Now that the controversy over "Zero Dark Thirty" has died down, it's more important than ever that we refocus attention on what we know to be true about torture, and not on fictional accounts of it.
The Senate Intelligence Committee recently adopted with a bipartisan vote a more than 6,000-page report on the CIA's use of torture. The report is the result of a more than three-year investigation and is based on information contained in several million pages of documents about the detainee interrogation program.
I join the National Religious Campaign Against Torture in calling on our own Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the committee to shed light on the facts by voting to release the report. After watching the fiction in the movie theater, Americans now need to know the truth about U.S.-sponsored torture to ensure that our nation never tortures again.
Undoubtedly, viewers across the country walked out of "Zero Dark Thirty" believing the film's dramatic presentation of Osama bin Laden's capture to be true.
Unfortunately, the profoundly disturbing "enhanced interrogation techniques" -- i.e. torture -- depicted were accurate representations of torture methods our own government has used. But the film leaves the impression that these inhumane methods -- such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation -- provided early clues as to the identity of Osama bin Laden's courier, and were therefore effective. And worse yet, the film may lead viewers to believe that if such tactics led to good intelligence, they are OK to use. That is not the case. Torture is unacceptable, illegal and immoral under any and all circumstances.
The film -- now a major part of the pop culture version of the search for bin Laden -- neglected to point out that the identity of bin Laden's courier was not initially revealed by a detainee in the CIA's custody, and that further information disclosed by CIA detainees was attained without the use of torture.
These details are vital to the understanding of how bin Laden was found, and they have been reiterated by former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Sens. Feinstein and Carl Levin, both of whom serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee, former director of the CIA Michael Hayden, acting CIA Director Mike Morrell, and Sen. John McCain, who said the filmmakers fell "hook, line, and sinker" for the narrative.
Not only does the film disregard these facts, perhaps most disturbing is its failure to CIA officials ever questioning their ethics or displaying remorse for their use of torture.
By suggesting that the end justifies the means, the film implies that torture played a role in finding bin Laden. Torture is deplorable and of the highest degree of immoral behavior; it runs contrary to the teachings of all religions and dishonors all faiths. It is an egregious violation of the dignity and worth of each person, and damages America's standing as a free and fair pillar of democracy in the world.
Torture is degrading to all involved -- the victim, perpetrator and policymakers. The Golden Rule makes it clear: Torture should not be perpetrated on others because we would not want others to do so to us.
Torture is also illegal without exception. In 1994, the United States signed the U.N. Convention Against Torture, agreeing to abide by the following proscription: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."
My own religious tradition, Presbyterianism, affirms that God is at work all over the world, healing the brokenness. People of faith are called to join God in that act of faithfulness. Ending torture forever is, I believe, a part of our call to be faithful. We must work together to encourage the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- particularly Feinstein, who chairs it -- to release the results of its report. Doing so will help ensure that our government does not engage in torture again. Torture is too important an issue to allow a film to be the final arbiter. The facts must play that role.
The Rev. Will McGarvey is a Presbyterian minister at Community Presbyterian Church in Pittsburg.