WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden said the CIA torture report details “inexcusable crimes” committed by the U.S., and criticized the “moral authority” of the government.
Speaking via video with a Paris Amnesty International conference, Snowden said he was “deeply saddened” by the U.S. Senate report on CIA torture tactics published on Tuesday. He blasted the U.S. government for a lack of transparency and accountability detailed in the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA torture program during the George W. Bush administration.
“If the U.S. can allow its officials to torture and not hold them to account, what does this mean for other more totalitarian states, in Asia and in Africa and elsewhere around the world?” asked Snowden. “These are things that leave a stain on the moral authority of the United States government and if we do not prosecute and hold them to account, we cannot move forward as a society.”
Details from the report show that al Qaeda suspects and other detainees were beaten, waterboarded and punished with sleep deprivation in addition to humiliation through painful “rectal rehydration” and “rectal feeding” acts. Snowden expressed disgust at the grisly details in the report and reiterated a need for accountability on behalf of those who committed the acts.
“We saw individuals who actually lost their lives as a result of detention, as a result of the treatment they received under the torture program,” Snowden said. “They died after being chained to a concrete floor in an unheated room, half-naked. And rather than having the officer who ordered that behavior be prosecuted, he actually received a monetary bonus from the CIA of $2,500.”
A former system administrator for the CIA, Snowden said that morality cannot be replaced by the agency’s so-called need for “efficiency.”
“A government could say that rape has a positive effect because we have a declining demographic crisis in the country … Efficiency has no place in the debate about right and wrong,” said Snowden. “The Senate’s report is a good step forward in terms of acknowledging the reality of what we have done. But this does nothing in terms of holding the officials who ordered this behavior and the officers who actually directly engaged in torture to account.”
Snowden, who still lives under asylum in Russia in avoidance of U.S. espionage charges, said he is “doing quite well” in Moscow, and that he lives “an ordinary life … I ride the Moscow underground like everyone else.”
But Snowden noted, he would “love to go back to the U.S.”