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June 15, 2015

John Oliver Highlights Torture’s Ineffectiveness

By Katherine Ryan

Last night, John Oliver used his sharp wit to call attention to the United States’ use of torture in the era after 9/11. The segment, which pokes fun at those who think torture is an effective tool in gathering intelligence, comes just a week after Senators McCain and Feinstein worked across the aisle to introduce an anti-torture amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. 

In 2005 the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Detainee Treatment Act in a bipartisan vote, and President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting torture in 2009. But as Oliver pointed out, with the 2016 elections on the horizon, this ban could be undone quickly by an incoming president. This makes it all the more important to codify the ban and ensure the permanent end of torture by the United States. 

In the segment, Oliver pointed out that torture often produces unreliable evidence, and features former FBI interrogator Jack Cloonan, who confirmed that torture is an ineffective means of gaining valuable information from a detainee. Cloonan, along with 22 other intelligence professionals and retired military leaders, recently sent a letter to senators advising them to support this anti-torture amendment.

Not only has torture proven ineffective, it is even harmful to our national security. America’s use of torture has served as a recruiting tool to many terrorist organizations and damages the reputation of the United States around the world. Torture lies in stark contrast with American values. As Oliver summarizes, “America should not be a country that tortures people because it is brutal, it is medieval, and it is beneath us.”