The US Central Intelligence Agency’s use of torture was reported widely on front pages around the world on Wednesday.
A milestone report by the Senate intelligence committee revealed that the use of torture in secret prisons run by the CIA was even more extreme than previously exposed, and included “rectal rehydration” and “rectal feeding”, sleep deprivation lasting almost a week and threats to the families of the detainees.
Here’s how the world’s media responded to the report.
In the US
The New York Times called the report “a portrait of depravity that is hard to comprehend and even harder to stomach”. But, in its editorial, the Times emphasised that no one was ever likely to be held accountable for these acts.
The litany of brutality, lawlessness and lack of accountability serves as a reminder of what a horrible decision President Obama made at the outset of his administration to close the books on this chapter in our history, even as he repudiated the use of torture. The CIA officials who destroyed videotapes of waterboarding were left unpunished, and all attempts at bringing these acts into a courtroom were blocked by claims of national secrets.
It is hard to believe that anything will be done now.
The Washington Post was similarly emphatic in its own editorial, following graphic details of treatment meted out to detainees in CIA custody with a clear:
“This is not how Americans should behave. Ever.”
The editorial concludes:
We don’t discount warnings that releasing the report might rouse anti-American sentiment in the near term. But in the long term, the United States will benefit by demonstrating a commitment to transparency and self-criticism — and, most of all, by pledging never to repeat its post-9/11 mistakes.
The LA Times described attempts by “Republicans in Congress and many in the national-security bureaucracy” to bottle up the intelligence committee’s conclusions as “scandalous”. It gave short shrift to the suggestion made by some Republicans that the report would increase the chance of terrorist attacks on America, pointing this out to be “an argument that could be used to justify suppressing the information forever”.
USA Today was more circumspect on torture, its editorial claiming “the degree to which the CIA program gained useful information from terrorists is destined to be debated for some time”. It quoted liberally from Senator John McCain, himself a victim of torture in Vietnam, who told the Senate:
This question isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be… Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.
In the UK
The Times emphasied the impact of the report on the CIA despite the fact that many of its conclusions “had been trailed long in advance”.
The CIA depicted here is the rogue agency of Hollywood fiction, writing its own rules, hoodwinking its paymasters and betraying the values for which America purports to stand. The agency has prepared a furious point-by-point rebuttal, but it would do well to take the bulk of this broadside on the chin.
The Independent followed the Times in its accusation that America chose to “forfeit the moral high ground” after 9/11.
We have known the ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ such as waterboarding constituted torture. Now the committee has confirmed it. This is not just a breach of the solemn and absolute prohibition of torture to which the US has committed itself in international treaties: it is a terrible political and moral mistake.
The Telegraph said that what was more alarming is that those responsible “sought to conceal the truth about their activities from American policymakers and the public. Even the White House … was kept in the dark as to the extent of the programme.”
Around the world
The story also ran on the front pages of newspapers around the world including Spain’s El Pais, Germany’s Das Bild, Belgium’s DeMorgen, Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, Saudi Arabia’s Arab News, The Times of India, Poland’s Gazeta, Buenos Aires Herald and Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.
Poland’s former president Aleksander Kwasniewski has confirmed for the first time that his country hosted one of the CIA’s “black sites”, but says he did not authorise the brutal treatment of inmates. He said American officials told him the site would be used to gain information from sources “who had expressed willingness to cooperate” and that George W Bush insisted the agency’s methods provided “important benefits in security matters”.
Poland allowed the CIA to hold terror suspects on its soil on the condition they were treated in accordance with Polish law, he said, adding that the US never signed the memorandum agreeing to this. He said those who broke international laws prohibiting torture should be prosecuted.
Kwasniewski claims to have put pressure on Bush about CIA interrogation in Poland in a meeting at the White House in 2003. “I told Bush that this cooperation must end and it did end,” Kwasniewski said. “The Americans conducted their activities in such secrecy that it raised our concern.”
He defended cooperation with the US after the September 11 attacks, saying his administration had calculated Washington would return the favour. Explaining why he chose to work closely with the CIA, he said: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
He added that the publication of the Senate report was a breach of trust because Poland had believed details of its partnership with the CIA would remain secret.
“The report shows that one needs to work with this most important, biggest ally on the basis of limited trust, but trust nonetheless,” he said.
The Lithuanian prime minister, Algirdas Butkevicius, urged Washington to say whether the country housed one of the bases where the CIA tortured prisoners.
Although Lithuania was not named in the heavily redacted report, the description of “detention centre Violet” is consistent with a 2009-10 Lithuanian parliament investigation, which found that the CIA had set up and run premises that could have been used as a detention centre near the capital, Vilnius. At the time, the report could not determine whether the site was used to house prisoners because US officials refused to cooperate.
Butkevicius said he hoped parliament would reopen the investigation and the US would share the full report, or at least an unredacted version of Tuesday’s 600-page summary.
Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi now held at Guantánamo Bay, says he was kept in the secret CIA site in Lithuania and has called on the European court of human rights to rule that Lithuania acted illegally.
However, Lithuania’s former president Valdas Adamkus told the local BNS news service: “Until I see documents before my eyes about someone secretly bringing prisoners into Lithuania, I will stick to my position that there were no prisons or prisoners in Lithuania.”
USA TODAY REPORTS …
Voices: Worldwide fallout from CIA torture report
For two decades, I have worked in countries where government torture was part of the landscape. To the oppressed, America was a beacon for human rights.
But after the Sept. 11 attacks, there was a sea change.
I was headed to Sanaa, Yemen, to lead workshops for local journalists as CBS andThe New Yorker broke the story of torture at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in April 2004. Pictures of American soldiers brutalizing naked Muslim detainees filled the airwaves.
The workshop participants — 27 men and three women — vented disgust at the United States for allowing tactics they despised in their own country. A band of renegade soldiers drew outrage throughout the Islamic world.
Abu Ghraib tarnished America’s reputation. The Dec. 9, 2014, report by the Senate Intelligence Committee dealt it a devastating blow.
Senate report reopens battle over CIA interrogations
The Senate investigation confirmed that torture and deceit were part of the CIA’s modus operandi. The sordid details turned stomachs and left America’s adversaries smirking over the blatant double standard.
China, North Korea, Iran and the Islamic State — all serial torturers — were quick to point out that America had lost the moral high ground. The Chinese news agencyXinhua suggested the United States “clean up its own backyard” before preaching human rights to other countries.
This breakdown in moral authority has a powerful impact on all of us who operate overseas. For me, the difficult part will be explaining how a policy of torture and abuse happened in the first place.
I have heard chilling accounts from foreign journalists about going to jail and being threatened by their governments or extremists. I worry that the CIA torture report will embolden their tormentors.
In Iran, a journalist could not imagine exposing government secrets without suffering dire consequences. In Yemen, a reporter asked if the authors of the Abu Ghraib stories would go to prison and their news media organizations would be shut down. …
Some Reader Comments
Hue Hendricks · Top Commenter · Bowling Green State University
The Bush family has destroyed our perception in the world. Unfortunately, our own policies are a reason for the direct hatred of American in the Arab world. Operations just cause then the first Iraq war. In our own denial, we have created imperial terror. In Bush’s first war the death toll in Iraq was estimated 150,000 and 79 Americans. Jr.’s war was 2million and 90% civilians by estimation on top of Afghanistan. So what’s next round 3 good ole Jeb. It is time for accountability and prosecution of our domestic terrorists. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield are a good start. They have neither made us any safer or any more free. They turned war into a for profit globalized corporation and have reaped erroneous riches from it. Which are free to them because 56 cents of every tax dollar pays for it. Tax dollars that they don’t pay and if they did it would be from profits reaped from tax payer money regardless.