Congress has the opportunity this session to do the right thing and take an important step to make sure that U.S.-sponsored torture never happens again.
The Senate Intelligence Committee conducted an investigation into the CIA's use of torture in the aftermath of 9/11. It reviewed more than six million pages of documents, and the report is more than 6,000 pages. The committee approved its report in a bipartisan vote as far back as December of last year. However, without a subsequent committee vote to release it publicly, the document remains classified -- and the truth remains hidden from public awareness.
We anticipate a vote this fall and urge the Senate Intelligence Committee to release the report. This is the first step in Congress and the administration creating safeguards to ensure that U.S. -sponsored torture will never happen again.
As we await public release of that report, we have learned much from the Constitution Project's bipartisan Task Force on Detainee Treatment, which recently released its own report. It concluded that the United States indisputably engaged in torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees. This was a violation of U.S. and international law for which there was no justification. The task force found that "the arguments that the nation did not engage in torture and that much of what occurred should be defined as something less than torture are not credible." Perhaps most significantly, the task force finds that there is "substantial evidence that much of the information adduced from [torture] was not useful or reliable" and that torture was authorized by the highest-level political leaders, including President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
I have been an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ for 51 years. During that time, I have tried to be guided by both Christian and Hebrew scriptures that tell me that God created human beings in God's image.
All people were given dignity and worth by their Creator. Torture is an egregious violation of the dignity and worth of every human being -- both the torturer and the tortured. The Golden Rule makes it clear: Torture should not be perpetrated on others because we would not want others to torture us.
Using this as my moral compass, I find it abhorrent that our government has tortured others in my name. As Americans, we are inherently tied to the acts of our elected officials and their representatives.
We deserve to know all of the facts on torture and, in particular, to be permitted to review the still classified Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogations. As a result of this report, I expect U.S. laws against torture to be strengthened so that my grandchildren do not grow up in a country that does not torture.
As a minister of the United Church of Christ, I join with hundreds of other diverse faith-based organizations of all religions that come together through the National Religious Campaign Against Torture in calling for transparency into U.S. -sponsored torture. The time has come for our country to adhere to the principles on which our nation was founded.
The task force report is a good start, but we deserve the whole truth. It's time the American people got the full story from the Senate Intelligence Committee. Only with a complete description of the evil acts that were committed in our name can we hope to ensure that U.S.-sponsored torture never happens again.
The Rev. John G. Wightman resides in Sheffield.