Sunday, April 26, 2009

Unexamined Assumptions

The revelation that no careful analysis of the effectiveness of torture techniques in gathering useful intelligence was ever performed by the last administration comes as no surprise. That would have been too risky: it might have shown (and probably would have shown) the practices used by the CIA and military intelligence were ineffective, thereby depriving the administration of an excuse for using torture. Just how determined the Bush administration was to subvert any such analysis was outlined in this Los Angeles Times story.

The CIA used an arsenal of severe interrogation techniques on imprisoned Al Qaeda suspects for nearly seven years without seeking a rigorous assessment of whether the methods were effective or necessary, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

The failure to conduct a comprehensive examination occurred despite calls to do so as early as 2003. That year, the agency's inspector general circulated drafts of a report that raised deep concerns about waterboarding and other methods, and recommended a study by outside experts on whether they worked.

When the CIA finally did the "comprehensive examination," it wasn't conducted by "outside experts." It was done by two former government officials --one an aide to Newt Gingrich -- who had no expertise in interrogation techniques.

...neither the inspector general's report nor the other audits examined the effectiveness of interrogation techniques in detail or sought to scrutinize the assertions of CIA counter-terrorism officials that so-called enhanced methods were essential to the program's results. One report by a former government official -- not an interrogation expert -- was about 10 pages long and amounted to a glowing review of interrogation efforts.

"Nobody with expertise or experience in interrogation ever took a rigorous, systematic review of the various techniques -- enhanced or otherwise -- to see what resulted in the best information," said a senior U.S. intelligence official involved in overseeing the interrogation program.
[Emphasis added]

Yes, I'm sure that the "enhanced interrogation techniques" resulted in volumes of information; we just don't know whether it was accurate or useful information. Chances are that it was not. Even assuming, however, that we got some useful nuggets from the torture, there is no way of telling whether those nuggets could also have been mined by using traditional and legal methods, methods which would not have shamed this nation the way the use of torture has.

The use of torture did not make this country more secure after 9/11. In fact, it probably has had the exact opposite effect. To see just one example of the collateral damage our use of torture had, drop back by about 9 AM (PDT). Ruth will tell you all about it.

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Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

It seemed to me, from the news reports and comments last week that the Bushevi-kriminals never used torture for any purpose other than to try to extract confessions of links between S.Hussein and Al Qaida.

No "intelligence" was gleaned, only propaganda support for the falsi claims of the regime of the connection between S.Hussein and the (still alleged, if you please) 9/11 attackers.

Torture has long been known NOT to yield reliable information, but it is absolutely WIZARD in getting confessions...

5:44 AM  

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