14 September, 2009

Not letting torture recede away

Several items worth a read on the torture issue. First, FBI interrogator Ali Soufan - the agent whose legal, traditional interrogation of Abu Zubaydah gave us everything worth knowing that we got from him, and who courageously fought the decision to transfer him to the CIA's torture-interrogation - took to the pages of the New York Times again last week:

PUBLIC bravado aside, the defenders of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques are fast running out of classified documents to hide behind. The three that were released recently by the C.I.A. — the 2004 report by the inspector general and two memos from 2004 and 2005 on intelligence gained from detainees — fail to show that the techniques stopped even a single imminent threat of terrorism...

They show that substantial intelligence was gained from pocket litter (materials found on detainees when they were captured), from playing detainees against one another and from detainees freely giving up information that they assumed their questioners already knew. A computer seized in March 2003 from a Qaeda operative for example, listed names of Qaeda members and money they were to receive.

Soufan ends by arguing that "the professionals in the field are relieved that an ineffective, unreliable, unnecessary and destructive program — one that may have given Al Qaeda a second wind and damaged our country’s reputation — is finished."

And second, over at the Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan is grinding his long-ground and thus extremely sharp axe with a new twist: an open letter to George W. Bush calling on him to publicly renounce his administration's approach to interrogation. His conceit is to vigrously affirm Bush's good faith and appeal to that side of him that may feel that he was misled or pressured by his lawyers, advisers, and vice-president. Will he read it, and if he does, will it move him? Certainly not - but Sullivan does the rest of us a great service by putting the long story of our descent into a torture state into a single, accesible narrative essay, and aggregating all of the publicly-available evidence - memos, testimony, etc - in one spot.

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