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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The biggest torture story

The NYTimes has the story that the torture tactics were developed from the SERE training and were used by enemies to produce false confessions.

But nobody, nobody has asked the biggest question, although McClatchy hints around it.
The Bush administration put relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.....

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that intelligence agencies and interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.

"There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used," the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.....

"Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies."

Senior administration officials, however, "blew that off and kept insisting that we'd overlooked something, that the interrogators weren't pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information," he said.

So the torture took place because Cheney and Rumsfeld kept insisting on an Iraq/Al Qaeda connection.

How do you think they would have treated a false confession?


  • Excellent point! Torturers torture not to find out what they didn't know to be true, but to confirm what they already "knew" to be true.

    "We know you're a heretic/witch/commie/spy/terrorist. Why not just confess and all this will be over?"

    By Blogger -epm, at 8:16 AM  

  • Not always, but that's looking more and more likely here.

    The question I couldn't find a way to ask past implication on the front is,

    Were Cheney and Rumsfeld looking for a false confession?

    I mean, if that's your goal, you're using the right techniques.

    By Blogger mikevotes, at 8:19 AM  

  • Interrogation is about uncovering new information. Information you don't already have. But it's also about confirming suspicions you have (and/or eliminating suspicions you have).

    In all cases the interrogator must decide if the information he is given is genuine or bogus. Or, more likely, somewhere in between. How is this done? If I say "I'm with al Qaeda" how does the interrogator know this is truth? If I say "I'm NOT with al Qaeda." how does the interrogator know this is a lie?

    Now the question is: Is the interrogator motived more by having his suspicions validated, or by a desire to learn the secrets a detainee holds? It seems to me the more brutal the interrogation, the more the interrogator is dissatisfied with what he hears. And why is he dissatisfied? Because what he hears does not jibe with what he "knows" to be true.

    In the case of Cheney/Rumsfeld, I think this is patently obvious. The wanted to hear very specific things... and they would do whatever they had to to get a detainee to say these things. It appears they never got the smoking gun confessions they wanted. And that alone proves the ineffectiveness of torture. (Not that torture doesn't "work" at all, but that it's ineffective, unreliable and just plain stupid.)

    Interrogation is about guile. Wits. Manipulation. It's not about torture. That, in my opinion, is just a psychological perversion.

    By Blogger -epm, at 8:50 AM  

  • After our last exchange, I was thinking, "if you're the detainee, how do you prove the negative?"

    By Blogger mikevotes, at 10:15 AM  

  • I don't know why they just didn't pay them? They paid them when they were CIA assets against the USSR, why not now? It's already been established as the essential quid pro quo.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:27 PM  

  • Or threaten their families. I would think that if you're beating, water torturing, that a family threat would be nothing.

    By Blogger mikevotes, at 3:25 PM  

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