Torture Tuesday: A Study in Manufacturing Consent

by on December 9, 2014 · 1 comment

in American Empire, Civil Rights, World News

torture stress positionBy Doug Porter

If you are unfortunate enough to be aware of the news today, you’ll be a witness to our country’s greatest exercise in what Walter Lippmann and subsequently Noam Chomsky called ‘manufactured consent.”

I’m referring to the release of the heavily redacted summary of the the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the use of torture. By the end of the day, via the conclusions of the chattering class, the American public will know three things:

  • US policy following the 2001 Al Qaeda attacks included broadly worded permissions to engage in torture.
  • There is controversy over whether torture was effective.
  • Oversight of the intelligence apparatus in the government is a danger to our national security.

Here a link to the actual report.

Advocates for human rights at the Political Prisoners March in Denver on Monday. During street theater at the courthouse, activists simulated US waterboarding and torture. Photo Brenda NorrellAfter a wave of reports on nuggets contained in that report, the conversation in the media will quickly shift to the analysis portion of the program, featuring carefully vetted interviews with individuals who will opine on “both sides” of the issue.

Those defending the release of the Senate report will face accusations of weakness in the face of an overwhelmingly evil threat to our national security.

The actual truths of the matter will be obscured. The questions that we as a people should be asking of ourselves and our leaders will get lost in ad hominem attacks on anybody who dares to challenge the above narratives.

In advance of the release of the Senate report, the Associated Press laid a solid foundation:

American embassies, military units and other U.S. interests are preparing for possible security threats related to the release of a report on the CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques at secret overseas facilities after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The report from the Senate Intelligence Committee will be the first public accounting of the CIA’s use of what critics call torture on al-Qaida detainees held at “black” sites in Europe and Asia. The committee on Tuesday was expected to release a 480-page executive summary of the 6,000-plus-page report compiled by Democrats on the panel.

As Maine Senator Angus King (I) said, “It’s not the report that’s putting lives at risks, it’s what we did that’s putting lives at risk.”

And then there’s the “first public accounting” part of the Associated Press story.

weapon_of_mass_destructionFrom the Guardian: (Emphasis mine)

The release of the torture report will represent the third major airing of faulty CIA intelligence in 15 years, following official commissions into the 9/11 plot and Saddam Hussein’s defunct illicit weapons programs.

Despite months of negotiation over how much of the 6,000-page report will be declassified, most of its findings will never see the light of the day. But even a partial release of the report will yield a furious response from the CIA and its allies.

Except for details regarding how the CIA misled (protected) the executive branch in reporting on its own activities, virtually everything else in today’s summary has been disclosed elsewhere. The 54 countries cooperating with the CIA’s renditions, detentions and interrogations (who are not actually named in the summary) were all identified by human rights investigators long ago.

Defenders of Torture

As Jeff Stein at Newsweek reported, defenders of the “rough stuff” at the CIA have rallied in advance of the report’s release to make sure their narrative forms the baseline of discussion.

tortured…On Sunday they rose as one to rebut the anticipated criticisms in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report, scheduled for release this week, appearing on talk shows, writing op-ed pieces and announcing the launch of a new website called “”

“It’s a one-stop shopping place for the other side,” Bill Harlow, a spokesman for former CIA Director George Tenet, told John Hudson of Foreign Policy magazine. “With the website … we’ll be able to put out newly declassified documents, documents that were previously released but not well read, and host a repository for op-eds and media appearances by various officials.”

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden was more pointed. “To say that we relentlessly, over an expanded period of time, lied to everyone about a program that wasn’t doing any good, that beggars the imagination,” he said on CBS’s Face The Nation.

Verily, even though the CIA tampered with the computers used by the Senate committee, and one of main defenders of the programs covered in the report was responsible for ordering the destruction of interrogation videos in direct defiance of a White House order, we are supposed to trust in these men.

Mark my words, CNN, Fox News and the Associated Press will do their best to deliver the intended message of these scoundrels.

Voices That Should Be Heard

There are other voices out there commenting on the Senate Report.

Marcy Wheeler at EmptyWheel.Net is an excellent researcher who’s analysis deserves to be heard. She points out that the torture programs served purposes other than intelligence collection:

rendition flightsPartly by design, the debate about torture that has already started in advance of tomorrow’s Torture Report release is focused on efficacy, with efficacy defined as obtaining valuable intelligence. Torture apologists say torture provided intelligence that helped to find Osama bin Laden. Torture critics refute this, noting that any intelligence CIA got from those who were tortured either preceded or long post-dated the torture.

Even setting aside my belief that, even if torture “worked” to elicit valuable intelligence, it still wouldn’t justify it, there’s a big problem with pitching the debate in those terms.

As the Senate Armed Services Committee Report on torture (released over 5 years ago, in far less redacted form than tomorrow’s summary will be) makes clear, the Bush regime embraced torture not for “intelligence” but for “exploitation.” In December 2001, when DOD first started searching for what would become torture, it was explicitly looking for “exploitation.”

Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept has ongoing commentary running today on various aspects of the report, and (among other things) he maintains that it’s incorrect to look at these instances as past mistakes or to think abuses were limited to a handful of rogue agents:

One of the worst myths official Washington and its establishment media have told itself about the torture debate is that the controversy is limited to three cases of waterboarding at Guantánamo and a handful of bad Republican actors. In fact, a wide array of torture techniques were approved at the highest levels of the U.S. Government and then systematically employed in lawless US prisons around the world – at Bagram (includingduring the Obama presidency), CIA black sites, even to US citizens on US soil. So systematic was the torture regime that a 2008 Senate report concluded that the criminal abuses at Abu Ghraib were the direct result of the torture mentality imposed by official Washington.

American torture was not confined to a handful of aberrational cases or techniques, nor was it the work of rogue CIA agents. It was an officially sanctioned, worldwide regime of torture that had the acquiescence, if not explicit approval, of the top members of both political parties in Congress. It was motivated by far more than interrogation. The evidence for all of this is conclusive and overwhelming. And the American media bears much of the blame, as they refused for years even to use the word “torture” to describe any of this (even as theycalled these same techniques “torture” when used by American adversaries), a shameful and cowardly abdication that continues literally to this day in many of the most influential outlets.

Also worth browsing is ACLU attorney Marcelene Hearn’s”Required Reading: Prequels to the Torture Report” on the Blog of Rights.

Finally, I leave you with the commentary from Daily Kos’ Meteor Blades, who writes with a passion and purpose I can only dream of attaining:

Disgust, however, is only one of the emotions this document of our leaders’ vile behavior should engender. Anger ought to be foremost. Anger at the men and women who chose not just to look the other way, not just to treat human beings inhumanly, not just to cover it up, but to order these savage acts and, when ultimately exposed, to slime us all with the claim that they were necessary to protect our security and maintain our liberty.

Then there is the disgust and anger that those who gave the orders will never see the inside of a prison cell and some who carried out the orders have been promoted, some of them multiple times.

We have one administration to blame for ordering torture and another to blame for failing to call those directly responsible to justice. Nothing in the document released today will change that. But in another 20 or 40 years, it’s even money that some new investigation will reveal what happens when criminals—war criminals—go unpunished. Their successors think they can get away with it too.


The above is an excerpt from Doug Porter’s column at San Diego Free Press, our online media partner.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Bearded OBcean December 10, 2014 at 11:54 am

Maybe the debate can be centered on this question…”“Do you support the use of interrogation practice X to obtain information that might help save lives if less harsh techniques have been unsuccessful?” with an itemization of what those methods would be.


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