Retiring lawmaker on Senate torture report: 'Our values are in jeopardy'

Much of the debate following the release of the Senate torture report has centered on whether there is any evidence that the torture produced actionable intelligence. Sen. Carl Levin said Wednesday he has concluded there is no such evidence.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin speaks at the Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters on Wednesday, December 10, 2014, in Washington, DC.

As the outgoing chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan was drawn to an item buried deep in the Senate torture report, released Tuesday.

It referred to Senator Levin’s own plan to establish a commission to investigate the Central Intelligence Agency’s enhanced interrogation techniques. The CIA, for its part, feared that such a move would lead to the discovery of videotapes of the interrogation sessions.

A measure to establish such a commission ended up being defeated in November 2005, in a roughly party-line vote of 43 to 55. 

“The CIA destroyed the tapes the following day,” Levin said at a breakfast hosted by the Monitor Wednesday morning. “It reminds me of Watergate.” 

The episode raises the question, too, of how much the White House knew about the CIA’s decision to destroy the interrogation videotapes.

In one of the report’s thousands of footnotes (footnote No. 2,488, to be exact) is an e-mail by the CIA’s acting general counsel, John Rizzo, suggesting that the CIA needed to get the “right people downtown on board with the notion of our destroying the tapes,” Levin said, reading the section aloud at the breakfast. 

The “right people downtown,” said Levin, referred to the White House. The senator said he would leave it to others to determine the extent to which the executive branch knew about the destruction of the videotapes.

For now, much of the debate following the release of the torture report by the Senate Intelligence Committee has centered on whether there is any evidence at all that the torture produced actionable intelligence, as the CIA claims it did. The Senate report refutes these claims.

Levin said he has concluded “there is no evidence that it did.” However, as to another question, could torture under any circumstances produce actionable intelligence? “I imagine it could,” Levin said.

Yet even engaging in that debate serves in some sense to justify torture, which should not be used under any circumstances, Levin said. “Even if theoretically it could on some occasion produce intelligence that is really important and not obtainable by other means,” its use leads to the disintegration of US values and endangers troops who are less likely to receive the courtesies of the Geneva Conventions if their own country doesn’t abide by it, Levin said. “Our values are in jeopardy when we use torture.”

What’s more, the resources used by intelligence agencies – which threaten to become ever scarcer under sequestration, analysts note – "are going to be wasted because there are more false leads than good leads” as a result of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” Levin said. 

“People who are being tortured will say anything,” he noted. “There are more wild-goose chases that are undertaken. That uses up resources.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Retiring lawmaker on Senate torture report: 'Our values are in jeopardy'
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today