Following the release of the controversial CIA torture report, a Senate staffer has tried to censor Wikipedia’s definition of the term. The page, “Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture” was edited by an anonymous Wikipedia user on both December 9th and 10th. The user’s IP address was registered to the Senate.
The user attempted to remove a phrase describing “enhanced interrogation techniques” as “a euphemism for torture,” citing “removing bias” as the reason for the edit. Both times, the revision to the first paragraph of the entry was rejected. As of Thursday morning the line was missing again, though a further change has not been reported.
It is no surprise that agents of government are attempting to censor the truth about the report on torture. It has created a PR firestorm, and though Fox news and other government apologists have tried to downplay the severity, the world is not buying it.
Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, said on Wednesday:
By choosing to move on, to forget about the past, not to prosecute the serious crime, Obama is keeping torture as a misguided, wrongful policy option for some future American president.
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism Ben Emmerson stated that,
The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes.
The attempted Wikipedia changes were noticed by the Twitter bot @congressedits, which reports anytime an IP address registered to the United States Congress attempts to make an edit on Wikipedia. It was inspired by @parliamentedits, the original British version. Similar bots report anonymous edits made by the Russian government as well as by staffers at top media organizations.
The disturbing 6,000 page report on the CIA released this week catalogued the various ways that the U.S. government tortured detainees, as well as the fact that they didn’t work . It showed that while the widely-known water-boarding technique was used, so were other heinous methods: sleep-deprivation and forced rectal feeding were employed. Interrogators denied urgent medical care to those they tortured, making questioning a higher priority. Power drills were used to intimidate while another detainee was stuffed in a “coffin-like” box for over 24 hours. Government employees threatened to harm individuals’ families (including sexual assault and slitting throats) and threw ice water on naked detainees.
To commit acts of torture is a troubling sign of a twisted, detached individual, and though attempting to censor the information is not as violent, it stems from the same sick obedience to authority, no matter the cost. It is particularly ironic that the anonymous staffer would attempt to propagandize torture by censoring the report (considering the government propaganda of manipulating language from “torture” to “enhanced interrogation” to make it seem more innocuous).
@Congressedits was only created in July 2014 but has already reported 430 edits. Changes have been made to everything from Lord of the Rings to Gamergate, but the CIA torture report is so far the most obvious attempt to downplay government crimes.