FBI Interrogator: Torture Didn’t Work, Hurts Capacity, “Emboldens” Terrorists

I’m glad former FBI Agent Ali Soufan’s Op-Ed ran in the times today to counter the idiotic “news analysis” explaining that the effectiveness of torture lies at the heart of the public debate on the matter and features primarily arguments advanced by should-be discredited villain, Dick Cheney. But since I’m not bound by any need to adhere to “one-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand-bullshit”, I’ll spare you the tired arguments of Cheney and just highlight some of the Soufan piece.

FOR seven years I have remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding. I have spoken only in closed government hearings, as these matters were classified.[…]

One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.

[…]It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.

[…]There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.

There’s more in the piece itself, like a simple chronological debunking of the claims bandied about by the pro-torture folks. Maybe more importantly though, Soufan makes the astute point that illegal and clandestine acts like torture serve to corrode our legal system from the inside. Agencies unwilling to break the law are restricted from working with agencies with less scruples and a great deal of expertise and institutional capacity is completely wasted.

I’m really not sure why we can’t all just agree that this part of our national securit policy was utterly dispicable. The whole thing is simply disgusting.

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