Equality, the ability to treat all people with dignity, is a valuable principle to strive toward but difficult to achieve. As an American and a Sikh, I make it a guiding principle in my life.
The act of torture violates this principle by degrading the dignity and worth of every human being involved. The fact that the United States has engaged in torture as a response to terrorism after 9/11 harms the fabric of our nation.
Actions must be taken to stop torture from deviating from our ideals. This can only be done when we all work together to find out the truth about torture.
Last December, the Senate intelligence committee approved on a bipartisan vote the report of its three-year investigation of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency, which included an analysis of the decisions that led to torture and suggestions for safeguards to prevent torture.
But the findings are still classified. Those of us who support transparency must push the intelligence committee to share what it has learned.
More recently, the Task Force on Detainee Treatment of the Constitution Project released its 500-page report. The report is the product of a two-year investigation by an independent nongovernmental, bipartisan task force of the U.S. government’s treatment of 9/11 detainees and others.
The co-chairmen of the task force were Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security in the George W. Bush administration and a former Republican member of Congress from Arkansas, and James Jones, a former Democratic member of Congress from Oklahoma and a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico.
The report illustrates the stark reality of how torture compromised our values as a nation. It documents how the United States used interrogation techniques on detainees that it had previously condemned as illegal, including waterboarding, stress positions, extended sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, and prolonged solitary confinement.
The report shows how government lawyers manipulated the law to claim as legal what was illegal. Our leaders set aside the rules for the treatment of prisoners, which led others who carried out the torture to believe that the gloves were off.
We should follow the example of those who tried to fight against torture. The report describes the admirable attempts made by individuals in both our Armed Forces and civilian agencies to stand up for U.S. law and American morality. It shows how our political leaders and their lawyers found ways around them.
The findings mark an important step in trying to heal the damage from torture, but the report has limitations. Although the task force comprehensively reviewed public documents and conducted in-depth interviews, the Senate intelligence committee’s report was based on access to classified information.
Both reports must be made available to the public for the American people to understand completely the realities of U.S.-sponsored torture.
Torture does not just go against my personal faith; it goes against what we all believe in as Americans. We can only correct our mistakes by learning what we have done wrong, and then taking steps to close loopholes that can potentially justify the use of torture in the future.
I join with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, a diverse coalition of hundreds of religious and faith-based groups, in calling for the Senate intelligence committee to release its report on the facts of torture.
Let’s be sure everyone is reminded publicly of what we all privately know: Torture is always wrong.
Tarunjit Singh Butalia is a research scientist at Ohio State University’s college of engineering and a former board secretary of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.