Truth-Telling, Torture, and Confession

A US Senate committee has released a damning report on the interrogation methods used by the CIA. In over 500 pages the committee accuses “the spy agency of inflicting pain and suffering on prisoners beyond its legal limits and deceiving the nation with narratives of life-saving interrogations unsubstantiated by its own records.”1 The report tells of how prisoners were tortured, in some cases until they died, and that the ends did not justify the means. The report states that the methods used either did not render valuable information which would thwart future terror attacks; or, in some cases, where important information was gained through torture, other sources were available that could have led to the revelation of that same information. The report makes it clear that this was a systemic problem brought on by the fear of major terrorism such as the attacks of September 11, 2001 on New York City and the Pentagon. It was not a rogue group of operatives acting alone and the entire CIA administration and senior government leaders are found to be complicit. Even former president George W. Bush must take responsibility for this dark time in American history despite the fact that he asked not to be told about the “enhanced interrogation methods.”

This has been a hard truth for the American public. Commentators speak of loss of the moral high-ground. How can America challenge countries such as China and Iraq regarding their human-rights records when this report reveals such disregard for basic human-rights? Can the CIA ever be trusted again? How do we know that such tactics are not still being used? How long must the people of the United States of America wear this label of shame? Canada must also bear some of the disgrace of this report since our intelligence agencies may have used information gained by the use of torture.

Certainly there are lessons to be learned from this incident. This report has allowed the light of day to shine into the dark corners of a system that allowed this evil to breed and grow. There is hope that this report will lead to a major over-haul of the policies of the CIA and a removal of those who continue to promote a culture of disrespect and violence. What I find particularly encouraging about this report is the fact that it exists. I am not aware of any document like this in any other country. America is not the only country in the world that uses such techniques on its prisoners; but it may be one of the few that allows officials to investigate, criticize, and report on it. When such things are brought to light, there is hope that change may follow. It also allows for the confession of guilt that otherwise oppresses.

There is a biblical principle which speaks to this. Psalm 32 is a poem about the joy and healing found in the confession of sin. Verses 3 to 5 and verse 10 in the New International Version (NIV) say,

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave the guilt of my sin. . . .
Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.

You see, when sin is bottled up, it does damage. It causes psychological, physical, and spiritual harm. It takes away strength and leaves us feeling oppressed. But when sin is acknowledged and confessed, there is release, forgiveness, love, and trust. This principal works both on an individual basis and at a collective level. Truly, confession is good for the soul. The Senate Committee Report is incentive for all of us to examine our lives and see what dark tendencies lurk inside our own hearts. Then we will have opportunity to confess and be healed.

. . . the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. – James 5:15 (NIV)

1“U.S. Senate report condemns CIA harsh interrogations;” CBC News;

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