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CIA torturers served their country poorly

To the editor: As a former prisoner of war, I found that an important psychological defense against bad treatment at the hands of a captor (North Korea, in my case) was to hold the captor in contempt as morally and culturally inferior to Americans and to protest beatings and torture as immoral and illegal. It may not stop brutality, but it helps the POW resist demoralization and survive. ("CIA torture report not likely to result in reforms or prosecutions," Dec. 10)

That defense exists because of our country's policy of following higher standards for handling prisoners. The CIA and others who authorized and implemented the brutal treatment of prisoners, many using the war on terror as the excuse to unleash their own violent natures, served their country poorly. Their actions, as recently exposed in the Senate Intelligence Committee report released by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), have betrayed our men and women in uniform and exposed them to greater harm if ever captured.

Pity the next POW who tries to stop a beating by saying it's wrong or illegal to torture. The enemy has a simple response: It's only what you Americans do.

Peter Langenberg, South Pasadena

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To the editor: Torture was a crime under international and U.S. law when my father's testimony at the war crimes trials in Hong Kong after World War II helped convict Lt. Gen. Eiichi Kinoshita of Japan. Kinoshita received a life sentence for the crimes he committed.

Torture has remained a war crime ever since. End of debate.

As a means of extracting actionable intelligence, torture is worthless. In 1942, my father was waterboarded at Shanghai's Bridge House, a notorious torture chamber. He signed a false confession that he was a British agent even though he knew it wasn't true and even though he believed at that moment he was signing his own death warrant.

The ordeal was so frightening, traumatic and, in his words, "exquisitely painful," that death seemed an attractive alternative.

Ernest A. Canning, Thousand Oaks

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To the editor: This is fascinating: We have saturation coverage of a defunct CIA program without mentioning the Obama administration's drone program.

The Obama administration's drone strikes have killed innocent civilians and undertaken the extra-judicial killing of Anwar Awlaki, a U.S. citizen. The summary of the Senate report documents one detainee's death.

The president's drone program has killed many more innocent people than CIA interrogation has, but let's not let that get in the way of Bush administration bashing.

Robert Chapman, Downey

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To the editor: The "debate" over whether the United States should investigate, and if warranted prosecute, government officials who ordered, enabled or carried out torture is entirely misplaced.

The Convention Against Torture and the 1949 Geneva Conventions, both of which the United States has signed, require our country to either initiate prosecution of or to extradite every person who is reasonably accused of having criminal responsibility with respect to torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

Our nation will continue to be complicit in these horrendous crimes against humanity unless we fully and faithfully carry out our legal responsibilities to hold torturers accountable.

Stephen Rohde Los Angeles

The writer is chairman emeritus of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.

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