The new report by the Task Force is not just crucial, it’s urgent. Such practices as forced feeding, as well as indefinite detention, continue. Hunger strikes are going on right now at Guantanamo, and detainees are being painfully force fed. We as a nation dare not treat torture as something we have “gotten past.” It’s not past. Not yet.
The report does take another step forward, however, toward the crucial moral and civic task of truth-telling about our recent national history, post 9/11, of authorizing, conducting and lying about torture. It’s a long and detailed report, truly wrenching to read. But as Scripture teaches, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
The report is all the more powerful because of the rigorously bipartisan composition of the 11-member task force. The co-chairs were Asa Hutchinson, who served as Under Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security during the George W. Bush administration and is a former Republican member of Congress from Arkansas and Ambassador James Jones, former Democratic member of Congress from Oklahoma and ambassador to Mexico.
The task force examined public records and conducted hearings with eye-witnesses and persons involved. The examples of torture, including several cases where individuals were tortured to death, are chilling. One crucial thing this report reveals is how much is still not known to the public.
There are 24 “findings” in the report, and accompanying documentation and recommendations for action. Some of these findings are that U.S. forces used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture, that there is “no firm or persuasive evidence” that this torture produced information of value, that the torture was authorized by the highest level political leaders, that the Office of Legal Counsel “repeatedly gave erroneous legal sanction” to torture, and that medical professional violated their professional ethical obligations when they participated in the torture and coercive interrogation.
The report also documents problems that are on-going today and need immediate address: the high level of secrecy about rendition and torture of detainees is not warranted, that the Army Field Manual has been amended (2006) to arguably permit cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and should be changed, and the transfer of detainees from U.S. control to Afghanistan control has resulted in the infliction of torture in violation of international obligations.