Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

(Photo: Shrieking Tree/Flickr)

Let’s Talk About Torture

Former CIA leaders are writing a book that will whitewash their crimes against humanity.

John Kiriakou

 by OtherWords

The CIA’s torture-era leadership won’t repent. Even after the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its report saying in no uncertain terms that the CIA had tortured its prisoners, that torture was official U.S. government policy, and that torture never elicited any actionable intelligence that saved American lives, Bush-era CIA Directors George Tenet, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden, and several of their underlings announced plans to release a book justifying torture.

They intend to repeat a lie over and over again in this book: that torture worked. They hope that the American people are either so gullible or so stupid that they’ll believe it. It’s up to the rest of us to ensure that our government swears off committing this crime against humanity.

I know that these former intelligence leaders are lying because I worked with them at the CIA. When I blew the whistle on the CIA’s torture program in 2007, they came down on me like a ton of bricks.

It’s not necessarily news that these former CIA heavyweights believe in torture, even if they refuse to call it what it is. Many television news outlets still run clips of George Tenet’s 2007 appearance on CBS’s “60 Minutes” in which he repeats “We do not torture! We do not torture!” as though he were unhinged and living in a dream world. Perhaps what Tenet needs to do is to read the United Nations Convention on Torture, to which the United States is a signatory.

This global accord says that torture is “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining…information or a confession, punishing him for an act…or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or when such pain or suffering is inflicted by…a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

It’s plain and simple: The CIA tortured its prisoners. They can call it anything they want. It’s still torture.

These same former CIA leaders already have set up a propaganda website to accompany their book. The site explains away their violations of international law with the lie that torture worked, that it was legal, and that it was smart policy.

President Barack Obama decided to ignore these officers’ violations of the law, to “look forward as opposed to backwards.” I disagree.

If these folks want to talk about torture, let’s talk about torture.

Let’s talk about the prisoners who were killed — murdered — by CIA officers during questioning and why those officers were never brought to trial. Let’s talk about the sexual assault perpetrated against prisoners by CIA officers, but described as “rectal rehydration.” Let’s talk about the CIA’s secret prisons around the world. Let’s talk about the CIA’s doctors involved in the torture program who violated their Hippocratic oaths to “first do no harm.” Let’s talk about the targeting and murder of U.S. citizens overseas without the benefit of trial.

I have no doubt that these former CIA leaders think they are patriots. They believe they have bravely served the country. But what they’re missing is that they didn’t take an oath to protect the CIA. They took an oath to protect and uphold the Constitution. They didn’t do that. Instead, they committed crimes against humanity, and for that they should be prosecuted.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

John Kiriakou

John Kiriakou is a former CIA analyst and whistleblower. He co-hosts "Loud and Clear" on Sputnik Radio. He worked for the CIA from 1990 to 2004, including as chief of counter-terrorist operations in Pakistan. In an interview in 2009, he became the first former government official to confirm the use of waterboarding against al-Qaida suspects. From 2009 to 2011, John was a senior investigator for the US Senate foreign relations committee. In 2012, he was charged with leaking classified information to journalists and served two years in prison. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnKiriakou

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Outrageous and Shameful': Dems May Cut Paid Leave Due to Manchin's Opposition

Decrying the plan, advocacy groups vowed that "the American people are not going to allow that essential human need to be ignored and negotiated away behind closed doors."

Jessica Corbett ·


Open Letter Warns Trump's 'Big Lie' GOP Poses Existential Threat to Democracy

"Now is the time for leaders in all walks of life—for citizens of all political backgrounds and persuasions—to come to the aid of the republic."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ahead of Historic House Hearing, Fresh Big Oil Misinformation Campaign Exposed

"It's always helpful to remember that big fossil fuel companies (besides being overwhelmingly responsible for carbon pollution) are also skeevy disinformation hucksters."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Very Welcome' Progress as Iran Agrees to Restart Talks on Nuclear Deal Sabotaged by Trump

One peace advocate urged all sides to reconvene negotiations "as soon as possible and with renewed urgency" to avert "disastrous" consequences for Iran and the world.

Brett Wilkins ·


House Progressives: 'When We Said These Two Bills Go Together, We Meant It'

"Moving the infrastructure bill forward without the popular Build Back Better Act risks leaving behind working people, families, and our communities."

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo