Interrogation and Torture

21 Apr

The CIA records that were recently released, which show that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in one month underscore the ineffectiveness of torture as an interrogation method.

If it takes 183 tries, it ain’t working. And it’s laziness bordering on sadism.

Buffalo Geek is a veteran and comes at this issue from that perspective. Money quote:

In times [of] war, we as Americans hold the moral high ground, such as it is in war. Lowering ourselves to the level of our enemy breeds contempt, inflames opposition, and reduces our ability to rally the world around a flag of righteousness. Torturing those whom we have detained lowers us to the level of the enemy. Once we cede the moral high ground in battle, we begin down a slippery slope of moral ambiguity that clouds our purpose and allows our enemy to define our standards for us.

We no longer hold that moral high ground and our unwillingness to confront the actions of the previous administration is an affront to those who have honorably served this great nation. It is a betrayal of this country’s citizens who entrusted us to fight in their name and serve with integrity.

Think of how we would react if it was discovered that an American soldier was waterboarded 183 times in one month. Would we snicker and make snarky comments about that treatment?

The first commenter who says something like, “oh, al Qaeda would have served people crumpets and tea” wins the “I’m am ignorant moron” prize.

We are a civilized nation, and a strong, stable democracy. If you wish for our military or intelligence services to behave similarly to the terrorists, then you have no respect for law or civilized behavior.

59 Responses to “Interrogation and Torture”

  1. Jim Ostrowski at 6:36 am #

    Torture is a war crime.

  2. Ben McD at 6:43 am #

    The discussion of torture is an interesting philosophical exercise. It seems that the whole topic centers around the issue of morality. We as a society hold that killing another human being is an immoral act, yet we allow it in certain circumstances, i.e. self-defense, and war. Do we allow the same for all immoral acts, or are some at a level of immorality that they cannot be allowed under any circumstances? Is it worse to cause someone extreme pain and discomfort to achieve a goal than it is to outright end their life? Is it the morality of the person that commits the act that is the defining factor? Is a moral person just for committing an immoral act when no other course is available? I don’t know that any of these questions have been answered, all though I think some of them should.

  3. Russell at 6:56 am #

    Ben, BP hates dogmatic idealogues. He has said numerous times that was his big, or at least one of his biggest, problems with the Bush administration. They painted most things in terms of black and white, for us or against. However, when it comes to certain issues, especially this topic, BP acts as if there are no grey areas and ends up sounding just like a dogmatic idealogue. (See his last paragraph above.)

  4. hank at 7:46 am #

    Apparently “Geek the Veteran” never attended SERE training and wasn’t a member of the Navy SEALS.

    Any service member attending SERE training is waterboarded at least a half dozen times in one day. ‘

    SEALS are waterboarded many more times throughout their training, especially on their final exam where they are “Captured” and tortured by our own forces. If you’ve never seen what they do, waterboarding is the EASY part.

    I attended SERE Training in the Phillipines in 1984. I was waterboarded. I wouldn’t say it was fun, but for a terrorist—FUCK HIM.

    If we can do it to our own forces for training purposes, Johnny Fucking Jihad shouldn’t mind it a bit.

    There aren’t enough cathartics made in this country to get the shit out of so many of you fucking bleeding heart liberals. Excuse me while I go puke.

  5. Larry Castellani at 7:48 am #

    Haven’t we signed Geneva convention agreements not to torture in conventional war? But this is not conventional war. Personally, I’m against torture. Ben raises a good question however. Nevertheless, if we are going to be any kind of world leader we need to take the moral high road. Moreover, if we can achieve our goals of protection of the nation without torture and torture doesn’t really work anyhow in acquiring information, why do it? I think there is just war. I don’t think our last two, Vietnam and Iraq were just however. It doesn’t seem to follow to me to argue that given the validity of ‘just war’ that there is therefore necessarily ‘just torture.’ But I’m open to being convinced that there is such a thing as ‘just torture.’

  6. hank at 7:53 am #

    Larry–Do you think every German citizen was a rabid member of the National Socialists? Do you really believe that the entire nation was behind Germany’s “unjust” war of agression? Willingly sending their sons do freeze to death on the Eastern Front?

    Or perhaps the innocent citizens we immolated in places like Dresden. Do you think they thought WW2 “Just”?

    Why not complete the catalog and get a fucking “Free Mumia” thread on here?

  7. psych at 7:56 am #

    After WWII, the US prosecuted Japanese for war crimes for waterboarding American POW. Too bad some republifucks don’t think it’s a crime anymore.

    I guess it’s ok when the detainee is an ay-rab. And the sudden appreciation by the right for getting off on legal technicalities is hi-larious.

  8. Russell at 8:27 am #

    BP and Geek, this isn’t about snickers and snarky comments. It’s about national security. Does Geek’s service qualify him in any specific way to speak more informatively about this issue? Was he a member of an intelligence unit? Did he serve as a spy or in counter-intelligence? If not, then his status as a veteran is irrelevant on this issue.

    We mourn every soldier and every American that dies in service to this country. That does not mean that we should never fight another war again or call any Americans into service. The “how would you like if it were done to one of ours?” is a lame and juvenile line of discussion.

    Although so many of you continually throw out the line that torture never results in good information, no one has ever presented anything to back that up other than a few anecdotes. It exists and is used because it is effective. That does not mean that it is effective in all circumstances all of the time. No technique of any kind is. But it is a tool and so many people actually experienced in this area have argued we need to preserve it as an option. I’ll side with the people that actually know firsthand what they’re talking about.

    The moral highground argument sounds nice and perhaps we should allhum the Battle Hymn of the Republican while we read those lines, but it is far too idealist. From the comfort of your couch, it sounds nice, along with the fun of making snarky comments and snickers, but this is not about what goes on in the comfort of your living room. We ceded the moral highground in our war for independence and those in the know understand it’s a luxury we cannot use to dictate our every move in this time of unconventional war and conflict. Lives matter too much, but you can make snarky comments from the comfort of your living room because rough man stand ready to blurr the greys of morality when necessary.

  9. STEEL at 9:42 am #


    According to the criminal Bush administration the president had the right to lift YOU off a street or your couch, detain you indefinitely, torture you, and label you a terrorist with no proof and no trial.

    You are in favor of giving this power to the government?

    By the way it has been proven over and over and over that police torture and intimidation results in false confessions.

  10. Russell at 10:26 am #

    1. We’re not talking about police.

    2. You are wrong. None of it applied to citizens and that is a different issue.

    3. Apparently you don’t care about the rule of law, either. Not only have key members of the Bush adminstration not been tried and found guilty of anything, they haven’t even been charged. Therefore, they are not criminals.

  11. hank at 10:31 am #

    Steel—please offer us a cite of even one of these “OVER AND OVER” Scenarios that you offer

  12. mike at 10:50 am #

    Hanks right, why even care about a confession just hang or shoot them on the spot. Stalin would be proud of you hank.

  13. STEEL at 11:49 am #

    Well I posted a bunch of links but Buffy’s filters are blocking them. Perhaps he will fix it.

  14. The Humanist at 11:56 am #

    Ah, the breathtaking audacity of torture apologia…

    No doubt they’ll point to Master Limbaugh (noted conservative and pedophilic sex tourist and pill abuser) and his sterling defense of torture last week in which he proved its effectiveness by pointing to John McCain’s admission to war crimes while in the custody of the North Vietnamese

    Makes me proud to be a ‘Murrican….

  15. STEEL at 12:00 pm #

    So does that mean that McCain did commit war crimes? It means he must have if he said so

  16. Russell at 12:37 pm #

    1. We’re not talking about military torture either. This is intelligence gathering, not evidence or confession gathering. Yes, there is a HUGE difference between intelligence gathering and trying to coerce a confession. The CIA are not police and they are not the military either–again, HUGE difference.

    2. Once again, this is not the issue.

    3. No, we generally say innocent until proven guilty in this country. The fact that no one has been able to find any criminal act to charge them with even though so many are searching relentlessly for something, anything weakens your claim.

    Try to stick to pertinent information and the issue at hand. It sure appears difficult for you guys to have any kind of informed discussion without throwing in distractions and Rush Limbaugh.

  17. Haterade at 12:44 pm #

    Oh … the outrage.

    Boo fukking hoo.

    Al Qaeda would have served tea and crumpets.

    Send me my prize Alan, you have my e-mail …

  18. STEEL at 12:51 pm #

    3. Being found innocent and actually being innocent are two different things. Being found guilt likewise does not mean that you actually committed a crime. But it is very interesting that you argue for the rights of bush cronies while so easily condemning others to torture just because…well, just because

    2, Actually it is the issue

    1. So there are various kinds of torture because of who does it and if the right person does the torture it is a good kind of torture which is ok even if you are an innocent person (and I understand from your other statements that you believe that innocent people should not be accused) So we should all be in favor of good CIA torture and we should all be against evil bad torture. I think I understand.

  19. Christopher Smith at 12:58 pm #

    Hank, I did attend USAF SERE training. I am not a Navy SEAL, nor do I claim to be. The contents of the resistance sections of the training are classified, but I can talk around the process and materials.

    The point you are missing, and perhaps you were sleeping during the classroom instructional part of SERE training is that the treatment you are subjected to during SERE training is to replicate that which is administered by evil, despotic regimes. We are taught that escape is the only way to end the torture. We are taught that if we are in a position of authority over a POW, that we do not utilize these techniques. If you went through the training, you know it is torture.

    Your argument is that “Hey, we should do it because they’re bad people” tells me that you’re a person of relative honor and you fundamentally don’t understand what this country stood/stands for. Plain and simple.

  20. Russell at 1:18 pm #

    1. I didn’t say anything about the type of torture.

    2. No, it’s not. None of what was released the other day, or Obama’s speech had anything at all to do with removing citizens off the streets in the US without any charges or trial.

    3. I didn’t condemn anyone, unlike you. Yes, those are differences in innocence, just like being a criminal and being accused of being a criminal are two different things. But I’m glad you are still unable to mention any specific crimes they should be charged with.

  21. Terry at 1:57 pm #

    Nothing like a car bomb detonated up yer arse to to separate the “humanists” from the “survivors”……

  22. Christopher Smith at 2:07 pm #

    This is a great article written by Col. Stuart Herrington (USA, RET)

    Or this one, penned by another professional interrogator:

  23. hank at 2:23 pm #

    @Geek—Air Force—Says a LOT. Most pussfied branch of the service.

    I guess in your military experience you were never taught you go with what WORKS.

    You don’t sleep in the Phillipine jungle unless you have an eye open. I’m sure you air force types got a truck ride back to your air conditioned barracks where you sleep one to a room after the days training, right?

    DESPOTIC REGIMES? Give me a break, are you that much of a cunt?

    Guess you saw LOTS of action on the battlefield. Oh, that’s right, the Air Farce never gets within MILES of where the bullets fly. Those people that shoot at Marines and Soldiers—they’re not trying to miss–they want you DEAD.

    Did you get the needles under your fingernails? You’d tell them any damn thing they wanted.

    Take your “Moral High Ground” And shove it up your ass— As Col. Saito told Col. Nicholson in Bridge on the River Kwai—And listen the fuck up, AIRMAN


    I guess the Air Force doesn’t teach Victory.

  24. Byron at 2:34 pm #

    If you had trouble following that last post, a somewhat clearer translation can be found here.

  25. wcp at 2:36 pm #

    ^^^sheeesh- what a d*ck

  26. The Humanist at 2:37 pm #

    “now…who can argue with that?”

  27. Russell at 2:58 pm #

    Thanks for a couple more anecdotes, Chris, just like I said. What’s Col. Herrington’s point? That you use the techniques that work best? I’m pretty sure everyone in the intelligence community knows that and most people outside of it do as well. Yes, he was able to extract plenty of information without resorting to torture. Once again, just backing up my point that not every technique works in every situation and you go with what works. Some generals have stated that you should not take any of the tools off the table. Former Directors of the CIA have also stated that. Sure, there are some that say torture is not necessary, but there are also those that say it is, even if just as a threat. It’s a horrible thing. No one ever said it’s not and it should never be used lightly. However, we are in an unfortunate situation, not of our own making, where nothing should be off the table. Like Ben said, there are cases when good people may have no other option. It’s not black and white. We don’t always have the luxury to be idealists.

    And please, enough with the anecdotes. Present something reliable, tested, methodical and unbiased, in short, a scientific study, or give up this line. The he saids, he saids could be endless and are pointless.

  28. Byron at 3:12 pm #

    Since torture is illegal, I don’t see why the burden should be on torture opoonents to prove anything. If the U.S. didn’t want to “take any cards off the table” I guess it shouldn’t have ratified treaties and passed laws that prohibit torture.

    But in any case I find the expert opinions Chris posted – to the effect that torture is unreliable at best – to be very compelling as an additional argument against its use.

    Finally, the fact that Geek is a veteran is relevant in at least one sense: another very compelling argument against our use of torture – one that armchair proponents tend to ignore – is that it makes it more likely that our own soldiers will be tortured, and more problematic (to say the least) to punish those who do that.

    My $0.02.

  29. Chris Smith at 3:52 pm #

    Russell, there are many volumes written about the effectiveness of torture, primarily as “lessons learned” publications at the Air War College and Army War College. Can I link to them? Not really. Beyond the abstracts, they aren’t all online, but you can perhaps find bibliographic references to answer your question, I don’t specifically have the time to do that kind of legwork. There are lots of documents discussing torture that are online at those sites, but I don’t know which of them will fulfill your request.

    The troubles with “scientific studies” on the efficacy of torture are many. First of all, any academic study of the practices would be unethical and it would not be approved by an Institutional Review Board. You’d also have a bitch of a time getting an untainted pool of subjects who would be willing to undergo the treatment.

    Historical studies of information gleaned through our interrogation of the enemy and studies of what the enemy learned from torturing our prisoners is however, an effective tool to determine efficacy. Generally speaking, aside from those who most recently worked for the Bush Administration, there is no support in military theory that torture achieves a goal of acquiring reliable, actionable intelligence. Take it as you will.

    Is your position that torture is morally relative? That it’s an acceptable tactic as long as the ends presumably justify the means? That hundreds of years of international law prohibit the use of these tactics, that people have historically been put to death by international authorities (supported by the US) for use of these tactics doesn’t apply in this scenario? Why is it morally acceptable and legal for the US to inflict torture? You should be providing me with the justification for changing long standing US policy on the treatment of prisoners.

    As for Hank’s comments, I’ll let them stand and let people determine the kind of person he is after reading them.

  30. STEEL at 3:59 pm #


    1. What are you talking about. You absolutely have been differentiating one torture done by one organization versus another. You have suggested that CIA torture is good and is legal. Are you changing your previous statements or are you just getting confused by your own words?

    2. US citizens have been jailed by the Bush regime without due process and even if they had not been the criminal processes set up in the Bush White House set up rules where by anyone declared to be an unlawful combatant by the Bush regime could be imprisoned and tortured.

    3. You say you have never condemned anyone yet you stand up for the use of torture on a person who has never been convicted of any crime. As for Bushes criminality see comment 2.

  31. Byron at 4:03 pm #

    STEEL, as you probably know Jose Padilla (a U.S. citizen) claimed that he was tortured while in U.S. custody and that the interrogation video would have proved this. The video mysteriously disappeared, so the proof, if it existed, is gone.

  32. Byron at 4:05 pm #

    “I’ll let . . . people determine the kind of person [hank] is.”

    I think that ship sailed a long time ago, certainly by the time he called Michelle Obama an ignorant monkey.

  33. Ward at 4:18 pm #

    Interesting, Pundit–the fact link you use in your opening sentence about waterboarding of KSM is in fact the blog of Buffalo Geek. Passionate though he may be, Geek is not exactly a primary source. I’m too busy to source the claim of 183 waterboard sessions during the 30 days KSM was in CIA custody (if Geek is relying on the NYTimes, just recall Jason Blair and Walter Duranty).

    But I do know that your conclusion that “it ain’t working” is not supported by the memos recently released.

    Quoting from a memo dated May 30, 2005, from Deputy Attorney General Steven G. Bradbury writes John A. Rizzo, the senior deputy general counsel for the CIA:

    “You have informed us that the interrogation of KSM—once enhanced techniques were employed—led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the ‘Second Wave,’ ‘to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles,” says the memo.

    “You have informed us that information obtained from KSM also led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discover of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemaah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the ‘Second Wave,’” reads the memo. “More specifically, we understand that KSM admitted that he had [redaction] large sum of money to an al Qaeda associate [redaction] … Khan subsequently identified the associate (Zubair), who was then captured. Zubair, in turn, provided information that led to the arrest of Hambali. The information acquired from these captures allowed CIA interrogators to pose more specific questions to KSM, which led the CIA to Hambali’s brother, al Hadi. Using information obtained from multiple sources, al-Hadi was captured, and he subsequently identified the Garuba cell. With the aid of this additional information, interrogations of Hambali confirmed much of what was learned from KSM.”

    To employ the beloved double negative, it don’t sound like it ain’t working to me.

  34. rastamick at 5:51 pm #

    excerpt :

    Or listen to Army Col. Stuart Herrington, a military intelligence specialist who conducted interrogations in Vietnam, Panama and Iraq during Desert Storm, and who was sent by the Pentagon in 2003 — long before Abu Ghraib — to assess interrogations in Iraq. Aside from its immorality and its illegality, says Herrington, torture is simply “not a good way to get information.” In his experience, nine out of 10 people can be persuaded to talk with no “stress methods” at all, let alone cruel and unusual ones. Asked whether that would be true of religiously motivated fanatics, he says that the “batting average” might be lower: “perhaps six out of ten.” And if you beat up the remaining four? “They’ll just tell you anything to get you to stop.” Funny that’s nearly identical to Christopher Hitchens’ viewpoint after he was waterboarded. WOuld anyone call him a bleeding heart liberal ?

  35. Frankie at 6:34 pm #

    First we’re told Abu Ghraib was just a couple out of control low-lifes. Well, not so much. Then we’re told Bush had nothing to do with it. Well, not so much. Then we’re told we don’t torture at all. Well, not so much. Then we’re told waterboarding was done very sparingly, 2 or 3 times at most. Well, not so much. Now we’re told it worked. Any takers?

    I bet it worked for Pol Pot too.

    And i’m relieved to find out that OJ didn’t kill anybody, since he wasn’t convicted of it in criminal court.

  36. Mike Walsh at 11:15 pm #

    “We are a civilized nation, and a strong, stable democracy. If you wish for our military or intelligence services to behave similarly to the terrorists, then you have no respect for law or civilized behavior.”

    You ignore history just as much as you ignore economics…

    Short list:

    Sherman burning cities to the ground in the Civil War
    Slaughter of native americans
    Slaughter of Filipino’s in the Spanish/American War
    Bogus WW1
    Various hit squads and Murder Inc. in south and central American countries
    Vietnam atrocities
    Cold War assassinations
    Dresden and Tokyo fire bombings
    Nuking two cities in Japan

  37. Ray at 11:22 pm #

    Mike…one more historical thing.
    American forces waterboarded Filipino’s in the Spanish/American War.

    Another great legacy of the horrible Progressive Era.

  38. Ben McD at 2:25 am #

    For the record, USAF SERE training is some of the toughest training the military has to offer.

  39. Russell at 7:23 am #

    Apparently we do, Pundit. I guess I’m just more of a realist who understands the real world and you’re an idealist who’d rather imagine a pretty picture. Like it or not, the US has and still is debating the efficacy and legality of torture. Not only that, but it’s also debating what constitutes torture. I’m sure if you had a list of all the interrogation techniques at the disposal of the CIA, approved by our government, you’d have to modify your opinion of our country and what it stands for if it’s nothing like mine. There are plenty of approved techniques that the average man on the street would call torture.

    We compromise our democratic ideals for the greater good all the time. It’s not pretty, but it’s what reasonable people in a reasonable society do. We understand and accept that. The military is not democratic. It’s rigidly hierarchical and even aristocratic in some ways. It’s own legal system is allowed to function outside our Constitution, thus denying some rights to US citizens while they’re serving our country and protecting and preserving that very Constitution. We know that and we accept that. No one has pushed to dismantle the military because it is not in line with our democratic ideals or does not adhere to what our country stands for.

    1. It was not about the type of torture, as you claimed. It was about the goals and purpose of the institutions using the techniques. Once again, police attempting to coerce a confession is completely different from intelligence gathering. The articles you posted are quite specific about what situations they are studying. There’s a reason for that. A study of one does not inform us at all about the other. You are comparing apples and oranges.

    2. And again, nothing in the memos or in Obama’s speech had anything to do with that. That is not the issue here.

    3. Yep, that’s not condemning anyone. If you support the death penalty, you’ve condemned people to death? If you support our legal system, you’ve condemned everyone that’s ever been found guilty through it? You’re line of logic does not make any sense.

    As for your claim of Bush’s criminality, Abraham Lincoln jailed many more US citizens without charges and without trial, yet we set up monuments to him, honor his birthday each year, and most politicians invoke his name as often as possible. If that’s what you have against Bush, although never charged, tried or convicted, then we’d have to re-examine our view of all our presidents, especially our most admired.

  40. Russell at 7:36 am #

    This just in:

    WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Bush-era interrogation techniques that many view as torture may have yielded important information about terrorists, President Obama’s national intelligence director said in an internal memo.

    “High-value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qaeda organization that was attacking this country,” Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said in a memo to personnel.


    Imagine that, Obama’s own Intelligence Director says it worked. Well, there goes that argument Geek and STEEL and everyone else clinging to the “it doesn’t work or yield good intelligence” line.

  41. Russell at 8:55 am #

    First of all, I didn’t say it, BP. Our country’s Director of National Intelligence did, a member of the new administration, not the old.

    Secondly, that article boosts the claim of its efficacy. It clearly shows that the techniques do indeed work. The techniques were used in an attempt to establish a link that did not exist and despite some effort they never resulted in providing that link. It sure sounds to me like the subjects did not just provide information the interrogators wanted to hear just to end the ordeal, like you and so many others on here have stated they would. The techniques resulted in good intelligence, even when it was counter to what the administration wanted to hear. Sure sounds successful to me. Thanks for debunking another one of you claims.

  42. hank at 9:35 am #

    Chris—If the left gets their way, we can stand around your grave, and those of those who didn’t agree with your whole pussified agenda, and say

    He was such a nice, caring man who was SO concerned about what other people thought about him….But, now he’s fucking DEAD.

    I’m sure the dozens of English Traitors who signed the Declaration cared not one whit what George III, the Parliament, their fellow citizens in England, and even their fellow colonists who disagreed with them “THOUGH ABOUT THEM, OR THE KIND OF PEOPLE THEY WERE”.

    That’s why we HAVE a country now.

    As for your disdain towards me personally, I pissed myself dry. As usual—can’t retort—-Oh, he’s a bad person.

    GODDAMN right I’m a bad person. And there’s hundreds of thousands of “Dicks” just like me who spent the best years of their lives serving their country so you ass-munches could sit here and speak in high platitiudes while forces from without and within plot the downfall of our nation.

    Buffalo—approximately 280,000 people with the deer in the headlights look on their face.

  43. dave-in-rocha at 1:02 pm #

    “And there’s hundreds of thousands of “Dicks” just like me who spent the best years of their lives serving their country *IN THE CORRECT BRANCH* so you ass-munches could sit here and speak in high platitiudes while forces from without and within plot the downfall of our nation.”


    Geez, if the USAF is a bunch of pussies I’d hate to see Hank’s opinion of the Coast Guard…

  44. Chris Smith at 1:07 pm #

    To be fair, Hank has been watching a lot of 24 lately.

  45. mike at 1:17 pm #

    A lot of trash talkin from a guy who admits he’s afraid to walk down the street on the west side. A real bad ass.

  46. Christopher Smith at 2:01 pm #


    Dennis Blair released a statement late yesterday in which he clearly stated that there is no way of knowing whether means other than torture would have obtained the same info. More important, he said the damage done to us by torture “far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security.” Blair has outlined these views elsewhere.

    Blair said that he “also strongly supported the president when he declared that we would no longer use enhanced interrogation techniques. We do not need these techniques to keep America safe.

  47. Christopher Smith at 2:06 pm #

    #34 It’s not so cut and dry as you’d like to think on the whole LA Tower instance.

    From the article:

    In a White House press briefing, Bush’s counterterrorism chief, Frances Fragos Townsend, told reporters that the cell leader was arrested in February 2002, and “at that point, the other members of the cell” (later arrested) “believed that the West Coast plot has been canceled, was not going forward” [italics mine].

    A subsequent fact sheet released by the Bush White House states, “In 2002, we broke up [italics mine] a plot by KSM to hijack an airplane and fly it into the tallest building on the West Coast.” These two statements make clear that however far the plot to attack the Library Tower ever got—an unnamed senior FBI official would later tell the Los Angeles Times that Bush’s characterization of it as a “disrupted plot” was “ludicrous”—that plot was foiled in 2002. But Sheikh Mohammed wasn’t captured until March 2003.

  48. Russell at 2:37 pm #

    Actually using the direct quotes from that article actually changes the story a little:

    “High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country,” Blair wrote.

    Added Blair: “I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past, but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given.”

    “The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means. The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security,” Blair concluded.

    So he is saying that the techniques used did result in good, valued information. We don’t know and can never know if other techniques would have yielded the same, so there’s no point in your anecdotes from the Col. or anyone else. These techniques worked and we don’t know if others could have.

    And although he can say that the techniques hurt our image, the real problem is that the classified information about these techniques was leaked damages not only our image, but our ability to collect intelligence and defend this country. As much as you folks are worried about what others may think of us, most in the intelligence community are worried about maintaining cover and secrecy. If full disclosure were shed on all the CIA’s interrogation techniques we would definitely look bad to others and bleeding hearts like you guys would be beyond disgusted. Do you think we ended all U2 flights and activities over the skies of the Soviet Union when Powers was shot down? We were horribly embarrassed by that and it greatly damaged our image internationally. However, the value of the intelligence far outweighed concerns for our image abroad, as they always should.

    There is a reason why the debate on these issue is not normally public. As has been stated before, the military and intelligence community has, does and will continue to employ methods folks in polite society cannot easily stomach.

    What constitutes torture is regularly scrutinized and debated among those in the intelligence community and those with oversight powers, whether BP likes to think about that or not. The efficacy and legality of these techniques is of constant concern in those circles, whether BP realizes it or not. Yes, even in the US in 2009.

    Contrary to what BP and others on here may think, there is no black and white line clearly defining what is torture and what is not. In determining that question, rarely are “democratic ideals and values” used as the criteria to determine what is acceptable and what is not for the intelligence community. And never should that debate be aired publically. Unfortunately, as Walsh pointed out, history has shown us that the military and intelligence community has not and cannot always act democratically. That’s reality. Some of us understand that and accept it, as harsh and brutal as it may be. Others, like BP, woud rather close their eyes to it and just keep repeating some mantra about values and ideals as they rock in the corner not wanting to believe that monster in the shadows is actally what keeps them safe.

    Just to recap where we stand, we have seen today that the techniques did work, yielded valuable intelligence and (thanks to BP’s post) did not yield incorrect intelligence even under great efforts to do so. Not only that, but we also saw that the military and CIA do not and cannot always operate under democratic ideals and values. Mike Walsh’s brief and tragic history review helped paint that picture, among some other points raised. I just hope BP is not entirely shattered to learn that his beloved country is not the flawless, perfectly righteous herald of all things good and beautiful. It does, in fact, have a bit of a necessary and vital dark side as well.

  49. psych at 2:42 pm #

    The general rule is that torture is illegal and immoral, and usually leads to faulty or false information.

    Just because it yields good information on occasion doesn’t justify it.

    Just because it sometimes does not yield faulty or false information doesn’t justify it.

    Russell seems to think that any situation under any circumstance justifies torture both legally and morally because it can sometimes work.

    Well, robbing & killing a masseuse in a hotel room can be an effective way pay off a debt to Foxwoods, but it doesn’t mean we ought to be debating whether people should pay off debts through violence.

  50. Russell at 3:11 pm #

    Nope, never said that, but I know you guys need to put words in my mouth and make absurd analogies that don’t hold any water in order to bolster your claims.

    As I’ve said before, if you guys think this is the first and only time in history that our government has resorted to questionable interrogation techniques and will never again, you’re only lying to yourselves.

    And psych, your claim that it’s a general rule is not true. There’s no hard evidence to back that up. Plenty in the intelligence community have defended these techniques and fought for them. If you have more information than Gen. Hayden was ever privvy to, please share. He seems to have never heard this genral rule.

  51. The Humanist at 4:00 pm #

    Ahem….we now know that the Bush administration tortured detainees to find evidence of a link between Al Queda and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.

    They tortured people, not for intelligence purposes, but for political purposes. Pinochet smiles from his perch in Hell. Meanwhile, Americans like me that have respect for jejune concepts like international laws established by treaties and basic human rights throw up some more in their mouths.

    Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle…the whole lot of ’em should be tried as war criminals

  52. Frankie at 7:23 pm #

    Russell said:

    Contrary to what BP and others on here may think, there is no black and white line clearly defining what is torture and what is not. In determining that question,

    The black and white line is, if we previously prosecuted someone for war crimes for having done it, then it’s torture. Period.

    He also said:
    Just to recap where we stand, we have seen today that the techniques did work, yielded valuable intelligence

    Yeah, valuable intelligence. I’m guessing, after about waterboarding #134, KSM ratted out the 8 yahoos in Lackawanna. Or maybe the name of Bin Laden’s driver. You know, high value targets like that.

  53. STEEL at 9:51 pm #

    Well I am convinced, We should use torture and expand the program dramatically. I think all Americans should voluntarily undergo torture. This way we could find every terrorist that could possibly be out there. Don’t forget if we had been using torture on all people we could have stopped Timothy McVeigh before he struck.

    We could also detain all foreign tourists and torture them prior to them starting their vacation. We could pay everyone a small fee like jury duty. Of course citizens will need to go through this every few years., maybe twice a decade. This patriotic duty would start in high school. Joining the republican party will prove that you know nothing and you will be relieved of any duty to your country.

  54. Russell at 6:52 am #

    Frankie, you have that little confidence in Obama’s appointee to understand what is valuable intelligence?

    STEEL, just like I said, you folks need to resort to absurdity and ridiculous analogies when the facts get in your way.

  55. Frankie at 4:37 pm #

    Pretty weak, Russell, but nevertheless, i’ll respond. I would think any government official would consider the arrests and convictions of an 8 member “terror cell” as a valuable get, whether they actually posed a danger or not.

  56. hank at 9:22 am #

    I know Obama doesn’t want Winston Churchill’s bust in the White House, even though he spent many weeks there with FDR, but perhaps his comments on not going after Chamberlain for what went on before could educate, and bring some of you libbies down off your high moral horse.

    I am not reciting these facts for the purpose of recrimination. That I judge to be utterly futile and even harmful. We cannot afford it. I recite them in order to explain why it was we did not have, as we could have had, between twelve and fourteen British divisions fighting in the line in this great battle instead of only three. Now I put all this aside. I put it on the shelf, from which the historians, when they have time, will select their documents to tell their stories. WE HAVE TO THINK OF THE FUTURE, NOT OF THE PAST. This also applies in a small way to our own affairs at home. There are many who would hold an inquest in the House of Commons on the conduct of the Governments–and of Parliaments, for they are in it, too–during the years which led up to this catastrophe. They seek to indict those who were responsible for the guidance of our affairs. THIS ALSO WOULD BE A FOOLISH AND PERNICIOUS PROCESS. There are too many in it. Let each man search his conscience and search his speeches. I frequently search mine.

    Of this I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that WE HAVE LOST THE FUTURE. Therefore, I cannot accept the drawing of any distinctions between members of the present Government. It was formed at a moment of crisis in order to unite all the Parties and all sections of opinion. It has received the almost unanimous support of both Houses of Parliament. Its members are going to stand together, and, subject to the authority of the House of Commons, we are going to govern the country and fight the war. It is absolutely necessary at a time like this that every Minister who tries each day to do his duty shall be respected; and their subordinates must know that their chiefs are not threatened men, men who are here today and gone tomorrow, but that their directions must be punctually and faithfully obeyed. Without this concentrated power we cannot face what lies before us. I should not think it would be very advantageous for the House to prolong this debate this afternoon under conditions of public stress. Many facts are not clear that will be clear in a short time. We are to have a secret session on Thursday, and I should think that would be a better opportunity for the many earnest expressions of opinion which members will desire to make and for the House to discuss vital matters WITHOUT EVERYTHING BEING READ THE NEXT MORNING BY OUR DANGEROUS FOES.

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