CIA torture report unlikely to prompt change

Rebuke of US agency’s brutal abuse of prisoners will probably not spark effective action from government or public.

There has been a debate, or at least I am hoping it has been talked about in American newsrooms, over what to call what the CIA did to terrorism suspects at their once secret prisons.

Newscasters here often take the safe way out, and say it is the practice that the president has called torture. I do not think they will debate that anymore after the release of the executive summary from the US senate investigation. It is a scathing rebuke of the Central Intelligence Agency. Some of the key facts from the 500 plus pages:

– Detainees could be denied sleep for up to 180 hours (more than a week) (some hallucinated as a result).

– A detainee died of hypothermia after being chained half naked to a floor (the CIA bosses did not know the enhanced interrogation techniques were even used at that site).

– Detainees were allowed to be pulled from their cells – their clothes cut off, a hood put over their head, and they were dragged down a hallway while being repeatedly punched.

– The CIA described waterboarding as a “series of near drownings”.

– There is evidence that more than three people were water boarded.

– Five detainees were forced to have rectal feeding or rectal hydration (not for any known medical reasons).

– The interrogations did not thwart any plots or help find any operatives.

– The CIA lied to congress, the president and the public.

– That is just the beginning of what the report found. The CIA is denying the report, and insists the program did save lives.

So what happens now? The simple answer is: probably nothing. President Barack Obama has ruled out prosecuting anyone who was involved with the programme. If congress was lied to that is a crime. The Republicans who are taking over and would have the power to prosecute did not want the report released in the first place so it seems unlikely they will take any action.

The only way the scenario could possibly change is if the American people demanded a change. I have heard a lot of politicians talk about the fear that there will be an overseas reaction. Concern about what could happen here at home has not really been a factor.

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