The Great Debate

Is the U.S. really against torture? It can be hard to tell

By Elisa Massimino
November 14, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at Organizing for Action's "National Organizing Summit" in Washington

President Barack Obama brought the U.S. commitment against torture into sharper focus on Wednesday. For a president who prohibited torture as one of his first official acts, this shouldn’t be news. But it is.

Forcing the CIA to admit some ugly truths

By David Wise
August 1, 2014

CIA Director John Brennan participates in a Council on Foreign Relations forum in Washington

George Tenet, who presided over the CIA when terrorist suspects were waterboarded and subjected to other forms of brutal “enhanced interrogation,” has set himself a near-impossible task.  He is leading an effort to discredit an impending Senate committee report expected to lay out a case that the intelligence agency tortured suspects and then misled Congress, the White House and the public about its detention and interrogation program.

Can Congress control the CIA?

By David Wise
March 13, 2014

The current fight between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA – each accuses the other of spying on it – is part of the deep, continuing struggle between the legislative and executive branches of government over the wide-ranging power of the intelligence agency in the post-9/11 world.

Our fierce fight over torture

By Ari Melber
March 13, 2014

The new Congress versus the CIA battle over “hacking” Senate computers and “spying” isn’t about surveillance. It’s about torture.

Brennan, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and the torture firestorm

By Herman Schwartz
February 7, 2013

Controversy over the U.S. use of torture erupted again with the release of Zero Dark Thirty, the movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. President Barack Obama has now added fuel to this fire by nominating John Brennan, his chief counterterrorism adviser, to be CIA director.

Oscars: Setting the national narrative

By Evangeline Morphos
January 28, 2013

As the Oscars approach, two of the most ambitious and remarkable Best Picture nominees — Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty — are reeling from criticisms that they are historically inaccurate. Though both are fiction, audiences, critics, commentators, scholars and even politicians are troubled that the movies don’t meet the standards of documentary or reported journalism.

Why Zero Dark Thirty divides the media in half

By Alissa Quart
December 28, 2012

The thriller Zero Dark Thirty has exposed a wide gap between film critics and their counterparts in politics. Nearly every American film critic has lauded and rewarded it, including the New York Film Critics Circle, which tapped it as the best film of the year, making it a front-runner for Oscar nods. In sharp contrast, a number of major political writers have reviled the film, including New Yorker writer Jane Mayer and Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, while Senators Dianne Feinstein, John McCain and Carl Levin wrote a letter of complaint to the film’s distributor, Sony Pictures, calling the movie “grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information” that led to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The division between political writers, politicians and critics only got more pronounced as the CIA’s acting director, Michael Morell, published an unusual disavowal of the film. When it comes to torture, Morell wrote, “the film takes significant artistic license, while portraying itself as being historically accurate.”

Would Romney bring back torture?

By Daphne Eviatar
October 15, 2012


GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney talked about the United States’ “proud history of strong, confident, principled global leadership” in his foreign policy speech last Monday.

Does America need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for torture?

By Reuters Staff
November 24, 2009

Paul van Zyl is the former executive secretary of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In this presentation to the Poptech conference, he argues that America must confront its own legacy of torture: