by Gabriella Rush.
The U.S. Senate’s report on the CIA’s ‘torture police’ has damaged the trust Americans put in their intelligence apparatus to balance humanity with efficiency. The December report revealed that not only had the CIA misled the American public about the types and severity of interrogation techniques used, but that in many cases suspects were tortured after they had given up important information. This little fact overthrows the entire concept of what the CIA was doing during these sensitive years.
If the stomach-turning horrors of water-boarding, extreme sleep deprivation, forced rectal feeding, and mock executions were not useful for obtaining crucial information that could not otherwise be obtained, why were they used at all? If the necessary information had already been uncovered, or could be obtained elsewhere, as the report shows in many cases it could, what purpose did this torture serve, other than to severely psychologically disable one’s opponents? This is a troubling question, and the American public is certainly entitled to an answer.
However, while this report will undoubtedly unleash a frenzy of sensational torture images, capturing the public imagination and fueling passionate debate, the discussion on CIA methodology will likely remain very narrowly focused. And as horrific, unsettling, and anti-liberal as the use of torture is, many Americans will simply shrug it off. The victims are most often the players of high politics in the low dark underbelly of the clandestine world. They are negotiators; informants; agents, double-agents, triple-agents; couriers of information, money, weapons, supplies; war creators, directors and profiteers; unscrupulous business people and political players. Thankfully, it is rare that a truly innocent civilian suffers this fate, and when it happens, the public rightly cries out in rage. But the sensationalism of the torture debate will overshadow the necessary criticism of the systemic damage widely inflicted by the CIA.
The issue runs much deeper than isolated infractions of human rights in the CIA’s torture cases. In pursuing its political objectives, the CIA has wreaked havoc on communities, increased regional instability, caused the deaths of multitudes of civilians, endangered the lives of humanitarian workers, hindered various development goals, and set back public health by at least a decade. This can be illustrated with a single example for which there is a substantial amount of evidence, but the negligence of the CIA is widespread. While this one incident is certainly significant in itself, it is also broadly indicative of the reckless harm CIA covert methods have caused to entirely innocent people.
The Vaccine Deception
In 2011 the CIA launched a fake vaccination program in Pakistan as part of the wider effort to conclusively locate Osama bin Laden. The idea was as simple as it was stupid and reckless: free Hepatitis B vaccines would be given to children through a door-to-door campaign; when the nurse arrived at the bin Laden family home …
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