An FBI Interrogator on the Effectiveness of Torture
Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent and an expert on al-Qaeda operations who has interrogated al-Qaeda members reviews the claims that the Bush Administration’s torture techniques were effective and finds them wanting:
The inspector general’s report distinguishes between intelligence gained from regular interrogation and from the harsher methods, which culminate in waterboarding. While the former produces useful intelligence, according to the report, the latter “is a more subjective process and not without concern.” And the information in the two memos reinforces this differentiation.
They show that substantial intelligence was gained from pocket litter (materials found on detainees when they were captured), from playing detainees against one another and from detainees freely giving up information that they assumed their questioners already knew. A computer seized in March 2003 from a Qaeda operative for example, listed names of Qaeda members and money they were to receive.
Supporters of the enhanced interrogation techniques have jumped from claim to claim about their usefulness. They have asserted, for example, that harsh treatment led Mr. Mohammed to reveal the plot to attack the Library Tower in Los Angeles. But that plot was thwarted in 2002, and Mr. Mohammed was not arrested until 2003. Recently, interviews with unnamed sources led The Washington Post to report that harsh techniques turned Mr. Mohammed into an intelligence “asset.”
This latest claim will come as news to Mr. Mohammed’s prosecutors, to his fellow detainees (whom he instructed, at his arraignment, not to cooperate with the United States) and indeed to Mr. Mohammed himself. He told the International Committee of the Red Cross that “I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear.”
Read the whole thing, which demonstrates quite effectively that the torture techniques employed by the CIA did not provide us with information about al-Qaeda operations. They did not enable us to stop any terror threats. They were counterproductive and not worth the costs.
As Adam Sewer rightly points out,
We’re not seeing too many “professionals” argue the case for torture–instead we see those who believe fighting terrorists is about some kind of contest of will between Islam and the West romanticizing criminal behavior as “necessary” because, for some reason, they think protecting American society requires that take our cues from those we’re fighting.
This is very much the case. Time and time again, people with actual experience with interrogating terror suspects and actual experience and knowledge about the effectiveness of torture techniques have come out to explain that they are ineffective and that their use threatens national security more than it helps.
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Thomas Paine all supported the fair and decent treatment of even our enemies. Both the Redcoats and Hessian mercenaries were treated with decency and respect. Our Founding Fathers did this even though more American soldiers died as prisoners than died on the field of battle. They knew that American ideals meant something, and that fair and decent treatment was not only the right thing to do but the practical thing to do (many Hessian mercenaries stayed here and became loyal American citizens, for instance). Surely we can learn something from the wisdom of our Founding Fathers.
(link via Jim Henley)