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  • Mike Miner Chicago Tribune

    Steve Ratzlaff

  • Steve Ratzlaff

Viewpoints: Citizens deserve to know the truth about torture

Published: Sunday, Jun. 16, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 5E

We who live in this country have long clung to the idea that transparency in government is the key to the success of democracy. Unfortunately, in recent decades, government has become more secretive and less forthcoming with information that would allow U.S. citizens to make reasonable decisions on a variety of issues. Consequently, it seems that this country only pays lip service to the idea that public disclosure of information is beneficial for the success of a democratic society.

One example of this lack of transparency is the Senate Intelligence Committee's adoption, with bipartisan support, of a more than 6,000-page report on the CIA's use of torture. The report is the result of the committee's more than three-year investigation into the CIA's post-9/11 interrogation program. The report is based on information contained in several million pages of documents detailing interrogations of detainees in CIA custody.

So far, the committee has not released the results of this investigation – results that I believe will show that interrogations using torture were not effective in producing reliable intelligence, and have damaged U.S. national security. American authorization and use of torture, instead, has led to an increase in the number of people who oppose America.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and has provided leadership to this three-year process that has produced such a comprehensive report. I participated in a delegation to Sen. Feinstein's office last year, during which we asked her to work to make public this report.

Since that time, the release of the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" has erroneously implied that the use of various forms of torture was the key to finding Osama bin Laden, suggesting that torture has been effective and, consequently, morally acceptable. Even Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at the time of the report's adoption an ex officio member of the Intelligence Committee, said, "It was not torture, or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees that got us the major leads that ultimately enabled our intelligence community to find Osama bin Laden."

He has seen the report and can make that judgment based on that information. The American public deserves access to that information as well so that we can determine that for ourselves.

It truly is the truth that makes us free. And the truth of how this nation conducts itself in secret interrogations is essential information for an informed electorate. It is the only way that we can hold our government, and those who work for that government, accountable. If we don't have access to information, we can never determine if abuse has occurred. And if we can't curb abuse in our democracy, it isn't long until we are all in danger of being abused.

As a person of faith and a retired pastor, I am convinced that Jesus always calls us to the truth. In John 8:32, he said, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." And the truth about torture is that it is immoral, it degrades life, it belittles humanity. If we want to stop it, we must know about it.

Just because people can behave in a certain way, does not mean that they should. Just because people can torture does not mean that doing so is moral. Torture is a moral abomination. It runs contrary to the teachings of all religions and dishonors all faiths. It is an egregious violation of the dignity and worth of each and every person. The Golden Rule makes it clear: Torture should not be perpetrated on others because we would not want others to do so to us.

I join people of faith from hundreds of diverse religious and faith-based groups who have come together through the National Religious Campaign Against Torture in calling for the Senate Intelligence Committee to release its report about the facts about torture to the American people, so that all Americans can understand our country's history and be adequately informed to make reasonable decisions going forward. It's time to hear the truth.

Steve Ratzlaff of Fresno is a retired Mennonite pastor.

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