Bell: Transparency, accountability and torture

August 26, 2013 


The ongoing revelations about domestic surveillance, coming on the heels of a non-governmental task force report on the U.S. government’s treatment of detainees since 9/11, are prompting calls for government transparency and accountability.

A two-year investigation by the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment, released this spring, concludes that the U.S. government engaged in torture. The high-level, bipartisan nature of this task force and its detailed findings make it an important and credible source regarding U.S.-sponsored torture.

Drawing on public records and interviews with eye witnesses, the report describes in detail how the United States engaged in a variety of interrogation practices that it had condemned as illegal when conducted by others. Indeed, were an enemy to subject a U.S. soldier to waterboarding, stress positions or sexual humiliation, or send her to countries that did such things, that enemy would be denounced as a war criminal for committing torture.

On the bright side, even as our political leaders and their lawyers circumvented the law, they faced opposition from many in both the armed forces and civilian agencies who sought to embody the very best of Americans’ moral values.

We have an opportunity to join those courageous individuals in working to prevent efforts at national defense from sacrificing the moral values that we cherish. In the coming months, the Senate Intelligence Committee will vote on whether to release the results of its own extensive investigation into U.S. involvement in torture. That report should be made available so we can see the whole truth about what was done in our name.

As a Christian, I have joined with thousands of others from a vast array of faith traditions who support the National Religious Campaign Against Torture in calling for the release of this report. This is an important step toward establishing the transparency and accountability necessary for a national conversation about torture and ensuring that the defense of this nation is consistent with both law and the moral values we claim.

Rev. Daniel M. Bell Jr.

Professor of Theology and Ethics

Lutheran Theological Southern



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