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Crucial report

Michael Knigge
December 9, 2014

The US Senate's CIA torture report is crucial. Critics arguing it should be pulled for fear of negative consequences for US foreign policy and security abroad have got it exactly wrong, writes DW's Michael Knigge.

cia logo reinemachen geheimdienst usa
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

What began as a bipartisan effort years ago - as usual these days in Congress - quickly turned into a divisive battle out of which no one involved will emerge unblemished when the US Senate report on the CIA torture and rendition program carried out during the presidency of George W. Bush is finally released.

Instead of presenting to Americans and the world a government united in its quest to detail, analyze and stand up to the wrongs committed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks by a key governmental entity, Washington continues to engage in partisan shenanigans on this crucial issue.

Detractive discussion

As a result, Republicans not only vehemently oppose releasing the executive summary of the report, but will launch their own media blitz to counter its findings. The CIA will also publish its own take on the report. That will force Senator Dianne Feinstein, the head of the Senate's intelligence committee and the White House to defend the publication of the report against the blistering barrage from its critics.

That's a shame, because it detracts from what the discussion should really be about: Not whether or not this report needs to be released, but rather about what the findings tell us about the CIA's torture and rendition program and what we should learn from it for today.

Deutsche Welle Michael Knigge
Michael Knigge reports on transatlantic affairs for DWImage: DW/P. Henriksen

Trigger for consequences

A key argument for many critics to shelve or delay the report is that its release could have negative consequences - specifically for Americans abroad and more generally for US foreign policy.

Unfortunately, they have the argument exactly wrong.

It is important to note that it is not the release of the report that could potentially trigger negative consequences for US citizens and foreign policy, it is the acts and practices of torture and rendition detailed in the report that may do so. And it is equally important to point out that contrary to what these critics are claiming the release of the report will not damage, but could salvage US foreign policy.

No place for hubris

How can the US, the global superpower, which historically is viewed and views itself as the beacon of freedom - as the ‘city upon a hill' for the world to emulate, - criticize other countries on human rights when itself doesn't come clean on its own abuses?

It can't. To regain the international credibility that has been lost due to the egregious overreach by the CIA and others during the Bush years, it is crucial that Washington must acknowledge and accept responsibility for these actions.

But to focus on international aspects only would undersell the issue. It's much more important than that.

In a democratic, rule-of-law based country there simply cannot be a place for torture. By releasing the Senate report on torture the US is making an important step in asserting a fact that actually should not need to be asserted in the first place.

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