During the last days several news pieces have appeared confirming that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) tortured several prisoners with a method called waterboarding. According to CIA director Michael Hayden, three terrorism suspects were tortured using this technique.
Even though acts of terrorism are despicable by nature, and individuals engaged into terrorist activities are a threat to the stability of our societies, that does not mean that the civilized world should move back and engage into activities that are today widely condemned and considered barbaric.
Throughout the western world torture is considered a crime. It is not a figure with exceptions, but rather a generally condemned and punished act.
But now that the world's most powerful country has admitted torturing terrorism suspects, will the figure of torture continue to be prohibited, or will it be now generally allowed for certain special cases? Let us remember that several important political figures of western civilization have faced judiciary processes related to torture: Augusto Pinochet faced detention in London and permanent legal persecution until his death; Alberto Fujimori is now facing several charges that are, in one way or another, related to questionable ways of handling political opponents, and lots of people of old dictatorial regimes in Brazil and Argentina have gone to or are currently in jail for the same reason.
Mr. Hayden tried to reduce the importance of the incident by acknowledging that the waterboarding technique was used on only three suspects. Does this mean that torturing few people is acceptable, and only wide-spread torturers are to be legally prosecuted? I don't think so. Analogically, we all know that both murderers and genocides are processed for killing, with the latter generally receiving heavier sentences than the former, but in the end, both are incarcerated for the crime of assassination. Period. Both are criminals. Period.
The United States of America should not allow their image to be stained under the national security threat excuse. It is true that after September 11th, 2001 attacks, the topic of security is top priority for the USA and many other countries, but for that very same reason is it important to act impeccably and honorably, demonstrating the world that progress and our way of life can be defended without having to resort to acts and techniques that make us resemble a little bit to the enemy we want to avoid and extinguish. Torturing suspects is something I expect to hear someday from the security forces of forgotten African regimes or dictatorships, not from the United States of America.