Torture May Have Provided False Qaeda-Iraq Link Intel

Doug Jehl provides further evidence that intelligence gained under duress is often not very reliable:

Qaeda-Iraq Link U.S. Cited Is Tied to Coercion Claim

The Bush administration based a crucial prewar assertion about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda on detailed statements made by a prisoner while in Egyptian custody who later said he had fabricated them to escape harsh treatment, according to current and former government officials. The officials said the captive, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, provided his most specific and elaborate accounts about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda only after he was secretly handed over to Egypt by the United States in January 2002, in a process known as rendition.

The new disclosure provides the first public evidence that bad intelligence on Iraq may have resulted partly from the administration’s heavy reliance on third countries to carry out interrogations of Qaeda members and others detained as part of American counterterrorism efforts. The Bush administration used Mr. Libi’s accounts as the basis for its prewar claims, now discredited, that ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda included training in explosives and chemical weapons.

The fact that Mr. Libi recanted after the American invasion of Iraq and that intelligence based on his remarks was withdrawn by the C.I.A. in March 2004 has been public for more than a year. But American officials had not previously acknowledged either that Mr. Libi made the false statements in foreign custody or that Mr. Libi contended that his statements had been coerced.

Steven Taylor adds,

[This] underscores the problems of trying to get important information out of detainee who has been put in the position of feeling the need to tell his interrogators what they want to hear. Do we really want to be making policy based on such information? Is that a wise course of action?

[…]

Of course, there is also the problem of relying too heavily on one source for key information. That will get one in trouble in reporting and it will get one in trouble in a research paper, so it is hardly shocking that it would get one in trouble over matters of war and peace.

Kevin Drum includes this story in a “torture roundup” piece that concludes,

The damage that all this has done to our moral standing to fight radical extremism in the Muslim world is hard to calculate. The Bush and Blair administrations have probably set our cause back by a decade by refusing to take a clear and immediate stand against state sanctioned torture from the very beginning.

While I wouldn’t go quite that far, I agree that we are providing the enemy with propaganda fodder while, so far as I can gather, gaining little offsetting value in return.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, Iraq War, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Fersboo says:

    The damage was done when the US allowed the commie anti-peace types to define torture. Hardship and discomfort is not torture.

  2. ICallMasICM says:

    ‘The damage that all this has done to our moral standing to fight radical extremism in the Muslim world is hard to calculate. ‘

    Let me try, zero. Another in the long series of excuses by the terror apologists.

  3. legion says:

    OK boys, let’s try this mental exercise.
    a) How would you define terrorism?
    b) What makes us different from terrorists?*

    *note- “We’ve got a government and they don’t” is not an acceptable answer.

  4. Anderson says:

    Fersboo, which one is waterboarding–“hardship” or “discomfort”?

    And I have to suspect that only amoral people have no appreciation for “moral standing.”

  5. Herb says:

    Legion:

    If you don’t know what makes us(Americans) different from terrorists, Then you are the one in need of some “mental exercise”

  6. Fersboo says:
  7. LJD says:

    Who cares if he lied about the specifics: There WAS Al Qaeda in Iraq. Word got out onto the street that Al Libi rolled over, so he retracted to save some face.

    In the words reminiscent of John Kerry:
    “If he knew now, what he didn’t know then, he would have not lied about it.”

  8. ICallMasICM says:

    Sorry but I don’t really have a lot of concern about obtaining the moral approval of aviation students, headchoppers, homophobicmurderers, and their apologists and enablers.

    Sorry if ‘What makes us different from terrorists?*’ isn’t already undertood and if you have this confused with ‘have(ing) no appreciation for “moral standing.”’ then there’s not much of a point for discussion. I tend to discount the blame America first viewpoint but I guess that makes me one of the “amoral people”.

  9. Anderson says:

    Since you rely on the Wiki article, Fersboo:

    There are other forms of waterboarding, but all of them have in common that the victim almost drowns but is rescued or re-animated just before death occurs. The torture is designed to be both psychological and physical. The psychological effect is that the victim is led to believe that he or she is being executed. This reinforces the torturer’s control and makes the victim experience mortal fear. The physical effects are extreme pain and damage to the lungs, brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation and sometimes broken bones because of the restraints on the struggling victim.

    Waterboarding is often used by torturers who wish to impose severe suffering without leaving marks on their victims as evidence.

    Sounds pretty damn evil to me. But then, I’m a “leftist,” so what do I know?

  10. ICallMasICM says:

    ‘What makes us different from terrorists?’

    Let’s see flying airplanes into office buildings, chopping reporters heads off because they’re Jewish, murdering school children, stoning executions of homosexulas, suicide bombings of weddings and pizza parlors. I could go on and on and I mean on and on. Can you run the whole “moral standing” and “amoral people” thing by me again?

  11. ICallMasICM says:

    “What makes us different from terrorists?*”

    Let’s see flying airplanes into office buildings, chopping off reporters heads because they’re Jewish, vowing and attempting genocide, stoning executions for homosexuals, honor murders, suicide bombings of weddings and pizza parlors, murdering hostage school children, sharia, …I could go on and on and I mean on and on. Can you run the ““moral standing” and “amoral people” thing by me again? Maybe you can’t tell the difference but I certainly can.

  12. Fersboo says:

    Anderson:

    It seems appropos that the one trying to defend medieval moslem terrorists would default to the medieval definition of waterboarding.

    I would take the ‘evil’ of waterboarding over the evils of the moslem terrorists anyday. As ICallMasICM wrote:

    ….flying airplanes into office buildings, chopping off reporters heads because they’re Jewish, vowing and attempting genocide, stoning executions for homosexuals, honor murders, suicide bombings of weddings and pizza parlors, murdering hostage school children, sharia,….

    , the actions of the moslems are truly evil and are incomparable to ‘torture’ imposed in the name of the GWOT.

    BTW, I am glad you have no problem wearing my contempt for you as a badge of honor.

  13. anjin-san says:

    Is Bush the Worst Ever?

    Richard Reeves: “I have talked with three significant historians in the past few months who would not say it in public, but who are saying privately that Bush will be remembered as the worst of the presidents.”

    Earlier: An informal, unscientific survey of 415 historians conducted by the History News Network found that 338 rate the Bush presidency “an overall failure.” Meanwhile, 12% of historians who responded “rate the current presidency the worst in all of American history.”

  14. anjin-san says:

    Why is there a debate on this? Bush said “We don’t torture.”
    Was he lying?

  15. Anderson says:

    I would take the ‘evil’ of waterboarding over the evils of the moslem terrorists anyday.

    Those are our choices? Says who? Fighting monsters = becoming monsters?

    As for medieval v. modern, let’s go back to the Wiki:

    In the medieval form of waterboarding, a victim was strapped to a board and tipped back or lowered into a body of water until he or she believed that drowning was imminent. The subject was then removed from the water and revived. If necessary the process was repeated.

    There are other forms of waterboarding, but all of them have in common that the victim almost drowns, etc.

    My quote of course was from “other forms” as opposed to “medieval forms.”

    Anyway, if splitting such hairs is the best defense of waterboarding available, I think we can take the case as closed.

  16. Fersboo says:

    Anderson:

    It seems your dishonesty ranks up there with most of your ilk; you’re just hoping none follow the original link. Wiki-Waterboarding

    On the bottom half of the page is a LARGE heading titled Current uses of waterboarding. Hmmm, the top half of the page refers to ‘the medieval form of waterboarding’ and I refer to the ‘Current uses’.

    Since the article refers to various types of ‘waterboarding’, including past types and current types, one would have to be dishonest or mentally deficent to not understand the context of my post. Which one are you? Since you claim to be a person of ‘moral standing’ I must assume that you are mentally deficent.

  17. Anderson says:

    Fersboo, it’s not “dishonesty,” it’s “reading.”

    A form is not a use. Really. Look them up.

    Moreover, the passage that I quoted purports to describe characteristics of ALL forms of waterboarding. We have heard that “is” means “is”; I submit that “all” means “all,” not “some.”

    Now, maybe the Wiki article is written too sloppily to bear attentive reading? Could be. But then, I didn’t introduce it into this thread. You did, Fers.

    (“Mentally deficient”? Do you feel silly now? I know I would.)

  18. Fersboo says:

    Anderson:

    I guess you choose to be known as dishonest. Did you look-up to Bubba Clinton and wish to grow and become as good of a parser of words as he is?

    Current uses of waterboarding
    The current practice of waterboarding was known previously as “the water cure.” It involves tying the victim to a board with the head lower than the feet so that he or she is unable to move. A piece of cloth is held tightly over the face, and water is poured onto the cloth. Breathing is extremely difficult and the victim will be in fear of imminent death by asphyxiation. However, it is relatively difficult to aspirate a large amount of water since the lungs are higher than the mouth, and the victim is unlikely actually to die if this is done by skilled torturers. Waterboarding is often used by torturers who wish to impose severe suffering without leaving marks on their victims as evidence.

    In my first post to refer to this Wiki article, I wrote:

    Using the Wikipedia’s definition of modern waterboarding, I would have to say that it is discomfort.

    Since I am not trying to dissemble, I equated the description under the heading of Current uses to mean the same as modern form. Since the article is written that way, a reasonable person would come to the same conclusion as I have.

  19. Anderson says:

    Does anyone understand how Fersboo’s latest comment explains anything? Please help.

    People who don’t read the words actually on the page have a strange antipathy to those who do.

    In any event, back to Fersie’s 1st comment, “discomfort is not torture.” And waterboarding, or “the water cure” if you like, are “discomfort” he says. So they’re not torture. News to me, to the civilized world, to everyone ever waterboarded, and to the authors of the Wiki article which F. cited in the 1st place.

    Waterboarding capitalizes on the body’s reflex against asphyxiation to produce terror in the victim. It’s T-O-R-T-U-R-E.

    You want to defend torture, defend it already. But don’t define it out of existence.

  20. Fersboo says:

    Anderson:

    Stop being the asshat.

    1.I stated that commies define discomfort and hardship as torture.

    2.You asked me, is ‘waterboarding’ considered discomfort or hardship.

    3.I replied that the modern form of ‘waterboarding’, as defined by the Wikipedia, was discomfort.

    4.You purposely refer to non-modern forms in an effort to ‘support’ your agruement.

    So, now that we seem to be on the same page, let us debate the following question:

    Does the form of ‘waterboarding’ also known as ‘the water cure’ constitute “torture”, or does it constitute “hardship” or “discomfort”?

  21. Herb says:

    It is beyond me to understand why there are so many “defenders of Killers” here that say little or nothing about the torture, humilliation, starvation, beheading and suffering brought on our troops, civilians and others that fall into the hands of Muslum extremists and Terrorisrts. I don’t see any of you crying out to our government, the UN or to any other country about the methods used by these extremists on others. I didn’t see or hear anyone condeming or complaining to Iraq, (Saddam) about how he treated his detractors and I never read anything from any of you about the gassing and killing the 5000 Kerds in Iraq.

    Why is that folks? Why do you condem our (US) troops, our Gevernment and anyone else that disagrees with your hard stand on torture while defending those who have definitely shown their open will to commit the very acts you say you are against.

    It seems to me that the “defenders” need to stand back and take a hard look at themselves and figure out just whose side they are on.

  22. Anderson says:

    Because, Herb, some of us have higher moral standards than “do unto the other guy as he does unto you.” Many of us, though not all, are called “Christians.”

    I would be happy to see Osama’s head on the end of a stick, but not to see him tortured first.

  23. Herb says:

    Anderson:

    How can you be the Worlds foremost authority on Terrorisn, Torture, Politics, Christainity, and any thing else you talk about and be so damned twisted.

    By your statement, It’s Ok to behead someone provided you don’t tortute them first. Is that right?

    Wow, that is twisted.

  24. Sulayman says:

    It strikes me as insane how people on this forum mangle and mash the truth. ICallMasICM, do the evils you cite justify the US acting in an evil manner as well? If a Saudi flies an airliner into the WTC, does it justify the US dropping chemical weapons on homes in Fallujah, Iraq?

    You’ll find extremists on both sides here. Both sides blame the other for killing children and such. Both Bush and Al Qaeda blame the other for killing different wedding parties, as a recent example.

    In the meantime, torture is wrong. It gets no information out of prisoners, except wrong information such as Al-Libi’s. In the meantime, it makes ALL the pro-America Muslims (and there are millions upon millions all around us) angry and back away from helping us. Sad really.