statement, coordinated by the Center for Victims of Torture, is another example of the long-standing bi-partisan opposition to torture in the United States. But too many Americans believe that torture can sometimes be justified. It’s time to speak out and not be silent anymore. Join other prominent Americans in rejecting torture and end this debate once and for all.



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