Ineffective tortue, lying to government oversight, hacking the Senate Intelligence Committee’s computers, destroying evidence, imprisoning innocent people, providing false evidence in support of the Iraq war—the CIA has really done nothing right in regard to its torture program.
The CIA has used waterboarding, anal forced feeding and keeping prisoners awake for over 180 hours (one week), among other methods, to torture its detainees.
This was revealed in a report by the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). The report covered CIA torture methods referred to as “enhanced interrogation techniques” in U.S. government communiqués.
The report was prompted when the CIA Director of the National Clandestine Service, Jose Rodriguez, was found to have destroyed almost 100 video recordings of interrogations in 2005.
The SSCI believed he was covering up illegal activities by the CIA, although the committee had initially been told by CIA officials that Rodriguez was not engaging in “destruction of evidence.”
No one disagrees that these interrogation methods are torture. The argument is on whether such methods are necessary.
The report’s most important conclusion is that “The CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.” In other words, such methods are not necessary.
In addition to the Senate report’s conclusion, Jane Goodman-Delahunty’s research on interrogation, according to BPS Research Digest’s summary, revealed that “Disclosure was 14 times more likely to occur early in an interrogation when a rapport-building approach was used.”
Furthermore, “confessions were four times more likely when interrogators struck a neutral and respectful stance. Rates of detainee disclosure were also higher when they were interrogated in comfortable physical settings.”
In fact, in 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte wrote a letter to Major-General Berthier stating that the“barbarous custom of whipping men suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this method of interrogation, by putting men to the torture, is useless. The wretches say whatever comes into their heads and whatever they think one wants to believe. Consequently, the Commander-in-Chief forbids the use of a method which is contrary to reason and humanity.”
In other words the knowledge that torture is ineffective is not new. Yet the CIA found it necessary to threaten to rape and murder the family of detainees and keep people awake for more than 180 hours.
Of course, the senate report and psychological study are published after the fact, and how reliable is Napoleon Bonaparte anyway?
Is it possible the CIA didn’t realize how ineffective forcing prisoners to stand on broken feet and permanently traumatizing them was?
Or the CIA could just have lied. In fact, that’s exactly what it did!
The CIA’s directors (George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden) lied to members of the U.S. Congress, the White House and the Director of National Intelligence about the program’s effectiveness and the number of prisoners that the CIA held, as reported by the New York Times.
Vox reported that the CIA lied about the value of information extracted from prisoners subjected to torture. Bloomberg wrote that the CIA lied about the methods of interrogation it was using against prisoners.
One reason that torture is ineffective is that false confessions occur frequently.
Dustin Volz wrote an article in the National Journal stating that the report suggests torture was the source of a false confession by Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi linking Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda that was cited in Colin Powell’s address to the UN in advance of the 2003 Iraq War.
Fortunately, that address was discredited and the U.S. shifted its reasoning to its secondary motivations.
Torture in and of itself is disgusting, but the most appalling fact about the whole ordeal is that the detention program had at least 119 prisoners and at least 26 (22 percent) of those people are innocent, and most of them were tortured.
One person was forced to stand without sleep for 66 hours only to be released later because the CIA had mistaken his identity.
According to the New York Times, on March 11, 2014, Senator Feinstein, chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, said the CIA unlawfully searched the Intelligence Committee’s computers to determine how the committee staff obtained the review documents.
John Brennan, Director of the CIA, denied the claim, stating, “When the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.”
Four months later, an internal investigation at the CIA confirmed Feinstein’s statements, and Ron Wyden, a senator for Oregon, used its conclusion to condemn Brennan: “The CIA Inspector General confirmed what Senators have been saying all along: The CIA conducted an unauthorized search of Senate files and attempted to have Senate staff prosecuted for doing their jobs. Director Brennan’s claims to the contrary were simply not true.” Yet another lie by the CIA.
As the torture report says, “The CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program damaged the United States’ standing in the world, and resulted in other significant monetary and non-monetary costs.”
The endless deception surrounding the program is despicable, the lack of accountability disgusting and the sloppiness of the CIA reprehensible.
This program never should have been created in the first place, particularly because there was no evidence that it would be effective, and much evidence that it would not be. It is general knowledge among criminal interrogators that good cop works better than bad cop.