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If We Torture, What Makes Us Different From Those We Condemn?

Where We Live – WNPR

by John Dankosky and Betsy Kaplan (Jackie Filson, Lydia Brown, and Tucker Ives contributed to this show.)

Last month, the Senate Intelligence Committee Report released their report examining the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation after 9/11.

They found that the CIA was using harsher forms of torture that yielded less useful information than we were led to believe.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee said, “Detainees were subjected to the most aggressive techniques immediately. They were stripped naked, diapered, physically struck, and put in various painful stress positions for long periods of time.”

That wasn’t all. They were also waterboarded, deprived of sleep for days on end, and exposed to noise that was just shy of deafening.

Many of us were stunned by the torture report, leading us to question America’s values when we could condone the same brutality we condemned in others. The answer is not that simple.

Fearing another attack in the aftermath of 9/11, it seems our government did things we’re not entirely comfortable with. But a lot of what we think comes down to the words we use: “enhanced interrogation” and “torture” are both incredibly loaded, and evoke different reactions.

But a bigger question might have been raised by President Obama, who said what was unveiled in the report was “contrary to who we are.” But is it really? This hour, we talk about what our use of torture says about us.


  • David Richards is an associate professor in the department of Political Science and at the Human Rights Institute at UConn. His upcoming book is “Violence Against Women and the Law,” co-authored with Jillienne Haglund
  • Megan Berthold is an assistant professor at the Uconn School of Social Work who has worked with hundreds of survivors of state-sponsored torture. Her recent book, “Human Rights Based Approaches to Clinical Social Work” was published this month
  • Leonard Rubenstein – is a senior scholar at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and core faculty of the Berman Institute of Bioethics, both at Johns Hopkins University, and the principal author of the Task Force report, “Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror.”
  • Kathleen Weldon – Research Coordinator for the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at UConn