US Officials Used Torture

1 May


Juan Cole argues that the U.S. has made its own security worse by engaging in torture.

The political reality of the United States in the world is that of blowback. Blowback is a term of art in the intelligence community for what happens when a covert operation goes bad and comes back to bite you on the ass. The US spent the 1980s encouraging Muslim radicals to engage in ‘freedom fighting’ against the leftist government of Afghanistan, and that policy certainly is implicated in the creation of al-Qaeda. We have been suffering with lack of security ever since. And what would have happened if Washington had just left the Communist government in place? Wouldn’t it have gone the same way as the former Communist regime of Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan? Which of you feels threatened by those former Soviet Socialist Republics?

The policy of deliberate deployment of torture by US officials, in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib (Iraq) and Bagram (Afghanistan), as well as black sites in Poland and elsewhere, during the past decade, has spawned a whole new wave of blowback.

It’s conclusive: the United States in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks engaged in torture (via Lawfare).

  1. U.S. forces, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment. Both categories of actions violate U.S. laws and international treaties. Such conduct was directly counter to values of the Constitution and our nation.
  2. The nation’s most senior officials, through some of their actions and failures to act in the months and years immediately following the September 11 attacks, bear ultimate responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of illegal and improper interrogation techniques used by some U.S. personnel on detainees in several theaters. Responsibility also falls on other government officials and certain military leaders.
  3. There is no firm or persuasive evidence that the widespread use of harsh interrogation techniques by U.S. forces produced significant information of value. There is substantial evidence that much of the information adduced from the use of such techniques was not useful or reliable.

Additionally, Afghan officials engaged in torture in those cases when American authorities transferred custody of detainees to Afghanistan. In all, there are 24 findings with multiple recommendations, on average one per finding. I agree with the cast at Skeptics’ Guide to Government – chilling stuff. And then, there’s a Senate Intelligence Committee report gathering dust in Washington.

The argument about whether torture works is still raging. Four years after President Obama ended the torture program, torture proponents continue to claim that torture saved American lives and was necessary to find criminals like Osama bin Laden. Just last week, Condoleezza Rice said that because of torture, “we have not had a successful attack on our territory.”

I served the CIA for 23 years, and I was directly involved in the “enhanced interrogation” program. I know from experience that torture not only undermined our values and Constitution, it made us less safe.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has produced the most comprehensive report on the post-9/11 CIA torture program, based on a review of more than 6 million pages of official records. Those who have read the report say that it shows the CIA torture program was much more widespread and cruel than we thought, and much less effective at gathering actionable intelligence than torture proponents claim.

However, the Obama Administration is sitting on this report and has delayed its release. On Friday, Vice President Biden supported the report’s release. Ask President Obama to work with Congress to declassify the torture report.

Senator John McCain and the Vice president, Joe Biden, agree on the report’s release, too.

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