What the World Is Saying About the CIA Torture Report

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Newspapers; Credit: NS Newsflash, Flickr

Photo by NS Newsflash on Flickr

The Senate torture report shook up the Washington establishment. But it’s an international story — the CIA’s network of black sites was spread around the world, from Thailand to Morocco. So we’ve rounded up some of the responses from various English-language media overseas.

The UN calls for prosecutions… 

We looked at English-language newspapers from two dozen countries, and many of them front-paged the comments of Ben Emmerson, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism.

Here’s how Reuters’ Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva covered Emmerson’s statement:

A UN human rights expert said a report that the U.S. Senate released on Tuesday revealed a “clear policy orchestrated at a high level within the Bush administration” and called for prosecution of U.S. officials who ordered crimes, including torture, against detainees.

Emmerson… said senior Bush administration officials who planned and authorized crimes must be prosecuted, along with as CIA and other U.S. government officials who committed torture such as waterboarding.

International law prohibits granting immunity to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture, he said.

“The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorized at a high level within the US government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability,” Emmerson said.

China’s state media call out American hypocrisy…

The Xinhua News Agency:

The hegemony it has exercised, the inquisition by torture it has practised, and the profound racial inequalities all point to the sheer hypocrisy of the United States as a defender of human rights…

The U.S. government loves to decorate itself as a vehement watchdog of human rights on the world stage. On too many occasions, U.S. troops, upholding their proud American flags, invaded countries which stood no chance against their cutting-edge weapons, just in order to shed “the light of civilization” to every corner of the world.

Swiss papers see the report as a “painful catharsis…” 

Simon Bradley rounded up editorial reactions from a number of Swiss newspapers. “Swiss papers agree the damning United States report outlining harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA on terror suspects has damaged America’s credibility,” he wrote. “But publishing the Senate study is a painful price the nation has to pay.”

For the French-speaking newspaper Le Temps the difficult five-year political and bureaucratic battle to publish the report has been a “necessary catharsis so that America can once again be equal to its high ideals”.

“It’s the price to pay so that [the country] regains the moral authority it has partly lost,” the paper declared.

An editorial in the Zurich-based Tages-Anzeiger, entitled “Painful but necessary”, echoed this.

“The acts of torture weigh particularly heavily: the US has hugely damaged its credibility as a democracy,” it wrote…

Le Temps was more circumspect. It said the US president had maybe ended the illegal practices when he entered the White House in 2009, but for a long time Obama had dragged his feet over what to do about the report.

A threat to international relations…

Andrew Hammond writes for Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald that the report’s “biggest impact could be outside US shores.”

The ramifications are already rippling out internationally and are likely to inflame anti-Americanism in several Muslim-majority countries whose support is potentially key for US success in the campaign against terrorism. This will only add to the massive public diplomacy challenge now confronting US President Barack Obama…

Firstly, publication will embarrass those foreign states, in Europe and beyond, which aided the Bush administration and CIA, even though their specific country names are redacted in the Senate publication. Secondly, although the findings are disputed by many ex-Bush officials, it is likely that publication of the summary report will inflame anti-Americanism in numerous countries. This is despite the fact that the techniques are now a historical relic inasmuch as Obama ruled at the start of his term, almost six years ago, that the CIA could no longer employ them.

Or maybe a benefit…

Writing in Germany’s Deutsche Welle, Michael Knigge takes the opposite view:

It is important to note that it is not the release of the report that could potentially trigger negative consequences for US citizens and foreign policy, it is the acts and practices of torture and rendition detailed in the report that may do so. And it is equally important to point out that contrary to what these critics are claiming the release of the report will not damage, but could salvage US foreign policy.

How can the US, the global superpower, which historically is viewed and views itself as the beacon of freedom — as the ‘city upon a hill’ for the world to emulate — criticize other countries on human rights when itself doesn’t come clean on its own abuses?

It can’t. To regain the international credibility that has been lost due to the egregious overreach by the CIA and others during the Bush years, it is crucial that Washington must acknowledge and accept responsibility for these actions.

“A serious moment of conscience for the Americans and the world at large”

According to Dubai’s Khaleej Times, “what has come as a surprise is the conscience that this CIA interrogation report has sparked.”

US President Barack Obama was candid, as he said: “What sets us apart is that when we do something wrong, we acknowledge it.” He not only spoke for himself but for the millions around who have take an exception to the tactics of terror and torture that his predecessor, George W. Bush, adopted to further the impugned war on terrorism…

This report is bound to galvanise the call for prosecuting officials and leaders who authenticated such crimes, and intentionally undermined the due course of law for the accused. Indeed, it has been a clear policy orchestrated at the highest level, and the culprits should be made to face the music….

While Obama enjoys the credit for halting torture mechanisms when he took over the White House, he has to move ahead impartially by ordering an inquiry into the report and let the accused be put in the dock.

A local angle…

Israel’s left-leaning daily Ha’aretz noted that “the CIA cited Israeli Supreme Court rulings to justify torture.”

CIA’s lawyers used the rulings of Israel’s Supreme Court to construct a legal case justifying torture.

According to the 528-page document… in November 2001 some CIA officers were concerned they may need legal justification for the interrogation methods they had begun using when questioning Al-Qaida suspects in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

In a draft memorandum prepared by the CIA’s Office of General Counsel, the “Israeli example” was cited as a possible justification that “torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm.”

The “Israeli example” refers to the conclusions of the Landau Commission in 1987 and subsequent Supreme Court rulings that forbid Israel’s security services from using torture in interrogation of terror suspects, but allows the use of “moderate physical pressure” in cases … when there is an urgent need to obtain information which could prevent an imminent terror attack.

And another…

Radio Poland reports that “Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has said that Poland was asked to provide a “quiet location” for interrogating suspects following the September 11 attacks.”

This is a U-turn for Kwasniewski – who was in office between 1995 and 2005 – after almost a decade of denying having any knowledge of such sites in the country.

…Kwasniewski underlined that no authorisation was given for the harsh treatment of detainees. “The Americans asked [Poland] in 2001 for a quiet location to question people who wanted to cooperate,” Kwasniewski said…

However, according to the former president, the Americans did not sign a memorandum on the means by which they would operate on Polish territory.

Russian media are oddly silent…

Given recent tensions between Russia and the West, one would think that the Russian media would have a field day with the report. But they have been rather circumspect. Russian media reported the facts unearthed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, and some noted that Russian human rights ombudsman Konstantin Dolgov had blasted the US government on Twitter.


Alex Boutilier reports for The Toronto Star that Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird dodged questions about Canadian authorities’ use of information gleaned from CIA torture.

Asked if Canada’s standing in the world could be hurt by the use of information gained through torture, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said “Canada doesn’t torture anyone. Period! Period!”

Baird walked away without addressing a followup question.

Canadian security agencies may not torture anyone, but they can use information from foreign partners gained through torture.

A 2011 directive from the Conservative government authorized several agencies to send information to, or request information from, foreign partners even if there’s a risk that information sharing could lead to torture…

The opposition New Democrats… called on Harper to rescind the directive allowing Canadian authorities to use information gained through torture.

Afghan condemnation…

South Africa’s Mail and Guardian went with a different angle, running an Agence France-Presse story about Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, condemning the CIA’s tactics.

Afghanistan’s new President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday condemned the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) torture detailed in a US Senate report, saying the United States’ actions violated “all accepted principles of human rights” and were part of a vicious cycle of violence.

“The Afghan government condemns these inhumane actions in the strongest terms,” he said at a specially convened press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul.

Our reputation is too damaged to be further damaged…

The New York Times reports that “in Yemen, where the United States is often seen through the prism of policies that have long stoked anger… there was little sense that the torture report could do much to further sully America’s reputation.”

“It makes no difference,” said Nazeeh Alemad, a legal adviser for Yemen’s longtime ruling political party. “People here are not looking for more proof of torture” by the United States, he said. “They deal with it as a fact.”

“What makes a difference is what happens here, not some report published over there,” Mr. Alemad said.

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