The Central Intelligence Agency, beginning in 2002, operated the Enhanced Interrogation program to obtain intelligence from suspected terrorists. The agency also made efforts to cover up the fact that their torture program, the one they paid two inexperienced contractors more than $80 million to design, was a failure. Despite this, a handful of Senate staff people managed to uncover the truth.
That story is told forcefully in a recent Amazon-produced film, “The Report,”starring Adam Driver.
“The Report” is named after the torture report — a 6,000-page report from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the CIA’s torture program. The committee, led by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, released a 500-page summary of this longer report. The full 6,000-page torture report is still classified, but should be released by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
In 2012, a bipartisan 9-6 majority of the committee — made up of eight Democrats, and one Republican, then-Sen. Olympia Snowe — voted to adopt the results of the investigation as detailed in the full 6,000-page torture report.
In 2014, the committee voted 11-3 to release a 500-page summary of the report to the public. Seven Democrats, one Independent, and three Republicans voted to release the summary, with one Republican abstaining. That vote, however, was not a foregone conclusion. It required extensive advocacy by many people and organizations. The religious community in Maine was heavily involved in that effort.
As Corinthians 6:19 states, “You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit is in you and is a gift from God. You are no longer your own.” The mind and body of other people are to be respected and protected, not denigrated. It is also true that torture is punishment that has not been approved by any court. It is extrajudicial.
In 2013, when I was executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, our policy director and I told Sen. Angus King that the release of the report would help to ensure that the U.S. would never torture again. In 2014, both he and Sen. Susan Collins indicated that they would vote for the report’s release.
The film shows how brutal, ineffective, and wrong the torture program was. It’s an opportunity to tell others about that reality.
The summary of the torture report described acts of torture, including waterboarding that induced convulsion and vomiting. One detainee was chained, partly unclothed, to a concrete floor and left to die of hypothermia. The CIA placed detainees in ice water “baths” to induce hypothermia and threatened harm to the family members of detainees.
The summary also shows that torture failed to produce intelligence, or it produced false information. In a public response, former CIA director Brennan himself admitted that the CIA did not know whether torture had produced any useful intelligence.
The CIA publicly disputed the conclusions of the torture report. However, Senate Intelligence Committee staff discovered an internal CIA memo describing the results of the CIA’s own review of the program — the “Panetta Review” — that corroborated the conclusions in the report.
In 2015, a large, bipartisan majority of senators voted to require the CIA to abide by the humane standards in the Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations when conducting interrogations. These standards prohibit torture. The bill was later passed by the House and signed into law by the president.
The film, “The Report,” is a dramatic and accurate portrayal of this story. I encourage people to go see it. We need to ensure that no president or Congress will ever repeal the 2015 law.
Rev. Richard Killmer is a retired Presbyterian minister living in Yarmouth. He was the first executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture in Washington, D.C.