National Opinions

San Jose Mercury News: Obama should make clear his opposition to torture

President-elect Barack Obama should reassert America's moral authority next week by closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay and making clear his opposition to the use of torture.

In the months ahead, Obama will have to walk the tightrope of protecting the nation from a future attack while opposing interrogation techniques that utilize torture.

The best option for the president-elect is to appoint a nonpartisan commission charged with three goals:

Determine the truth about what intelligence agents did to suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay and other sites.

Conduct a review of the effectiveness of the techniques used by the Bush administration and determine which constitute violations of American and international standards.

Recommend whether prosecution of Bush administration officials and/or those who engaged in torture should be pursued.

The war on terrorism has no end in sight. The more knowledgeable and unified the nation is on how it plans to prevent future terrorism and deal with suspected terrorists, the better.

Most experts believe that pain, coercion and threats are counterproductive to getting good information.

The outgoing director of the CIA, Michael Hayden, argues otherwise.

But it is impossible to judge until it is known exactly what was done and the results that ensued.

If the techniques constitute torture, then Obama should emphatically restate his opposition to them.

But while not making prosecution a priority, Obama must get at the truth about what happened in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001.

In so doing he should avoid a witch hunt that will divide a nation he seeks to unite.