Opinion

Torture bad for U.S.

It's a simple proposition, easy to back up in a variety of ways: Condoning torture is bad policy for the United States.

Congress recognized that when it passed an anti-torture law in 2005. The law banning "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" of people held in custody by U.S. authorities had two notable functions. One, it was designed to put a halt to the harsh interrogation tactics used at places such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo; two, it was hoped it might help restore America's image as a protector of human rights and a nation above such inhumane treatment of people.

But the Bush administration just doesn't get it. When the president signed the anti-torture bill into law, he added a signing statement -- a common tactic in this administration -- saying, in effect, he was free to ignore the law.

A recent investigation by The New York Times uncovered a series of secret memos -- issued before the anti-torture law was passed -- from the Justice Department then under the control of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The memos authorized interrogators for the Central Intelligence Agency to use torture, advising interrogators that methods such as head-slapping, sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme cold, simulated drowning -- often called "waterboarding" -- forced placement of prisoners in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time or a combination of those methods was permissible.

Most people, we assume, would categorize those methods as torture, especially if prisoners are subjected to them for days or weeks. The hypocritical stance of this administration is to publicly embrace an anti-torture statute while secretly allowing American interrogators to torture prisoners.

Expert after expert has testified that torture is an ineffective and unreliable method of extracting accurate information from prisoners. And the torture of prisoners increases the likelihood that the same methods will be used on American captives.

Perhaps worst of all, torture is antithetical to American values. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, one of the primary sponsors of the anti-torture bill and a victim of torture himself as a POW during the Vietnam War, said, "I have been emphatic that techniques like water-boarding are inconsistent with America's international obligations and incompatible with our deepest values."

The nation pays a price for this hypocrisy. The continued use of torture erodes America's credibility and its moral authority. How can the United States demand that other nations adhere to the values of democracy, open government, respect for the law and human rights when the executive branch of our own government violates those principles? The use of torture doesn't enhance our national security, it undermines it.

Congress needs to demand that the White House produce the secret memos and account for its actions.

IN SUMMARY

Congress should demand administration memos condoning torture of prisoners.

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