The Effectiveness Of Torture

February 11th, 2009at 11:20am Posted by Eli

TorinNelson’s diary about why Obama needs to establish a truth commission on torture contains an unintentionally revealing nugget about torture’s usefulness:

I do not believe that the use of these techniques was necessary or effective. I have come face-to-face in the interrogation booth with insurgents and Al Qaeda operatives. It is possible to make almost all of them talk using techniques that are lawful.

When I served as an interrogator, I did not mistreat detainees. For me, this was an issue of efficacy as well as morality. Everything I know tells me that torture is much more of a destructive technique than a useful “tool.”

I am aware of too many cases where torture – or abuse – backfired. Just to cite one: a previously cooperative and truthful detainee named Al-Libi was taken by the CIA to be tortured in Egypt. Under duress he claimed that there was a connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. This information was rushed to Secretary Colin Powell who used it in his speech to the United Nations as a justification to go to war with Iraq. Al-Libi later recanted, and all of his information – both when he was cooperative and later when he was tortured – were deemed tainted. It was determined that he made up the connection in order to make the torture stop.

Sure, from the perspective of someone genuinely interested in actionable intelligence, the interrogation of Al-Libi was an abysmal failure.  But from the perspective of an administration interested only in propagandizable intelligence, it was a smashing success.  Torture is a great way to extract fake confessions, fake intelligence, whatever the victims think their torturers wants to hear.  While most of us would consider that a pretty significant bug, the Bush administration viewed it as a feature.

Entry Filed under: Bush,Cheney,Politics,Republicans,Torture


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