One day in the early 1990s when the news was filled with the story of the Menendez brothers, my wife, Jane, was driving with our three-year-old daughter, Callie. A reporter said something about the Menendez brothers killing their parents and Callie asked, “Did they say ‘kill their parents’?” to which Jane quickly replied, “Yes, they were bad boys, weren’t they? We don’t kill our parents.”
Religious antitorture groups said the release last month of a partially declassified 2004 CIA report on treatment of terrorism suspects justified their critique of Bush administration policies on detainee treatment.
Prominent religious officials led a march to the White House last month to urge President Obama to form a commission of inquiry into interrogation practices under the Bush administration. The clerics and other senior religious leaders and supporters who joined them for the “public witness” formed a crowd adorned with robes, collars, hijabs and yarmulkes.
Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land, a leading Christian conservative who helped advance the Bush administration’s agenda on a range of social issues, says that the formerly sanctioned practice of waterboarding of suspected terrorists is torture and “violates everything we stand for.”
After President Obama released memos from Bush administration lawyers that defended waterboarding, Dick Cheney told Fox News that extreme interrogation methods like waterboarding helped the country gain important information and deter terrorist attacks.
In May 2007 I was at a conference with Darius Rejali, the distinguished torture researcher and analyst. During a break, he turned to me and said, in reference to our own country, “You know, of course, that there are five steps which would bring torture to an end.” First, he said, the rules of interrogation must be clear. Where conflicting directives exist, as at Abu Ghraib, the situation is rife for abuse. Double standards cannot be tolerated. It is imperative that intelligence operatives of the CIA, for example, or the Navy SEALs be held to the high standards—without loopholes—that are required by the Army Field Manual.
In an episode of the Fox television drama 24, the hero Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland) desperately needs information to protect national security. To get it, Jack knocks a man unconscious and ties him to a chair. Ripping the electrical cord out of a lamp, he applies the current to the man’s bare chest when he refuses to cooperate with Jack’s questioning.