With the death of British journalist David Frost, Americans were reminded of the impact that the Nixon tapes played toward bringing resolution and closure to the scandal known as Watergate. As the American people called for transparency, President Richard Nixon steadfastly refused to release these tapes to the public. And just as that generation of Americans refused to accept these evasive tactics, Americans today recognizing that the average citizen needed this information in order to understand what happened and more importantly to move past dark times in our history.
Today, the transparency we seek surrounds torture that has been inflicted on those in U.S. custody. Like Americans in 1974, we also have a resource that could help us better understand what happened “in our name.” It is the 6,000 page Senate Intelligence Committee Report that as of yet, has not been released to the American people. Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski is a member of this group and has the ability and the influence to authorize the release the report and we urge her continued support on this.
This summer, we got a glimpse of what this report might reveal through a bipartisan task force set up by the Constitution Project. Drawing on public records and interviews with a number of eyewitnesses and involved persons. The task force noted that the use of torture used was “illegal, abhorrent and cruel” and included several cases where individuals were literally tortured to death. Led by such notables as former FBI Director William Sessions and former Under Secretary of Homeland Security, Asa Hutchinson, the task force goes on to state that the use of torture was so excessive, even the Red Cross debated internally whether to compromise their own confidentiality guidelines in order to make the American public aware of these activities, though it chose not to.
Simply put, the interrogation practices of the last decade are an open festering wound that won’t heal until we address it. We can’t address the issue without first understanding it. But more than that, the trend towards keeping U.S. citizens in the dark about government policies and practices challenges the very founding democratic principles that rely on the government being accountable to its citizens.
It is for these reasons, that as a Catholic, I join people of faith from hundreds of diverse religious and faith-based groups who have come together through the National Religious Campaign Against Torture to call on the Senate Intelligence Committee to release its report about U.S.-sponsored torture to the American people. Likes those in the 1970’s we must remain steadfast against evasive tactics that deny citizens access to the truth.
The report will inevitably be tough to face. But Americans have always risen to the occasion, putting an end to wrongs, ensuring they are not perpetuated and safeguarding against the official sanction of evil for the future. But we cannot not face this wrong to repair it while we are kept in the dark. The truth can only set us free when it is exposed to the light.
Susan Kerin is on the steering committee of the Interfaith Action for Human Rights, a Mid-Atlantic Partner of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture