CIA, FBI, DoD, DoJ, Army, Air Force: ‘Torture doesn’t work.’

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

I posted this over at DailyKos the other day and some people said posting it here would be a good idea. So here I am.

Here I’ve compiled a lengthy list on the ongoing discussion (read: illegal implementation and defense) of torture. I just think it is really interesting, in hindsight, to go re-read articles where various agencies commented on torture.

I’m not trying to prove a point that torture doesn’t work, so we shouldn’t use it. We should never use it even if it ‘works’ because it’s cruel, inhumane and un-American. There is no excuse to use torture and there never will be. I am writing this because I’m actually wondering, given all these comments about how it doesn’t work, why was it still used?

Honestly, it makes no sense. It hampered evidence gathering and trials of real terrorists and everything else, along with being completely immoral. I doubt we’ll ever get any answers but I figured I’d put it out there.

– To start, I already wrote that Dick Cheney once agreed with a report that said torture undermines US credibility in the world.

– FBI Director Robert Mueller says that torture has never prevented a terrorist attack:

I ask Mueller: So far as he is aware, have any attacks on America been disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through what the administration still calls “enhanced techniques”?

“I’m really reluctant to answer that,” Mueller says. He pauses, looks at an aide, and then says quietly, declining to elaborate: “I don’t believe that has been the case.”

The Plum Line says that Mueller is still not disavowing his claim.

– Porter Goss says torture does not work:

“I can assure you that I know of no instances where the intelligence community is outside the law on this,” Goss said. “And I know for a fact that torture is not productive. That’s not professional interrogation. We don’t do torture.”

– Here’s more from Goss:

CHARLES GIBSON: Let me ask you about torture. You said the other day the CIA does not do torture, correct?

PORTER GOSS: That is correct.

GIBSON: How do you define it?

GOSS: Well, I define torture probably the way most people would — in the eye of the beholder. What we do does not come close because torture in terms of inflicting pain or something like that, physical pain or causing a disability, those kinds of things that probably would be a common definition for most Americans, sort of you know it when you see it, we don’t do that because it doesn’t get what you want. We do debriefings because debriefings are the nature of our business, is to get information. We want accurate information and we want to make sure that we have professional people doing that work, and we do all that, and we do it in a way that does not involve torture because torture is counterproductive.

– Alberto Gonzales and George W. Bush said that the idea that the US tortured is harmful to the country:

By late 2002, the documents showed, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was fleshing out the policy under intense pressure to squeeze more information from people seized in Afghanistan. He briefly approved techniques including the use of dogs, and by April 2003 he had approved the use, under some conditions, of interrogation techniques including changes in diet, and isolation.

But the White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, told reporters Tuesday that Bush never considered more aggressive options set out by administration lawyers, including those in an August 2002 Justice Department memo that appeared to offer a legal rationale for justifying the use of torture.

Gonzales said the administration decided to make the disclosures because they “felt it was harmful to this country in terms of the notion that we may be engaged in torture.”

– Gonzales and Bush, again, same article:

“The president has given no order or directive that would immunize from prosecution anyone engaged in conduct that constitutes torture,” Gonzales said. “All interrogation techniques actually authorized have been carefully vetted, are lawful and do not constitute torture.”

– Bush says, in the same article that he doesn’t condone or order torture and never will:

Asked Tuesday about the prison abuse and torture, Bush told reporters in the Oval Office that torture runs counter to the values of the United States and that he would never sanction its use. “We do not condone torture,” Bush said. “I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture.”

– Again, in the same article, the Department of Justice says the Bybee memo is overbroad, irrelevant, and that no one in the Bush administration asked for authorization of torture:

The memo, signed by former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee… But a senior Justice Department official said the document was “overbroad and irrelevant” and was unnecessary because no one in the administration had ever asked for the legal authority to torture captives

Michael Mukasey says waterboarding and torture are “repugnant” and “over the line.”

– More from Mukasey, he says torture is antithetical to what America stands for, and also manages to invoke Godwin’s law.

– CIA operative Robert Baer:

Robert Baer: Well, not at all. All of those techniques are in the military manuals, which are on the internet. Most of that information appeared in the New York Review of books in Mark Danner’s article, “The Prisoner’s Getting Out.” It talked about what they were subjected to. It’s not a secret. None of these techniques are a secret so why not release it? I think what we really need to do is clear the air on torture. My biggest objection is nobody, until now, has presented evidence that torture works and I just don’t see it.

Lawrence Wright, who writes for the New Yorker and wrote a book on investigating Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda says that we had enough information to legally wiretap two 9/11 conspirators because of their connection to bin Laden, in 2001:

But because of the connection of these two hijackers, Khaled al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, to bin Laden, and because there was already an indictment of bin Laden, the bureau had the authority to do what is called a full-field investigation on these men. That means that it had the authority to wiretap, to surveil them, to clone their computer hard drives-every single thing you can imagine, it had the authority to do. It could have easily disrupted the cell, at least, if not exposed the entire 9/11 plot. It was certainly its best opportunity, one that it wasn’t given.

He says Ali Soufan got all his information through legal means, intelligence and such:

Ali Soufan has shown that intelligent and careful interrogation can achieve real results. And it helps immensely, obviously, to have the language and cultural skills that he does. There are very few people in the American intelligence community that have his set of talents. The U.S. is known to have used these sorts of tactics. You mention the C.I.A.’s impulse has been to deliver Al Qaeda suspects to foreign intelligence agencies that could torture them and extract information the C.I.A. thought it couldn’t otherwise obtain. However, what this abuse has yielded from the top Al Qaeda lieutenants is questionable. And I think that’s because it’s untrustworthy information obtained under torture… It (torture) doesn’t work. It is misleading.

– The Army Field Manual says that direct questioning is more effective than torture:

The U.S. Army’s field manual for intelligence (FM34-52) notes that simple direct questioning of prisoners was 85 percent to 95 percent effective in World War II and 90 to 95 percent effective in the Vietnam War.

DoJ Inspector General Glenn Fine says that Zubaydah cooperated fully with FBI agents without torture, was not significantly involved with al Qaeda enough to know anything, could not have been a major terrorist like they thought, then was turned over to the CIA, shipped to a black site and tortured because he wasn’t telling them what they wanted to hear.

– A CIA official, in the same article, says that KSM was tortured and gave 90% useless information:

But according to a former senior C.I.A. official, who read all the interrogation reports on K.S.M., “90 percent of it was total fucking bullshit.” A former Pentagon analyst adds: “K.S.M. produced no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were.”

– CIA and FBI officials, in the same article, say torture was used without determining if coercive methods work:

Yet according to numerous C.I.A. and F.B.I. officials interviewed for this article, at the time this question really mattered, in the months after 9/11, no one seriously addressed it (whether torture works).


Inside the C.I.A., says a retired senior officer who was privy to the agency’s internal debate, there was hardly any argument about the value of coercive methods: “Nobody in intelligence believes in the ticking bomb. It’s just a way of framing the debate for public consumption. That is not an intelligence reality.”

– Former FBI interrogator Jack Cloonan says it’s not just that torture doesn’t work, it does more harm than good.

al Libi, an al Qaeda captive, was tortured in 2001 and told the CIA that Saddam Hussein trained al Qaeda to use WMD. A 2002 report doubted his confession because it was obtained through torture and he recanted in 2004.

Air Force Col. John Rothrock, the head of an interrogation team in Viet Nam, actually dealt with real life ticking time bomb scenarios, says torture would not have worked and further says he doesn’t know any professional intelligence offers who would claim that it works.

– In the same article, Army Col. Stuart Herrington, a military intelligence specialist, says torture isn’t a good way to get information.

I think this is pretty definitive. Torture doesn’t work. It actually hinders investigations and prosecutions. It leaves not only those who were tortured with lasting psychological scars, but does the same to those ordered to torture.

It doesn’t get actionable intelligence or information that we would actually need in the real case of a real ticking time bomb scenario. It turns our allies against us and it makes our enemies hate us more. It arguably creates more terrorist by the second.

There is no reason to torture and there never was one. There never will be.


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  1. yeah.

  2. and Im very curious about your screenname!

    Excellent piece.


    • Edger on May 4, 2009 at 02:15

    It has nothing to do with being right or moral or legal. It works just as well as shoplifting or robbery works. It gets results.

    Torture is good. Torture makes the torturees say exactly what the torturers tell the torturees they want them to say.

    Torture produces confessions. Which are admissible in kangaroo courts where the ‘interrogation’ methods are not admissible, so the courts never have to deny the evidence.

    It’s streamlining. It’s ‘process improvement’, pure and simple.

    How in the hell else are we going to produce enough self-confessed ‘terrists’ to justify the War On Thinking, anyway.

    And besides all that, torture is just plain downright FUN!

    Retired Command Sergeant Major Eric Haney: a founding member of Delta Force, the military’s elite covert counter-terrorist unit:

    The only reason anyone tortures is because they like to do it. It’s about vengeance, it’s about revenge, or it’s about cover-up. You don’t gain intelligence that way. Everyone in the world knows that. It’s worse than small-minded, and look what it does. This administration has been masters of diverting attention away from real issues and debating the silly. Debating what constitutes torture: Mistreatment of helpless people in your power is torture, period. And (I’m saying this as) a man who has been involved in the most pointed of our activities. I know it, and all of my mates know it. You don’t do it. It’s an act of cowardice. I hear apologists for torture say, “Well, they do it to us.” Which is a ludicrous argument. … The Saddam Husseins of the world are not our teachers. Christ almighty, we wrote a Constitution saying what’s legal and what we believed in. Now we’re going to throw it away.

  3. plus that collection of alphabet soup “intelligence” agencies simply must have technology greater than this.

    Is torture then merely the generation of evil for evil’s sake.

  4. Awesome. I’m just glad it’s being read without my having to link it in a bunch of open threads haha.

  5. Thank You,

    I`m glad you brought this over, & with all the links.

    Very good work.

    Please feel welcome here.

  6. It’s kind of our specialty at this site. It’s a cool progressive space with a lot of Dkos emigrants in the population.

    There’s an old saying, “Opinions are like assholes; everyone has one.” Around here we share our opinions and findings and leave the assholes on the other side of the keyboard. Our own included. This is a peaceful, respectful place.

    Glad you found it. Hope you enjoy and keep coming back.


  7. Especially thanks for the reference to an old college friend, Ali Soufan. He was a good person when I knew him in the early 1990s and I am happy to know that he remained a good person, even through trying times.

    I want to make just one point:

    We were able to get a generally good picture of the 9/11 conspiracy and intelligence about the (very limited) future terror plans. We got that WITHOUT torture. What the legitimate interrogations failed to turn up was evidence of a 9/11-Iraq link. George w. Bush wanted a fight with Saddam (to continue the war that Daddy wisely ended), but he was handed a fight with Osama bin Laden instead. The torture was used to make the link.

    Never mind that the link did not exist. Enough time on the waterboard and the prisoners would say they wear women’s underwear.

    In the Middle Ages, the Inquisition tortured women and men to get them to confess to being in league with Satan or able to cast spells or some such nonsense.

    Never mind that those things are really not possible. Enough time on the rack and these people would admit to having sex with the Devil himself.

    I think my point is made.

    Blessed Be.

  8. I just landed here a few weeks ago from Daily Kos. The GOS is a great place, but I enjoy this place a lot, too.

    Without getting too much into Orange Meta, lets just say that my work actually gets noticed here rather than buried under three feet of BS diaries.  

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