November 18, 2005

Torture is Awesome, Clearly

Via Hilzoy, ABC News is running a partial list of the "harsh interrogation techniques" that were authorized by the CIA in 2002 to use on detainees. Here's one:
Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.
And then there's this old reliable:
Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.
Well bully for him. But I don't get it. "Confess"? Why would the CIA want Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to confess under torture? Why would that even help them? They already assume he's guilty. They can't use confessions obtained this way in court, ever. A confession doesn't seem useful at all. The CIA wants information, not confessions, and as a neverending parade of officials have acknowledged, torture is terrible at dredging up information.
According to CIA sources, Ibn al Shaykh al Libbi, after two weeks of enhanced interrogation, made statements that were designed to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear. Sources say Al Libbi had been subjected to each of the progressively harsher techniques in turn and finally broke after being water boarded and then left to stand naked in his cold cell overnight where he was doused with cold water at regular intervals.

His statements became part of the basis for the Bush administration claims that Iraq trained al Qaeda members to use biochemical weapons. Sources tell ABC that it was later established that al Libbi had no knowledge of such training or weapons and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment.

ABC News was told that at least three CIA officers declined to be trained in the techniques before a cadre of 14 were selected to use them on a dozen top al Qaeda suspects in order to obtain critical information. In at least one instance, ABC News was told that the techniques led to questionable information aimed at pleasing the interrogators and that this information had a significant impact on U.S. actions in Iraq.
There you go. But at least that guy confessed. Would an innocent detainee caught in the system "confess" as well? Sure, after a bit of waterboarding he'll confess to anything. That way, the CIA can justify holding him indefinitely, put him through a few more mock executions, and pump him for bad information that risks getting soldiers in Iraq killed. This is depraved. The ABC report also notes that at least one detainee died of hypothermia after a junior military officer in Afghanistan "learned" and then "misused" these techniques. Oops. Well, no doubt that detainee "confessed" as well, so no worries, eh?

No, really, why is this still being debated? How many more news reports like this do we have to read? Torture isn't effective, the CIA certainly can't use it effectively, not now, not ever, it's misleading our soldiers, it's depraved, and it's turning American officers into sadists. Little wonder "at least three CIA officers declined to be trained in the techniques"—three officers, by the way, who seem to have a lot more guts than anyone else in this whole sordid affair. At least they can make clever t-shirts: "I tortured al-Libbi and all we got was this lousy war in Iraq." Bloody hell.

Continue reading "Torture is Awesome, Clearly"
-- Brad Plumer 10:29 PM || ||