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On one infamous day the entire world stood still watching the planes crash into the Twin Towers, seeing the black smoke rise into the New York City skyline, looking to see people jumping from thousands of feet in the air to avoid being burned alive. We recognize, remember, and relive this fateful day every September 11th since 2001. As first attack on United States soil since the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, 9/11 ushered Americans into a state of fear, into years of warfare, and, most importantly, into the knowledge that we are not immune to terrorism. In the years following, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) launched efforts into acquiring intelligence from terrorists behind the attacks in whatever ways possible. This gave way to the construction of Guantanamo Bay detention camp and the disgraceful, inhumane torture people suffered in the name of justice. Despite their barbaric tactics, malicious lies, and vicious persecution of human beings, the torture of detainees by the CIA had little to no influence on the safety of Americans from terrorist attacks.
During World War II, Nazi-Germany tortured civilians belonging to alias powers, prisoners of war, and those they suspected of being disloyal to their cause. Many believe torture worked for the Gestapo, Hitler’s Secret State Police, however, “…most of their information [came] from public tips, informers and interagency from cooperation,” (Rejali). Admittedly, the Gestapo did torture, but their results were not substantial. After “brutal torture” to “senior leaders of the French, Danish, Polish and German resistance,” the Gestapo “failed to break” even them. Darius Rejali, a writer for the Washington Post who actively studies the happenings during World War II, states that over years of “collecting all the cases of Gestapo torture “successes”…the number is small and the results [are] pathetic,”. Further, why would the United States of America, a country that bravely fought to defend our nation and uphold our moral values, stoop to the level of a police force known for the genocide of millions of Jews? Torture, no matter the case, is not the answer in matters of terrorism.
Furthermore, detainees may supply false or misleading information in order to stop being tortured. There are many cases and examples of detainees giving false information or confessing to crimes they did not commit in order to end the pain. An article by Michael Ignatieff of Human Rights Watch cites two examples of this: Magdalena Monteza and Bill Sampson. Monteza, a 19-year-old Peruvian student, was taken in as in “alleged subversive.” Not only was the teen tortured by her captors, but raped over and over until she confessed to “being apart of a revolutionary cell”. Monteza is quoted as saying: “I couldn’t take the torture so I decided to sign [a confession]. I confessed to things I never did,” (Ignatieff). Additionally, Sampson shared his own story about being tortured in Saudi Arabia. Under pressure and scared for his life, similar to Monteza, Sampson, “…admitted to being apart of a network responsible for bombings and murder,” (Ignatieff). One last example, which is far more important to American torture, comes from Kahlid Sheikh Mohammed, the “mastermind” behind 9/11 who arguably spurned the new age of torture in the United States. This man, who took thousands of lives in the name of terrorism and rocked the foundation of our country, lied on occasions to CIA interrogators while being tortured. It is reported that he was water boarded, or “drowned” through stimulation, 183 times. Once was for “not confirming a ‘nuclear suitcase’ plot the CIA later deemed a scam.” In addition, he was water boarded once more for producing a “fabricated confession about recruiting black Muslims in Montana,” (Dilanian and Klapper). The reasons he was water boarded, and tortured in other extreme ways, the other 181 times is unknown.
Despite examples such as these, many Americans feel strongly that torture does keep us safe, though this sentiment has been continuously proven false. In an article by Ken Dilanian and Bradley Klapper of the Associated Press, a report “finds [that the] CIA’s brutal tactics didn’t make U.S. safer after 9-11.” The Senate Intelligence Committee conducted the report over a few years. This condensed 500-page review, released in late 2014, does not include the full investigation, which spanned more than 6,700 pages. According to the article, “…the ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ didn’t produce the results that really mattered…it cites CIA cables, emails and interview transcripts to rebut the central justification for torture — that it thwarted terror plots and saved American lives,” (Dilanian and Klapper). However, the CIA strongly disagrees, going as far as to assert that intelligence gathered through torture methods like “sleep deprivation, stimulated drowning, slapping and slamming, and threats to kill, harm, or sexually abuse familiar of the captives,” lead to the killing of Osama bin Laden. In any case, this is the same agency who broke international laws, such as the Geneva Conventions, who lied to both the American people and the United States government they are responsible to about their unconventional methods, who physically harmed, mentally corrupted, and emotionally scarred hundreds of suspected terrorists. In the end, after looking over 6 million documents pertaining to the torture committed by the CIA, the Senate Intelligence Committee stated, “…they could find no example of unique, life-saving intelligence gleaned from coercive techniques,” and the report also “debunks the CIA’s assertion [that] its practices led to bin Laden’s killing,” (Dilanian and Klapper).
Alternatively, supporters of torture tactics invoke the hypothetical situation of the ticking time bomb. This scenario goes as follow: 1. A terrorist group reveals to have a bomb planted in a metropolitan area, such as London, New York, or Paris, 2. Those in charge, such as the FBI or CIA, find and capture the leader of the terrorist group, 3. The leader knows the location of the bomb, however, he or she refuses to divulge this information, 4. Torture ensues and, according to those fiercely backing this scenario, the leader will reveal the location in time to save and protect innocent civilians (BBC). In the stories of Monteza and Sampson, innocents were coerced into falsely giving testimony to crimes they did not commit. On the other hand, Sheikh Mohammed, a well-trained, educated, mastermind behind a similar attack as referenced in the ticking time bomb scenario, withstood over 183 stimulated drowning amongst other torture techniques the CIA and government will not share with the American people. If a real, substantial example of a terrorist, who committed one of the most atrocious attacks to happen on American soil since 1941, withstood months and months of brutal, barbaric torture, how can we say for a fact, how can we blindly defend, how can we even think of taking this hypothetical scenario with a grain of salt? The situation of the ticking time bomb is equivalent to that of a tall tale.
Furthermore, the ticking time bomb appeals to pathos and logos. Most obviously, the ticking time bomb will associate itself with pathos, or the emotional appeal to the target audience. There is no question that Americans, and persons all over the world, would like to stop a bombing before it occurs. No person wants to see the loss of human life, the despair a country is set into when it is attacked, and the defense it applies in order to protect itself. When supporters make the argument for the ticking time bomb, it invokes a sense of guilt into those who do not agree with torture and persuades them into condoning it, even if torture does not agree with their personal morals and values. Then, we have the next appeal, which is logos, or the appeal to logic. Though there is not much reasoning or logic when applying a hypothetical situation that has never happened into real life, the reasoning and logic is obvious in the speculative theory. If there is a bomb being planted and we can find out where it is before it detonates, the rational answer is: yes, we should find out the location of the bomb and save thousands of lives. However, both of these appeals throw out the legality and ethical morality of torturing another human being, who is more than likely to either stay silent, or, even worse, supply authorities with wrong and misleading information (Friedersdorf).
Overall, various representatives, governmental agencies, news outlets, and more have made it abundantly clear that the torture invoked by the CIA did not benefit one American citizen’s safety. Not only does torture waste millions of taxpayer dollars, but it also wastes time and energy that can be used in finding, capturing, and imprisoning known terrorists. Additionally, our CIA agents should be doing more substantial work than repeatedly emotionally scarring, verbally threatening, and physically beating other human beings. Also, we must not forget the lies the CIA fed to the American people and the American government, both groups of whom entrusted their safety and livelihoods to the CIA. If we cannot rely on this group to be transparent and truthful with us, we, as Americans, must congregate to have our voice heard loudy and clearly. The well-known fairytale of the ticking time bomb taught us an important lesson: although we can imagine scenarios, that does not make such scenarios real. Similarly, we learn another important lesson from another well-known fairytale, Cinderella. The lesson goes, “just because it is what’s done, does not mean it is what should be done.” Recalling our values, our morals, and our dignity, we should know better than to degrade, harm, and torture individuals for our own gain. We should rise up to our label as a leader and lead for the world is always watching.
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