Waterboarding Gives Unreliable Information

The Macomb Daily raised important issues in its editorial concerning recent revelations that detainees held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay were subjected to extensive waterboarding.

    The use of torture is barred by both United States and international law. Despite assertions to the contrary by former Vice President Cheney and other defenders of the Bush administration policies, torture has not been proved to be more effective than other methods of interrogation. On the contrary, torture often yields unreliable information since people will say just about anything to make the torture stop.

    Further, the use of torture puts U.S. forces at greater risk of being abused if they are captured. That is why during the presidential campaign, both Barack Obama and John McCain spoke out against the use of torture, including waterboarding.

    Recent revelations that the Bush administration authorized and made extensive use of waterboarding at Guantanamo Bay are profoundly disturbing and harmful to U.S. interests and our moral authority in the world. It has served as a tool to recruit terrorists. Our nation has traditionally been a beacon for human rights and has taken a strong line against torture. In 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer with war crimes for carrying out waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The officer was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

    In 2007, I co-sponsored the American Anti-Torture Act that clarified that interrogation techniques that are prohibited for use by the Army Field Manual are similarly prohibited if used by the CIA or other governmental agencies. The Field Manual explicitly prohibits waterboarding, among many other forms of torture.

    On his first day of office, President Obama signed an executive order that requires all U.S. personnel to follow the U.S. Army Field Manual while interrogating detainees. He was right to do so. The recent revelations about the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding are troubling and the American people deserve a full accounting.

    As we pursue the truth about what transpired, it is important to keep the focus on where it belongs. We need to understand the chain of events that led to the U.S. government authorizing and enabling torture. The facts surrounding when the CIA briefed members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, and what was contained in these briefings, is in dispute and doubtlessly will be explored.

    Guantanamo Bay has become a symbol of human rights abuses and violation of the rule of law. It should be closed, but we need a detailed plan on how this will be accomplished. Clearly, closing Guantanamo Bay does not mean releasing suspected terrorists onto the streets of America, anywhere. No one has suggested that. We do need a clear idea of how the remaining detainees will be tried and where they will be incarcerated.

    The United States is in a global struggle against terrorism. As the President said last week, our single most important responsibility is to keep the American people safe, and “we uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and keeps us safe.”

    This struggle against terrorism is being waged on the battlefields of Afghanistan and also on television screens and in newspapers around the world. We alienate our allies and embolden our enemies when we give up the moral high ground that America has traditionally held on the world stage. We are strongest when we adhere to our values and the rule of law.