Torture did not work on post-9/11 al Qaeda detainees.
The CIA knew that torture would not work.
The torture clearly violated U.S. criminal prohibitions.
It served as a recruiting tool for international terrorist organizations.
And it diminished our ability to influence governments abroad for the better by example.
In sum, defending the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” authorized by President George W. Bush and championed by Vice President Dick Cheney is as indefensible as would be defending the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War as a national security imperative.
Galileo was threatened with torture. He confessed to the geocentric theory of the universe.
During the Inquistion, many accused witches confessed under torture.
Napoleon elaborated in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier on Nov. 11, 1798: “The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know.”
The recently released Senate Intelligence Committee notes that prior to 9/11, the Central Intelligence Agency determined from its own experience with coercive interrogations, that such techniques “do not produce intelligence,” “will probably result in false answers,” and had historically proven to be ineffective.
Army Field Manual 34-52 Chapter 1 declares: “Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.”
The CIA’s 1963 interrogation manual asserted: “Intense pain is quite likely to produce false confessions, concocted as a means of escaping from distress. A time-consuming delay results, while investigation is conducted and the admissions are proven untrue. During this respite the interrogatee can pull himself together. He may even use the time to think up new, more complex ‘admissions’ that take still longer to disprove.”
Sen. John McCain, a prisoner of war tortured by the North Vietnamese and readily available for consultation after 9/11, explained on the Senate floor: “I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering. Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored.”
Since 2007, when the CIA ceased its “enhanced interrogation techniques,” no claim has been made that we lost intelligence of any value.
Finally, the techniques were derived from interrogtion protocols used by the Chinese Communists during the Korean War to extract false confessions from U.S. prisoners.
Despite this overwhelming evidence as convincing as Newton’s laws of motion, CIA Director John Brennan maintained on Thursday that whether useful intelligence could have been elicited from suspected al Qaeda detainees without resort to torture is “unknowable.” That agnosticism is as ludicrous as asserting that whether Adolf Hitler would have perpetrated genocide if he had learned Hebrew is unknowable.
No rational creature could deny the CIA practiced torture. The term is defined in the U.S. criminal code: ” ‘torture’ means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control.”
Consider the interrogation of Abu Zubaida at a black site in Thailand. The Senate Intelligence Committee report relates without contradiction from the CIA that he was detained in isolation for 47 days with no interrogation. Zubaida was no ticking time-bomb case. He was then shackled and hooded and his towel removed leaving him naked. A collar was made and placed around his neck, where it was used to slam him against a wall. He was kept in a coffin-sized box for hundreds of hours and waterboarded until he “became completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.”
On Aug. 8, 2002, a CIA interrogator on the scene sent an email to headquarters: “Several on the team profoundly affected … some to the point of tears and choking up.” The next day a sequel email reported: “[T]wo, perhaps three [personnel] likely to elect transfer” away from the detention site if the decision is made to continue with the CIA’ s enhanced interrogation techniques.
Any interrogation technique that brings battle-hardened CIA personnel to tears is specifically intentended to inflict serious physical pain or suffering and constitutes prohibited torture.
The fish rots from the head. Congress should pass censure resolutions against Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney for authorizing the CIA to imitate savages in attempting to defeat savagery and unwittingly strengthening international terrorism.
For more information about Bruce Fein, visit brucefeinlaw.