Congress’s role in torturing the People

RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., December 14, 2014 – Many have asked why the  Senate Select Committee on Intelligence chose to release its Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program at this time. The answer is simple. They wanted to torture the American people.

According to Wikipedia: “Torture is the act of deliberately inflicting severe physical or psychological pain and possibly injury to a person…, usually to one who is physically restrained or otherwise under the torturer’s control or custody and unable to defend against what is being done to them.”

While this seems to be a reasonable definition, we might be challenged to distinguish it from the position we find ourselves in with respect to our Government.

Think about it.

Our Legislative and Executive Branches of Government, in particular, have demonstrated a proclivity for “deliberately inflicting” relatively severe “psychological pain” upon us.

Their decisions are often based upon what is in the political best interests of the Parties that rule them as opposed to the best interests of the People whom they are ostensibly obligated to serve. They often pass and administer laws and regulations that inherently interfere with our unalienable rights of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” not to provide for our safety but rather to expand the nature of their control.

In addition, the Parties almost seem to derive a sadistic pleasure from dividing our Nation into “tribes” based upon ethnicity, race, religion, sex, wealth, sexual orientation, or political persuasion, and then driving the “tribes” apart by emphasizing their differences rather than their shared beliefs and, whenever possible, their worst characteristics as opposed to their best. This tactic exacts a psychological toll and is designed to inflict pain from a social perspective.

To continue the analogy: We are also under the control of the Government as well as the Parties that dominate it. While we may have the opportunity to move about the Country, we are still “restrained” by the laws and regulations these people fashion. In effect, we are in their custody.

Of course, we have the opportunity to “defend” ourselves. We can exercise our discretion to vote our captors out of office. However, we have been psychologically conditioned to believe that we cannot exercise that option; and that we may only vote for the alternatives the Parties offer. As a result, we have become unable to “defend” ourselves. We are prisoners who are convinced that we have no opportunity to escape.

This brings us to the Army Field Manual. In 2009, it was selected to establish the interrogation standards the CIA is now required to follow. Essentially, it precludes “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.”

Try to imagine Congress or the Executive Branch operating under those restrictions. If we think the gridlock is bad today, what would it be like if those limitations were imposed… particularly the one pertaining to “degrading treatment.”

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s recent decision to release its Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program offers a prime example.

To be clear: This is not to suggest that the release of a well-vetted report that examines the performance of an agency of our Government is inappropriate. In fact, it is somewhat refreshing in light of the well-orchestrated lack of transparency associated with issues involving the ATF, DOD, DOJ, EPA, IRS, NSA, and any other acronym we could string together to reflect a Government department or agency along with an acknowledgment of the political opacity of the State Department and Administration.

This is also not meant to judge whether the Majority opinion of the Committee is correct or incorrect. It is merely intended to reflect upon the “degrading” nature of the report’s release.

At the risk of being glib: We have been treated to an Executive Summary that represents an intellectual iceberg. It reveals less than 8 percent of the document’s content, which is singularly based upon a potentially biased analysis of documentary evidence. No effort was made to examine witnesses who bore specific knowledge that could clarify, confirm, or challenge the interpretations of such documentary evidence that led to the Majority’s conclusions.  Then, the Majority opinion was released for political expediency (temporally speaking) without the benefit of a dissenting opinion.

Consider how we might view a 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court rendered in a similar manner. It simply is “degrading” to our intelligence and integrity.

Interestingly enough, the Army Field Manual also describes two fundamentally approved approaches to interrogate prisoners: (1) by direct inquiry; and (2) by the use of “incentives,” which may be positive or negative in nature (i.e., a reward for providing information, or the use of fear or other emotionally manipulative techniques). Think about how often our elected officials use fear or other emotionally manipulative techniques to shape our behavior and maintain control over our votes.

Interestingly enough, the Army Field Manual prevents interrogators from humiliating prisoners or threatening to revoke any guaranteed rights they may have. It would be nice if those same courtesies were to be extended to us on a more regular basis.

The Army Field Manual also prevents an interrogator from threatening to turn a prisoner over to someone who might be expected to do the prisoner harm. Conversely, the Parties routinely threaten their prisoners… sorry, that should read “constituents”… with the premise that if their candidates are not elected, the constituents will suffer the consequences associated with falling under the control of the opposing Party.

Finally, the Army Field Manual states that the “Use of torture… is a poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say what he thinks the (interrogator) wants to hear.” Compare that to what happens with our current electoral process: It “yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent… efforts, and can induce the (candidates) to say what (they) think the (public) wants to hear.”

There are days we might welcome the sight of a board, a towel, and a pitcher of water rather than being subjected to another election cycle… or the release of a report in a “degrading” manner. Then again, maybe the Geneva Convention doesn’t apply to us. We seem to have surrendered ourselves to political conventions and the “psychological pain” that seems to follow.


T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years.

This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, A Civil Assessment, in the Communities Digital News (CDN).