New England editorial roundup

Associated Press Updated: April 12, 2014 at 9:16 am • Published: April 12, 2014 0

The MetroWest Daily News of Framingham (Mass.), April 8, 2014

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted last week to declassify parts of its report on the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" to extract information from terrorist detainees, but parts of the work that have been leaked appear to confirm Americans' worst fears about the secret program. Committee investigators found that the brutal treatment of prisoners was far more widespread than the agency has acknowledged and that CIA officials deliberately misled Congress about the effectiveness of methods that brought shame on the nation and amounted to little more than torture by another name.

Indeed, the greatest irony of the interrogation program was precisely that it failed to uncover the kind of useful intelligence in the war on terror that the agency claimed as its main reason for being. In fact, Senate investigators couldn't find a single instance in which information gained through torture led to the capture or killing of high-ranking terrorist operatives or helped thwart a major attack on the American homeland by al-Qaida and its affiliates. On the contrary, whatever useful intelligence the agency did glean from the suspects it captured was obtained by more traditional means before they were ever tortured — and ceased as soon as they were.

The Senate committee investigators also charged that to cover up the fact that the interrogation program wasn't working as advertised, CIA officials repeatedly lied to Congress about the real sources of their information. In one case, for example, the agency went so far as to take credit for intelligence that was actually generated by an FBI agent who interviewed the suspect before the CIA started torturing him. Even so, CIA officials later reported that the U.S. couldn't have gotten such useful information had it not been for its secret interrogation program.

That the agency continued to torture detainees long after it became evident that no useful information was forthcoming — and despite it being plainly immoral and a violation of international law — raises questions about its true purpose and the motives of those who ordered it and carried it out. That's bad enough, but what was worse was that, as a result, the agency put itself in a position that forced it to routinely inflate the significance of the alleged terrorist plots it claimed to have thwarted as well as the importance of enemy combatants captured on the battlefield. It's hard not to conclude that the agency's resistance to ending the program or to holding anyone accountable for its abuses was based more on a desire to save its own skin rather than to serve the country.

President Obama should promptly to make public the evidence of this most shameful episode in our history. The American people deserve to know the grisly details of the crimes committed in their name so that they will never be allowed to happen again.

The Day of New London (Conn.), April 9, 2014

Lower meat prices could come at a high price of human suffering if sensible antibiotic-use policies are not adopted.

Legislation intended to protect the public from the growing threat of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria remains stalled in Congress. The powerful agricultural and pharmaceuticals lobbies oppose the legislation because, while it may be good for health, it would not be good for their businesses.

Nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics are sold annually for use in farm animals, about four times the amount used by humans. Rather than treating sick animals, industrial farms use most of these drugs to prevent disease and reduce the chances of any illnesses that do emerge from spreading in crowded conditions.

While this allows the raising of more animals at lower costs, it creates a health threat. Bacteria, persistently exposed to these antibiotics, evolve. The strongest and most resistant survive and reproduce resistant strains. When the same or similar pathogens infect humans, antibiotics prescribed by doctors can prove useless.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing health threat. About 2 million people will fall ill from antibiotic-resistant infections this year, and about 23,000 will die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Preventing Antibiotic Resistant Act, introduced in the Senate, and companion legislation in the House, would direct the Food and Drug Administration to prohibit the use of antibiotics in ways that accelerate resistance. The prohibition would be limited to antibiotics that are critical to human health. Antibiotics exclusive to treating animal pathogens would be left untouched by the legislation. Farms could still use antibiotics to treat sick animals.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., is among the bill's sponsors. Many health-advocacy groups support the legislation, including the American Medical Association and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Antibiotics have made the treatment of once deadly infections routine. It is foolish and dangerous to continue practices that could render these wonder drugs useless.

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