The 525 page report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee is an indictment of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) detention and interrogation programme following the attack on September 11, 2001. The report merely confirms facts that have long been whispered amongst journalistic and government circles in the US and the wider world, but this is the first time that the practices of the CIA involving torture and misrepresentation have been formally laid bare before the public. The contents of the report stand in stark contrast to US values that are preached vehemently and relied upon to justify interventionism. It is clear that the agency was ill-prepared to deal with the challenges it faced in the wake of 911, and its subsequent actions show disregard for law and values as torture was employed as a tool for the sake of the greater good; the security of the US.

Those that understand the dynamics of the US security apparatus will not be surprised to find that the CIA deliberately lied to US representatives and the public and impeded oversight by relevant committees to preserve power and money. The CIA and the Pentagon have always been engaged in turf wars, with the former losing out in the contest following the Iran-Contra scandal, which changed the CIA to a risk-averse agency, shrinking in its role and operations. However, after 911, the CIA was once again tasked to perform a proactive role which it readily accepted despite internal debate, owing to its unique ability to carry out covert operations, deployment of assets and its historically close relationship with the Presidency that makes it ideal to implement political policies without having to deal with the military bureaucracy of the Pentagon. The political atmosphere in the US, which was dominated by fear and anger, paved the way for the programmes highlighted in the report and proved useful to sustain them.

The CIA is responsible for violating international law and the trust of the US public. However, it is not the only entity at fault here. Officials of the Bush Administration cannot be allowed to evade responsibility, since they not only sanctioned torture, but purposefully inflated its success in order to continue practicing it. The horrific accounts entailed in the report ought to prompt accountability and revision of policy. The US has lost moral high ground, if it ever had any, and will find itself on the back foot in the days ahead. The UN, amongst other human rights bodies and countries, have called for holding the perpetrators accountable under either domestic or international law. That may not happen, but it should.