A Look at Allegations Regarding the CIA

This post was written by Dr. Art Pitz on September 5, 2009
Posted Under: Uncategorized

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The recent controversy over Attorney Eric Holder’s decision to launch an investigation into 12 cases of the alleged use of torture by CIA agents against those accused of operating as terrorists leads one to the historical question of: are there any precedents for such allegations?  In a word, yes.

The CIA, coupled with the Israeli Mossad, is credited with having trained agents for Shah Reza Pahlavi’s SAVAK in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.  Given that SAVAK soon became known for its brutal interrogation techniques, it has been alleged that the CIA, or at least some of its agents, bore some responsibility for training SAVAK to carry out these techniques.  There is no doubt that SAVAK used barbaric methods to try and suppress any significant domestic opposition to the Shah.  Such methods included attaching electrodes to sensitive areas of a suspect’s anatomy and pulling out fingernails.

We may never know the full truth about the CIA’s involvement since some of the evidence remains out of public view.  What is known publicly seems suspicious in terms of what the CIA did for SAVAK under President Eisenhower.  There is an ethical question here.  Should any U.S. agency be involved in working with an organization like SAVAK?  The CIA also worked with rather reprehensible Latin American regimes.  These were common behaviors in the Cold War.

One finds a very similar ethical issue involved with the Bush administration’s use of renditions.  Terrorist suspects were handed over for interrogation to Arab countries in the Middle East whose secret police were well known for their frequent use of torture (see the movie Rendition).  The Bush administration could claim that we didn’t torture.  But, the CIA had to know that turning over suspects to such dreaded secret police forces meant that the suspects would be roughly handled, to put it mildly.  So, was the CIA an accessory to torture?  How effective were those methods?  Even if effective, could the information have been obtained by less unsavory methods?  And, of course, there’s the related controversy over the CIA’s use of waterboarding.

Vice President Cheney has consistently stated that such methods were effective and helped insure that the U.S. did not have another 9/11.  The CIA’s own Inspector General’s publicly released report leaves such statements open to debate.  Yet, even if effective, is that a sufficient defense for their use?

What do you think of this issue?

Art Pitz, www.professorshouse.net

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