We interrupt this discussion or religion, death, and sexual assault, to remind you that the United States of America tortured people, and did so absolutely unapologetically, right down to today.
Former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin just told NPR that torture works; and besides, it was authorized by the White House.
Am I violating Godwin's law if I say that sounds exactly like the CIA was only following orders? Should someone remind the Deputy Director that the FBI didn't give a wet snap for those legal opinions, and refused to participate in torture as an interrogation technique? Should someone remind the Deputy Director of Congressional testimony establishing conclusively that "torture does not work" as an interrogation technique (it works splendidly as an instrument of terrorism. Whoops!)
From my experience – and I speak as someone who has personally interrogated many terrorists and elicited important actionable intelligence– I strongly believe that it is a mistake to use what has become known as the "enhanced interrogation techniques," a position shared by many professional operatives, including the CIA officers who were present at the initial phases of the Abu Zubaydah interrogation.Mr. McLaughlin is a liar, or a fool; or both. As for his argument it was all legal so far as he knew: bullshit.
These techniques, from an operational perspective, are ineffective, slow and unreliable, and as a result harmful to our efforts to defeat al Qaeda. (This is aside from the important additional considerations that they are un-American and harmful to our reputation and cause.)
During his capture Abu Zubaydah had been injured. After seeing the extent of his injuries, the CIA medical team supporting us decided they were not equipped to treat him and we had to take him to a hospital or he would die. At the hospital, we continued our questioning as much as possible, while taking into account his medical condition and the need to know all information he might have on existing threats.
We were once again very successful and elicited information regarding the role of KSM as the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and lots of other information that remains classified. (It is important to remember that before this we had no idea of KSM's role in 9/11 or his importance in the al Qaeda leadership structure.) All this happened before the CTC team arrived.
A few days after we started questioning Abu Zubaydah, the CTC interrogation team finally arrived from DC with a contractor who was instructing them on how they should conduct the interrogations, and we were removed. Immediately, on the instructions of the contractor, harsh techniques were introduced, starting with nudity. (The harsher techniques mentioned in the memos were not introduced or even discussed at this point.)
The new techniques did not produce results as Abu Zubaydah shut down and stopped talking. At that time nudity and low-level sleep deprivation (between 24 and 48 hours) was being used. After a few days of getting no information, and after repeated inquiries from DC asking why all of sudden no information was being transmitted (when before there had been a steady stream), we again were given control of the interrogation.
We then returned to using the Informed Interrogation Approach. Within a few hours, Abu Zubaydah again started talking and gave us important actionable intelligence.
This included the details of Jose Padilla, the so-called "dirty bomber." To remind you of how important this information was viewed at the time, the then-Attorney General, John Ashcroft, held a press conference from Moscow to discuss the news. Other important actionable intelligence was also gained that remains classified.
After a few days, the contractor attempted to once again try his untested theory and he started to re-implementing the harsh techniques. He moved this time further along the force continuum, introducing loud noise and then temperature manipulation.
Throughout this time, my fellow FBI agent and I, along with a top CIA interrogator who was working with us, protested, but we were overruled. I should also note that another colleague, an operational psychologist for the CIA, had left the location because he objected to what was being done.
Again, however, the technique wasn't working and Abu Zubaydah wasn't revealing any information, so we were once again brought back in to interrogate him. We found it harder to reengage him this time, because of how the techniques had affected him, but eventually, we succeeded, and he re-engaged again.
Once again the contractor insisted on stepping up the notches of his experiment, and this time he requested the authorization to place Abu Zubaydah in a confinement box, as the next stage in the force continuum. While everything I saw to this point were nowhere near the severity later listed in the memos, the evolution of the contractor's theory, along with what I had seen till then, struck me as "borderline torture."
As the Department of Justice IG report released last year states, I protested to my superiors in the FBI and refused to be a part of what was happening. The Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, a man I deeply respect, agreed passing the message that "we don't do that," and I was pulled out.
As you can see from this timeline, many of the claims made in the memos about the success of the enhanced techniques are inaccurate. For example, it is untrue to claim Abu Zubaydah wasn't cooperating before August 1, 2002. The truth is that we got actionable intelligence from him in the first hour of interrogating him. (emphasis added)
The memorandum, drafted by John Yoo and OLC head Jay S. Bybee, provoked outrage and disgust among legal professionals and the public-at-large. Harold Koh, a professor of international law and the Dean of Yale Law School, informed the Senate Judiciary Committee that it was the most erroneous legal opinion he had ever read. A law professor at the University of Virginia claimed that the memo "was less 'lawyering as usual' than the work of some bizarre literary deconstructionist." In December 2004, the Department of Justice repudiated the Torture Memo, although John Yoo continues to stand by the analysis.As I said in 2010, the standard for a legal opinion is: will this stand up in court? Law clerks learn not to float insane ideas about what the law "allows" in front of seasoned lawyers who will respond: "Do you think you can convince a judge of that?" I had to do it once or twice, and mine was no more than an obscure procedural move. Did John Yoo think he could convince any judge in the land that his definition of "torture" was legal? I doubt it, but I would love to have seen him try.
The fact that he never had to is the primary problem with this entire situation.
The Christmas story doesn't include torture, although Louden Wainwright III was right to point out that what Jesus got for Christmas was the grave. It includes terrorism, though. Maybe that's enough of a connection to bring the subject up during this holy time.
I don't know. I'm just sick; not just by the techniques that were used we didn't previously know about; but by the completely amoral attitudes of men in power, for whom power is the only excuse for existence; or for governance, for that matter.
It out-herods Herod.