Revelations about Central Intelligence Agency mistreatment of captive terrorism suspects spurred worldwide revulsion Tuesday and provided ammunition to foreign critics who accuse the United States of a double standard on human rights at home and abroad.
Advance word of the report’s graphic accounts of degrading and painful “enhanced interrogation techniques” prompted the U.S. government to warn its diplomatic and military personnel around the world to be on guard for violent anti-American backlashes.
The report and the damning details revealed by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on the floor of the Senate were received by friendly and hostile nations alike as validation of their criticism of the George W. Bush administration’s secret detention and interrogation programs after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“This will have a very negative impact on the image of the United States,” Teng Jianqun, director of the Center for Arms Control at the China Institute of International Studies, told state-run CCTV. He said U.S. officials seek to present themselves as “the big boys on human rights affairs in the international community,” publishing evaluations of other countries’ behavior while clandestinely engaging in “notorious” actions of their own.
Teng described release of the report as evidence of the “struggle between the two parties” after Democrats lost control of the Senate in last month’s midterm elections and “tried to gain something” by releasing the report on CIA excesses committed during the eight-year tenure of the Republican Bush.
No high-ranking political leaders in China or Russia were known to have commented on the reported CIA excesses, hewing to their defensive posture that human rights are domestic matters and foreign countries shouldn’t interfere.
But state-run media in both countries reported in detail on the brutal methods used by CIA interrogators in what the report said were vain efforts to elicit information on pending terror plots.
“Interrogation techniques used against terror suspects by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency were brutal and far worse than the agency presented to policy makers and the American public,” Russia’s Sputnik news agency said in its report.
Global human rights advocates called for charges to be brought against the American architects and perpetrators of the interrogation tactics that President Obama called “contrary to our values.”
At the United Nations human rights agency in Geneva, on the eve of International Human Rights Day, the world body welcomed the “belated” publication on findings of the Senate investigation into “the crimes of torture and enforced disappearance of terrorist suspects by the Bush-era CIA.”
“It has taken four years since the report was finalized to reach this point,” said Ben Emmerson, special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights. “The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes.”
“The report shows the repeated claims that harsh measures were needed to protect Americans are utter fiction,” said Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth. Unless those responsible are made accountable, “torture will remain a ‘policy option’ for future presidents,” Roth said.
“This report provides yet more damning detail of some of the human rights violations that were authorized by the highest authorities in the U.S.A. after 9/11,” said Amnesty International’s director for the Americas, Erika Guevara Rosas. “Despite much evidence having been in the public realm for years, no one has been brought to justice for authorizing or carrying out the acts in these CIA programs.”
Foreign broadcast networks and online newspapers, including the BBC, Al Jazeera and Britain’s Telegraph, carried Feinstein’s address live. Russia Today television showed excerpts of Feinstein’s address, interspersed with images of the waterboarding interrogation technique that simulates drowning and comments critical of the torture report by Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper called the report a “milestone” in revealing the extent of “brutal and ineffective” torture practices that the agency repeatedly lied about.
Reaction to the report among U.S. allies in Europe and Asia was muted, in part because, as some media and analysts noted, the existence of the CIA detention and interrogation programs has been known for years, as have the excesses to which detainees were exposed. Few leading politicians weighed in on the disclosures, leaving commentary to the media and academics.
“Winning the crown for Most Appalling Human Rights Record in the Western World could be a tough tournament” following the release of the CIA torture report, wrote Sydney Morning Herald columnist Andrew P. Street. The Senate report not only confirmed abusive techniques like waterboarding and prolonged “stress positions” but that torture garnered no useful information, Street added.
“Now we know how bad things were, and how out of control the CIA was, as it leapt into action in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks,” Britain’s Independent newspaper began its report on the details released on interrogation practices that, it lamented, “the CIA still refuses to acknowledge as torture.”
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