On Dec. 9, the CIA released a report detailing the use of enhanced interrogation techniques against captured terrorists during the Bush administration following the 9/11 attacks. The report describes what was done to who and when for the 119 known individuals who were held in CIA custody.

Reaction to the report has been mixed, with civil libertarians arguing that the American people have a right to know what has been done in their name and that the activities of the CIA were unjustifiable. National security statists counter that releasing the report threatens the safety of Americans overseas and that the ends of preventing terrorist attacks justify the means employed. Let us examine some of the common arguments made by national security statists.

1. The methods used were not torture. The methods used violate the Geneva Convention if it is construed to apply to unlawful combatants (the enhanced interrogation program’s supporters claim it should not be). They would also violate the Eighth Amendment if they were applied to U.S. citizens. One need only go through the list of techniques to dismiss this argument out of hand.

2. The methods used were effective and necessary. The report indicates that the methods used were not more effective than non-enhanced interrogations. Even so, it is impossible to know this for certain. One would have to examine an alternate timeline where no torture methods were used and compare the results, and this is not possible. As for torture being necessary, the ends cannot justify the means.

3. People died in worse ways on 9/11, so it was acceptable to subject terror suspects to enhanced interrogations. The hijackers who committed the crimes of 9/11 died in the attacks as well, and responsibility for crimes must die with the people who commit them. That being said, other people besides the hijackers acquired vicarious liability for aiding and abetting their efforts. It must also be noted that a threat to initiate the use of force counts as an initiation of the use of force, and that violating a fundamental right of another person while claiming the same right for oneself is logically invalid. Therefore, a person who is not just suspected, but is known to be involved in planning, aiding, or carrying out terrorist attacks is violating the right of other people to exclusive control over their own bodies, and is estopped from claiming self-ownership. Thus, there is no moral prohibition against torturing such a person, especially as a use of defensive force to prevent a terrorist attack that would kill innocent people.

4. The report is ill-formed because no interviews of CIA officials were conducted. This is cause for suspicion, not cause for rejection. Further evidence is needed to show that something untoward has occurred, and interviews of CIA officials should be conducted in order to obtain a more complete account of the events that took place.

5. The report is unimportant because the information was already public knowledge. The general nature of the operations were public knowledge, but the details were not. It is important for every American to be able to know exactly what has been done by agents of an institution that claims to represent their interests throughout the world.

6. The release of this information will cause more attacks against Americans. Again, it is impossible to know this sort of information for certain. One would have to examine an alternate timeline where the report was not released and compare the results, and this is not possible.

7. The release of this information should have been done at a different time. To quote Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), “This clearly is a period of turmoil and instability in many parts of the world. Unfortunately, that’s going to continue into the foreseeable future whether this report is released or not.”

8. The release of this information was politically motivated. All actions involving politicians are politically motivated to some extent, so this is true but trivial.