Shedding some well-needed light on why it could have possibly been necessary to waterboard someone 183 times, McClatchy reports that according to “a former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue,” former Vice-President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld “demanded that intelligence agencies and interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration"....Which reminds me of something I said here:
I suppose it’s fitting, if disturbingly ironic, that techniques adopted wholesale from methods intended to extract false confessions were used in an attempt to generate evidence of a non-existent Al Qaeda-Saddam operational relationship.
While listening to the radio this morning, I heard a caller arguing that torture doesn’t work, because by torturing people, you can get people to say anything.
I’ve objected to this argument before, because it implies that torture would be OK if only it were more reliable.
There’s another problem with this line of reasoning, though. Suppose you need someone to say something that isn’t true. Suppose that a single lie, professionally extracted from some anonymous victim, will help you to launch a war, or enact an unconstitutional law, or round up a horde of political enemies, or boost defense spending.
Eventually, you might end up in a situation reminiscent of the subprime mortgage crisis, in which vast fortunes are staked on little more than promises made under duress.
If this ever happened, the problem with the existence of a videotaped torture session might not be its brutality, so much as the insight it’d provide into the process by which “intelligence” is manufactured and passed off as legitimate.
This isn’t an accusation, of course; I’m just thinking out loud. But in purely political terms, this does strike me as the most dangerous possible aspect of allowing torture: it can produce “useful” information when reality can’t.