Religion in the CIA torture report

A most disturbing quote:

During the same hearing, Sen. Nelson asked about Hayden’s plans, if he suspected al-Qa’ida was training people to resist such techniques. His answer is chilling.

DIRECTOR HAYDEN: “You recall the policy on which this is based, that we’re going to give him a burden that Allah says is too great for you to bear, so they can put the burden down.” (487)

The new report does not describe the many techniques of religiously-themed abuse that I compiled from ex-detainee memoirs and interviews in 2007-08, nor does it extend our knowledge from the 2009 report, which admitted techniques such as forced prostration before an idol shrine to generate “religious disgrace.”

But what Hayden’s comments do show is that **using religion as a weapon in prolonged psychological warfare was an actual “policy” **– not a result of agents gone rogue.

The goal was to create a burden so great that a person’s religious faith would be destroyed. Nothing could be further from our country’s founding principle.

Actually, I have long wondered why the US does not have classes on the New Testament and comparative religion PRECISELY to help detainees understand that their worldview represents a warped version of Islam.

I think classes given by orthodox Imams and Islamic scholars would have a greater impact on helping the detainees understand their worldview and understanding of Islam are warped.

Read the article, we are not trying to make them better Muslims, but rather destroy any religious faith of any sort.

On the one hand America lectures China about freedom of religion, but on the other hand, America’s CIA and other groups use techniques designed to generate “religious disgrace.” Were these people who were being tortured by the Americans ever given a trial or were they just considered guilty until proven otherwise? I thought that Americans have been saying that under their system you are innocent until proven guilty?

I think we were having an off topic discussion. Sorry. I’m pretty sure both of us understood that the detainees’ faith was being used as a weapon.

The American justice system protects American citizens, not combatants caught on the field of battle. If, and that’s a big IF, the US government used religious pressure points to coerce information from enemy combatants, maybe it’s a result of removing God from our government.:shrug:

According to the legal mumble jumble put out by this and the last Administrations these individuals aren’t POWs.

So Americans think it is OK to torture people caught in the field of battle and to try to destroy their religious beliefs? BTW, was it proven that they were combatants? America is handing a weapon to ISIS who can make similar claims against American hostages that they hold.

Not all Americans think that way. As Catholics we must be against this abuse and not make excuses for it.

Very sad day for America.

“The goal was to create a burden so great that a person’s religious faith would be destroyed.”

That is not what is in the report. The report says:

DIRECTOR HAYDEN: “This proposed program you have in front of you has been informed by our experience and it has been informed by the comments of our detainees. It’s built on the particular psychological profile of the people we have and expect to get ~ al-Qa’ida operatives. Perceiving themselves true believers in a religious war, detainees believe they are morally bound to resist until Allah has sent them a burden too great for them to withstand. At that point —and that point varies by detainee —their cooperation in their own heart and soul becomes blameless and they enter into this cooperative relationship with our debriefers.” [Appendix 3: Example of Inaccurate CIA Testimony to the Committee- April 12,2007]

So it was not the stated goal to destroy faith, but an idea to torture a person to the point where they feel the burden placed on them is too great in the site of God, therefore, the tortured person does not feel it is morally wrong to cooperate.

Obviously, this is still using religion as a stated policy for using torture techniques, but it was not the goal to destory faith. The goal was to use a man’s faith. Destroying faith would be counter to the stated methods.

Off topic: That being said, the report shows that this was an inaccurate portrayal of religious motivation.

"As detailed, Abu Zubaydah referenced religion in the context of his cooperation prior to being subjected to the CIA’s enhanced inteiTogation techniques. On May 14, 2002, more than two months before Abu Zubaydah began his August 2002 enhanced interrogation period, Abu Zubaydah told interrogators that "if he possessed any more information on future threats, then he would provide this information to us to help himself, claiming that ‘the sharia’ gives him permission to do so in his current situation.A bu Zubaydah also made a similar statement to his interrogators approximately a week later—again, prior to the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques—stating that he had “prayed his ‘Istikharah’ (seeking God’s guidance) and was now willing to tell what he really knew,” and “that he had received guidance from God” to cooperate to “prevent his captured brothers from having a difficult time.”^^^® Further, Abu Zubaydah maintained that he always intended to provide information and never believed he could withhold information from interrogators.In February 2003, he told a CIA psychologist that he believed every captured “brother” would talk in detention, and that these “brothers should be able to expect that the organization will make adjustments to protect people and plans when someone with knowledge is captured.
Abu Zubaydah stated he conveyed this perspective to trainees at a terrorist training camp.” [Sampling of Information in CIA Records]

(All from page 485-486 of the report which can be found here.)

But what continues, from then CIA Director Hayden is most disturbing:

DIRECTOR HAYDEN: “Number one, we use the enhanced interrogation techniques at the beginning of this process, and it varies how long it takes, but I gave you a week or two as the normal window in which we actually helped this religious zealot to get over his own personality and put himself in a spirit of cooperation.”

Again, this was an idea to use a man’s own faith against the man.

It was psychological games, from the advise of two psychologists who had no training in interrogation, or the culture and language of the people for which they were devising tortures.

I agree with you; the traditional definitions of war, POWs, and international acceptance of the protection of human rights as outlined by the Geneva Convention rarely applies these days because armed conflict is not about international disputes but unilateral theological warfare or thuggery. We are in uncharted waters with the forces aligned against us using our own societal standards against us. We play by our rules, they use use their rules, and, when caught by us, they want to force us to use our secular justice system on them. If we applied the enemy combatants rules of engagement and justice system on them, we would be torturing and beheading THEM on YouTube. Thank God we don’t/won’t do this as a country. Pray for God’s mercy on their souls as well as our own.:thumbsup:

ISIS creates this situation by attacking those who America values. I can’t speak for all Americans but believe what we’ve done in the past is not torture under the legal definition (as was interpreted by the sitting Attorney General of the time.) For us to retroactively make it illegal opens the doors to EVERY action/decision we’ve ever made as a country for reinterpretation. IF, and that’s a big if, we have made mistakes, it only proves our system is not perfect. How we react to those imperfections is very important. Do we continue the enhance interrogations? No. Do we continue to detain enemy combatants at GITMO? No.

There is an interesting concept in the circles of war fighting strategy posed first by Carl Von Clausewitz: center of gravity. It is a strength without which a fighting force will lose and is the key to defeating your enemy. For example, an enemy that uses ships to prosecute warfare upon you may be defeated by destroying his shipyards. No shipyards, no ships, no war. What would our military strategists identify as the center of gravity for the radical Muslims who use a terrorist strategy in a war against us and our allies? Their havens of safety? Their funds of money? Their support network? Their faith?

To understand how to defeat your enemy, you need to know your enemy first. We are just beginning to learn about our enemy and will continue to learn as this war continues.

Pray for peace and God Bless you.:gopray:

The use of torture can come back to bite the country A that uses it against country B. Country B holds hostages of country A and can claim as an excuse that since Country A uses torture against our prisoners, it is only fair that we go tit for tat and torture the hostages we hold from country A. So American hostages held by country B will get tortured because of what America has done do their detainees.

I am much more worried about physical and psychological torture. We are appalled when they torture people, rape women and behead POWs, and then, we lose all credibility when this becomes public.

I had a Commanding Officer who refused to allow civilians contract interrogators anywhere near the prisoners we had under our control. He was a good man and a Catholic.

Yes, and what does their particular variant of Islam tell them about us? Perhaps that we are evil, working against God, will do horrible things to them because they are the righteous warriors of God? And what does torturing them do? Perhaps reinforce their skewed version of Islam and what it teaches?

What you say has truth to some degree. Your hypothetical “country B” isn’t truly a country; it is similar to a criminal gang. Countries are recognized by doing specific things and obtaining credentials from other already recognized countries. This goes back to my OP that talks about the unprecedented situation we’re faced with and how we’re still finding our way in these uncharted waters. Mistakes will be made and course corrections will need to be made in the future.

However, do you really believe “country B” doesn’t already torture Americans? And, do you believe the current strategy of “droning” foreigners on foreign soil without ANY due process or possible collection of intelligence data is any better?

Without honest dialog and sincere desire to understand between the conflicting parties, there can be no negotiations. We cannot control what the opposition thinks or how they use the information they gain about us from the internet and this works the other way as well. They cannot control what we think. This lack of communication and understanding is one of the roots of the problem very similar to what we had with the former Soviet Union. Without knowing how they think and make decisions, we resorted to projecting our fears and values on them and we ended up pointing WMD at each other with the thought "better dead than ‘red’ ". Yet, despite all the cold war animosity, both sides didn’t want to see the other side totally destroyed so we didn’t push the button (thank God.) Today, we’re faced with an opposition who has publicly stated their intent to enslave or kill anyone not of their religion. How can we find common ground or even understand the possibility of the existence of common ground if we don’t know what makes them tick? And vice versa; do you think the opposition will “secularlize” so they can explore how we think?:confused:

Regardless of what you consider the ‘enemy’ to be, detaining people without a trial or any legal protection is wrong. Torturing people is wrong. That it is ineffective, or may come back to bite you, is actually irrelevant: it is wrong, and we should never do it. We also should not require other people to do it, encourage other people to do it, allow situation where other people are likely to do it, tolerate other people doing it, etc.

Our souls are more important than our earthly lives. What is the point of ‘winning’, if you have become a people who allow the indefinite detention and torture of ‘the enemy’, nebulously defined?

What good does it do to gain the whole world, and lose your soul?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit