In post-9/11 America, many aspects of our lives have changed. Most generally, citizens have ceded much of their right to privacy in exchange for increased security.
Not that Americans were asked whether they approved of having their personal phones and computers monitored, their bodies scanned at airports, or even how many ounces of shampoo they might be allowed to carry around. If the questions had been posed, we're guessing we would have agreed in principle. That is how much damage the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, affected the national psyche.
As for treatment of prisoners, we have no sympathy. The attitude appears to be that if we're forced to take off our shoes to board an airplane, suspected terrorists can be waterboarded, hung from walls, deprived of food and sleep -- basically anything goes. The U.S. Constitution not only was suspended for suspects, the entire judicial system was declared off limits. Congress wouldn't allow detainees to face trial anywhere in the U.S., so the imprisonments were outsourced overseas along with any rights.
A newly declassified report, 524 pages of executive summary from a 6,700-page Senate Intelligence Committee report, reveals how far the most advanced nation on earth has let its civilized nature lapse. The details regarding the CIA's handling of terrorism suspects, as reported by Tribune News Service, should cause more than discomfort:
* Unqualified personnel ran the secret prisons, where it held, in often-inhuman conditions, at least 119 detainees, at least two of whom died. Some were beaten, deprived of sleep for up to 180 hours, sometimes with their hands shackled over their heads, and subjected to unauthorized interrogation methods, including death threats.
* At least 26 detainees were wrongfully imprisoned.
* Multiple detainees who were subjected to the interrogation techniques and kept in extended isolation developed "psychological and behavioral issues, including hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia and attempts at self-harm and self-mutilation."
* The CIA may have subjected more detainees to waterboarding than just the three who it's publicly admitted underwent the simulated drowning procedure.
* The CIA paid more than $80 million to a firm founded by two psychologists who were contracted, despite a lack of qualifications, to design the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" and interrogated some of the agency's most valuable detainees.
* Despite having the U.S. Supreme Court deciding to allow Guantanamo captives to consult with lawyers, certain detainees were secreted away to so-called black sites.
* One high-value detainee was placed on a table with his legs raised above his head and had a "food tray" of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins "rectally infused." So-called anal rehydration was used on numerous captives.
* Detainees requiring emergency surgery not only were denied that, but all medical care.
The torture the detainees were subjected to is against U.S. law and international treaties the U.S. has signed. The CIA lied to the White House, Congress and the public about what it called enhanced interrogation techniques. And, obviously, the CIA was more brutal than anybody imagined.
On Thursday, CIA Director John Brennan would not refer to the techniques as torture, but offered this: "Let me be clear, we have not concluded that it was the use of EITs within that program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them. The cause-and-effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable."
In other words, none of the torture led to any useful information.
Here's another gem from the report: A Libyan named Ali Mohammed al Fakheri was tortured by the CIA at a secret prison in Egypt, and he falsely linked Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with the al-Qaida group and Osama bin Laden. Later, Fakheri recanted his statements saying they were induced by the torture. Still later, the Bush White House used the already-recanted but not publicly available statement to justify the invasion of Iraq. That is the false intelligence the U.S. used to go to war.
The United Nation's high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al Hussein, said: "The Convention Against Torture is crystal clear. It says -- and I quote -- 'No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.' "
Will the United States hold itself accountable? We would guess that would have to begin with Congress, and further would guess it won't be interested.
After all, there's the ninth futile probe of Benghazi to occupy lawmakers' time and attention.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry