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The Torture Test
By Ray McGovern
Yesterday’s Washington Post article by Dana Priest regarding CIA-run secret prisons abroad brings the issue of torture front and center once again and prompts these comments from former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. Ray now works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C.
The next several days will show whether our Congress has slipped its moral moorings. Seldom have moral lines been so clearly drawn. The issue is whether American armed forces and intelligence personnel should be permitted or forbidden to torture detainees. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are expected to decide whether to ban torture against all prisoners held by the United States, to merely ban torture for some of those prisoners, or to reject outright any attempt to legislate a new ban on torture. The White House and the CIA are lobbying to exempt detainees held by the CIA from an amendment— sponsored by John McCain and endorsed by nearly all senators—that would ban "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment for all detainees held by the United States.
The context for the White House position is key. After the publication in of the Abu Ghraib photos in 2004, the administration released a raft of documents claiming these documents showed that there was no policy allowing the abuse of prisoners. It was surreal; the documents showed just the opposite. It was as though the White House thought we couldn’t read.
Most striking was a memorandum of February 7, 2002, signed by President George W. Bush, on the treatment of Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees. That memorandum records the president’s unilateral determination that the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war “does not apply to either al Qaeda or Taliban detainees.