What the CIA Torture Report Means for the U.S. Overseas

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The CIA torture report has been on the minds of Americans since its release this week, and there’s a lot to be said about how both Democrats and Republicans are reacting to it. It’s something that’s weighed on politicians and citizens both politically and emotionally. But our country doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and all the eyes of the world have also been on the U.S. as the information on our country’s use of torture has been released.

In particular, the report affects the countries that housed the prisons in which the CIA employed the torture techniques revealed in the report. Let’s take a look at what political tensions in other countries — and between countries and the U.S. — may result from the senate’s report, as well as how the media is shaping the story abroad.

The homes of CIA prisons

The report revealed that detention programs were operating in many foreign countries, and politicians in those countries who were aware may face backlash. Thailand was home to a black site, otherwise known as an unacknowledged location, in this case a prison, in which Abu Zubydah, a senior member of Al Qaeda, was subject to the torture revealed in the senate’s report. He was allegedly waterboarded, subjected to physical assaults, and tortured with sleep deprivation in stress positions. This happened during the rule of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was later exiled as the result of a coup in 2006. As he tries to regain power, Thaksin may now face distrust from the public, as he presents himself and his party as “committed democrats who are far more enlightened than the harsh army rulers running Thailand now,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Thailand was not alone in having its leadership deny the existence of such black sites. Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski also had previously denied that the CIA ran a detention center in Poland, but now has had to admit that he allowed the site to be operated. But, due to anxieties regarding Russia taking political precedence in Poland, Polish leaders don’t think the report will cause much of a rift between their country and the U.S.

The report may increase tensions between the U.S. and countries. Afghanistan was also home to several CIA detention facilities, and subsequently the report may have political effects there as well. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a televised speech that the CIA’s practices went against “all accepted norms of human rights abuses in the world.” His condemnation of American practices suggests the potential for it affecting future cooperation between the countries.

Other countries are questioning what was left out of the report. Lithuania, for example, is requesting that the CIA disclose whether it tortured prisoners at secret prisons in its country. Lithuania is named in the report as housing detainees, but former Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus, who held office when the CIA’s detention program was running, says there were no black sites in the country. The country’s parliament plans to investigate.

International media coverage

Beyond the countries who are directly involved in the report, the world is recording an opinion of the United States that could also shape future political tensions based on the report and the media’s coverage of it. The Guardian, for example, said the report revealed the extent of “brutal and ineffective” torture practices that the CIA repeatedly lied about.

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) address about the report was broadcasted on various foreign networks and online media sites, including BBC, Al Jazeera, and Britain’s Telegraph. According to the LA Times, Russia Today television interspersed excerpts of Feinstein’s address with images of the waterboarding interrogation and comments from former President George Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney that critiqued the report. 

United States criticized for “hypocrisy”

China has been covering the report, saying that it highlights U.S. hypocrisy. The Communist Party publication People’s Daily ran an article detailing the U.S.’s bipartisan fighting around the report’s release. In the article, Su Xiaohui, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, said the U.S. will face “possible retaliation from terrorist organizations” in response to the report’s disclosures. Xiaohui speculated that the report “will also have a negative impact on the global security situation.”

Xinhua, a state-run news agency, published a piece which criticized the “sheer hypocrisy” of the U.S.’s human rights record, listing the Senate’s report as well as racial tensions and income inequality. Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a news briefing that China “consistently opposes torture,” and that China believes “that the U.S. side should reflect upon and rectify its relevant behavior, earnestly obey and implement the provisions of international conventions.”

“This report provides yet more damning detail of some of the human rights violations that were authorized by the highest authorities in the U.S.A. after 9/11,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Amnesty International’s director for the Americas, according to the LA Times. “Despite much evidence having been in the public realm for years, no one has been brought to justice for authorizing or carrying out the acts in these CIA programs.”

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