FBI’s torture report

We all remember those images from Abu Ghraib—of Muslim men stripped naked in front of female guards and humiliated, of prisoners hooded with women’s underwear and forced to wear dog collars and leashes. We learned then of prisoners being forced to adopt painful stress positions for hours and being threatened by attack dogs.

We like to think Abu Ghraib was an isolated case and that the perpetrators were a small group of rogue soldiers acting against orders. Now we know that’s not the case. According to a new report from the inspector general of the U.S. Justice Department, these kinds of atrocities were routinely committed in American interrogation centers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. Testifying to that fact are hundreds of FBI agents who actually saw American interrogators regularly and repeatedly abuse prisoners.

As the inspector general’s report makes clear, this abusive behavior wasn’t just condoned; it was actively organized following the specific orders of top officials. We know now that in 2003 interrogation practices were discussed at the highest levels of the Bush administration by all of the president’s top national-security advisers, including Vice President Dick Cheney; Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; Condoleezza Rice, then national-security adviser; Secretary of State Colin Powell; John Ashcroft, the attorney general; and CIA Director George Tenet. The illegal policies and practices mentioned in the FBI report were signed off on by them, with the blessing of the president.

This is a betrayal of America’s most basic values. Congress needs to schedule hearings to dig out the sordid truth about government-sanctioned torture. Facing it is the only way the United States can regain its reputation for respecting human rights.