First, there was Hayden's admission that only three CIA prisoners were tortured on the waterboard. This, despite evidence of much wider use-- namely on Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who under CIA torture fabricated tales of strong Al Qaeda - WMD - Saddam links.Like an abused spouse, the U.S. media and general public lap up the sorry half-truths and mea culpas of the American government regarding its torture and rendition programs. "Extraordinary rendition" is a U.S. covert operation that kidnaps foreign nationals in other countries and delivers them into the hands of countries that torture (Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan have been named in various accounts). This torture is believed often to be supervised or observed by U.S. officials themselves, probably CIA. This was powerfully dramatized in the recent movie, Rendition, loosely based on the Khaled Masri case.
Now, we have this. According to Hayden, only two rendition victims were briefly held on Diego Garcia. In 2005, the Toronto Star revealed that "two navy prison ships ferry prisoners in and out" of the Indian Ocean base. A long suspected CIA black site, Reprieve's Clive Stafford Smith said last year he was "absolutely and categorically certain" that prisoners have been held on the remote atoll.
Two modified limited hangouts from Hayden in three weeks. What will the CIA have us believe next-- that the agency has created only two new al Qaeda recruits via blowback to its widescale use of torture?
There has been a lot of talk and even some legislative activity around U.S. torture policies recently, but there's no evidence any of it has had any effect on the practices of the Pentagon or the CIA. The dissidents of the American Psychological Association recently got its association to make a stronger statement against use of any torture or abusive treatment of detainees at sites where "enemy combatants" are imprisoned. But they have made no progress at all in pulling psychologists from such sites, and they continue to staff the notorious Behavioral Science Consultation Teams at Guantanamo and elsewhere. (I'll be writing more about this in the near future.)
Not to slight the strenuous and important efforts of organizations like Physicians for Human Rights or Human Rights First in fighting torture, or the vital contributions of many journalists and medical professionals, U.S. society still awaits a serious, sustained, and mass-backed movement against American use of torture.