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CIA Torture Culture Sought Shelter in Israeli High Court Decision

Senator Dianne Feinstein

When our biblical prophets spoke of Israel becoming a light unto the nations, they probably did not have this one in mind. CIA lawyers used an Israeli Supreme Court ruling to justify the use of torture, as was revealed in the Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture released Tuesday.

The report suggests the CIA’s Office of General Counsel used the “Israeli example” as establishing that “torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm.”

By the “Israeli example, ” the CIA attorneys meant the Landau Commission of 1987, followed by Supreme Court rulings that basically say torture is bad, but it’s OK to use “moderate physical pressures” in “ticking bomb” situations.

How long before all torture becomes classified as “moderate” and all interrogations are “ticking bombs?” And how long before moderate physical pressure gets re-released as “enhanced interrogation techniques?” Not long, apparently. But now, as a result, Israel’s name is stained by the blood spilled in CIA black prisons around the planet. Good on us…

Senate Committee chair Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Jewish Democrat from California, said: “The CIA’s actions a decade ago are a stain on our values and our history… Releasing this report is an important step to restore our values and show the world that we are in fact a just and lawful society.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), another Jewish Democrat, welcomed the report: “The exhaustive report from the Senate Intelligence Committee documents that the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques were not effective and violated international commitments and the core principles of the United States.”

“It also resulted in fabricated information and did not lead to the collection of imminent threat intelligence, ” Cardin said. “Years may have passed by since these egregious activities occurred, but the United States must confront the mistakes that were made as we responded to the devastating 9/11 attacks.”

And Rabbi Jill Jacobs, director of T’ruah: The Rabbinical Call for Human Rights, did a robust mia culpa: “As a nation, we have much to repent for – and true teshuvah, repentance, requires both acknowledgement and accountability for what we have done. The report is a step toward acknowledgement. A step toward accountability would be for Congress to act to make clear that the CIA will never be allowed to torture again.”

Not a minute too soon…



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