From Reuters: Exclusive: Senate probe finds little evidence of effective "torture"
(Reuters) - A nearly three-year-long investigation by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats is expected to find there is little evidence the harsh "enhanced interrogation techniques" the CIA used on high-value prisoners produced counter-terrorism breakthroughs.
People familiar with the inquiry said committee investigators, who have been poring over records from the administration of President George W. Bush, believe they do not substantiate claims by some Bush supporters that the harsh interrogations led to counter-terrorism coups.
The backers of such techniques, which include "water-boarding," sleep deprivation and other practices critics call torture, maintain they have led to the disruption of major terror plots and the capture of al Qaeda leaders.
One official said investigators found "no evidence" such enhanced interrogations played "any significant role" in the years-long intelligence operations which led to the discovery and killing of Osama bin Laden last May by U.S. Navy SEALs.
President Barack Obama and his aides have largely sought to avoid revisiting Bush administration controversies. But the debate over the effectiveness of enhanced interrogations, which human rights advocates condemn as torture, is resurfacing, in part thanks to a new book by a former top CIA official.
In the book, "Hard Measures," due to be published on Monday, April 30, the former chief of CIA clandestine operations Jose Rodriguez defends the use of interrogation practices including water-boarding, which involves pouring water on a subject's face, which is covered with a cloth, to simulate drowning.
"We made some al-Qaeda terrorists with American blood on their hands uncomfortable for a few days," Rodriguez says in an interview with CBS News' "60 Minutes" that will air on Sunday, April 29. "I am very secure in what we did and am very confident that what we did saved American lives."
For nearly three years, the Senate intelligence committee's majority Democrats have been conducting what is described as the first systematic investigation of the effectiveness of such extreme interrogation techniques.
NO SCIENTIFIC ASSESSMENT
The CIA gave the committee access to millions of pages of written records charting daily operations of the interrogation program, including graphic descriptions of how and when controversial techniques were employed.
Sources agreed to discuss the matter on condition of anonymity because the report has not been finalized.
The committee members' objective is to conduct a methodical assessment of whether enhanced interrogation techniques led to genuine intelligence breakthroughs or whether they produced more false leads than good ones.
U.S. intelligence officials have acknowledged that while the harshest elements of the interrogation program, including water-boarding and other tactics which cause severe physical stress, were in use, the CIA never carried out a scientific assessment of the program's effectiveness.
The Bush Administration only used water-boarding on three captured suspects. One of them was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Other coercive techniques included sleep deprivation, making people crouch or stretch in stressful positions and slamming detainees against a flexible wall.
The CIA started backing away from such techniques in 2004. Obama banned them shortly after taking office.
One source cautioned there could still be lengthy delays before any information or conclusions from the Senate committee's report are made public.
One reason the inquiry has taken so long is that in 2009, committee Republicans withdrew their participation, saying the panel would be unable to interview witnesses to ensure documentary material was reported in appropriate context due to ongoing criminal investigations.
People familiar with the inquiry said it consisted of as much as 2,000 pages in narrative accounts of how the CIA interrogation program worked, including specific case histories in which enhanced interrogation tactics were used.
'PROCEDURES' UNJUSTIFIED: FEINSTEIN
The Intelligence committee has not issued any official statements about what its inquiry has found or when it expects to wrap up. But committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein has made relatively strong statements about the lack of evidence that enhanced interrogations played any material role in generating information leading to bin Laden's killing.
Only days after the commando raid in which bin Laden was killed, Feinstein told journalists: "I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted, and, in my view, nothing justifies the kind of procedures that were used."
Current and former U.S. officials have said one key source for information about the existence of the al Qaeda "courier" who ultimately led U.S. intelligence to bin Laden was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
KSM, as he was known to U.S. officials, was subjected to water-boarding 183 times, the U.S. government has acknowledged.
Officials said, however, that it was not until sometime after he was water-boarded that KSM told interrogators about the courier's existence. Therefore a direct link between the physically coercive techniques and critical information is unproven, Bush administration critics say.
Supporters of the CIA program, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, have portrayed it as a necessary, if distasteful, step that may have stopped extremist plots and saved lives.
The purpose of using physically coercive methods was not directly to extract information about imminent plots but rather to put suspects in a frame of mind to cooperate with interrogators during future questioning, they say.
Critics also say that still-classified records are likely to demonstrate that harsh interrogation techniques produced far more information that proved false than true.
Some U.S. counter-terrorism officials have acknowledged that in the years after the September 11 attacks, U.S. agencies were overwhelmed with bogus tips about possible plots and attacks.
(Editing by Todd Eastham)
The history of torture is not that it compels people through unendurable pain and fear to give up information, but that it does not. The very long history of torture shows that if you hurt people enough they will say anything they think you want them to say, but that they will not reliably reveal important, reliable, quality information.
Torture gains submission, it breaks people down to give any false statement that you push them to give. Medieval torture is well documented for producing the desired results not of truth, but of false confessions. The Enlightenment, which produced the legal and political thinking that led to the American Revolution extensively condemned torture, not only for humanitarian reasons, but because it did not work. Napoleon Bonaparte while on campaign in Egypt sent orders back to France banning the whipping men who were thought to have secret information , on the grounds that torture was useless in producing reliable information. The other instances of it being widely recognized across century after century that torture is ineffective are widespread.
Torture appeals to the mindset of people who are afraid, who feel vulnerable, and who want to hurt the people they blame for those feelings. They may even believe the pretext, the excuse that torture is justified, but the effective lack of any evidence to show that it produces reliable information does not exist. There can be no valid argument justifying torture on the basis of necessity or defense of innocent life when torture does not work. Torture is ugly; the bogus excuses given for it are always dramatic, always important SOUNDING, but they do not justify these unethical acts no matter what the justification that is used. When people do something horrible, unforgiveable, to other people, it is essential they make it seem important to justify it; when they act because they are giving in to the worst aspects of fear, it is necessary that they cause other people to share their fear -- even when they have to lie to do so, as Bush and Cheney did so often.
It is consistent with the beliefs of right wing authoritarianism that it is both possible and desirable to coerce people to conform, if you simply cause them enough pain. They regard causing other people pain to make them submit to their beliefs a highly desirable thing; it is a core facet of their ideology.
In 2009 Dick Cheney came out of his retierment hiding, after the disgrace of the administration of which he was a significant part. Dich Cheney claimed that his war crimes of torture - illegal actions under U.S. law - were justified, if only the CIA ould declassify the documents. He could PROVE IT! Except of course, he couldn't.
The CIA DID declassify the documents. They did NOT PROVE torture worked. I don't think Dick Cheney is stupid. I think he knew the documents wold not prove his claims, but he needed a means to push back against the utter loathing and contempt that were the national response to the policies he advocated. I don't believe Dick Cheney is capable of admitting he is wrong, especially not to himself. And I don't believe Dick Cheney expected the CIA to declassify those documents he requested.
What IS true is that NOT torturing people produced more high quality intelligence information than torturing people did. From Wikipedia on torture:
"...after coercive practices were banned, interrogators in Iraq saw an increase of 50 percent more high-value intelligence . Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, the American commander in charge of detentions and interrogations, stated "a rapport-based interrogation that recognizes respect and dignity, and having very well-trained interrogators, is the basis by which you develop intelligence rapidly and increase the validity of that intelligence." Others including Robert Mueller, FBI Director since July 5, 2001, have pointed out that despite former Bush Administration claims that waterboarding has "disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks", they do not believe that evidence gained by the U.S. government through what supporters of the techniques call "enhanced interrogation" has disrupted a single attack and no one has come up with a documented example of lives saved thanks to these techniques. On June 19, 2009, the US government announced that it was delaying the scheduled release of declassified portions of a report by the CIA Inspector General that reportedly cast doubt on the effectiveness of the "enhanced interrogation" techniques employed by CIA interrogators, according to references to the report contained in several Bush-era Justice Department memos declassified in the Spring of 2009 by the US Justice Department.
The wikipedia overview provides an excellent summary, but the real value of the above quote is in the quality of the footnote sources (as is so often the case with wikipedia when it is effective and factual.)
It is time to stop defending torture; the pretense of it being effective is a failure. It is time for Dick Cheney, and everyone else who has condoned torture, to the extent that they condoned it - either directly, or indirectly in the case of outsourcing torture on our behalf to others - that they were wrong, horribly horribly wrong. Those who tortured people, regardless of their intent, made us all less safe, far less safe. They shat on the very core values and principles at the core of this country, out of fear. They were wrong, and it is time they admit it, time they face the consequences for it and time they are held accountable for it. We are only a moral nation to the extent that we do so.