The Senate Intelligence Committee has released its long-awaited report investigation into CIA rendition, detention and interrogation techniques. The Number One finding of the Report is that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques was not effective at either: (1) obtaining accurate information; or (2) gaining detainee cooperation. Thus, the Number One finding of the Report is that “we tortured some folks” as President Obama has said, for no reason at all.
Senator Dianne Feinstein agrees with Obama that the USA tortured some folks. The Report contains Feinstein’s conclusion that “CIA detainees were tortured.” (Report, Foreword pg. 4.) Most likely due to political pressure, it is only Feinstein’s personal conclusion that the USA tortured some folks, and not a finding of the Report.
The Report has a narrow focus and only investigated the CIA, looking at what the CIA did at black sites and how the CIA allegedly misled the Office of Legal Counsel and other attorneys. This narrow focus limits the Report’s usefulness.
Senate Report Provides Torture Porn
Previous reports show that the USA engaged in torture since at least 2002 when it began waterboarding Abu Zubaydah. This new Report from the Senate has lots of specific instances describing “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA on Abu Zubaydah and others. It’s unclear how providing lots of specific details about torture will change the already-established fact that the USA engaged in torture. The additional details are basically just torture porn. As explained by Lieutenant Diane Beaver, in 2002 the military personnel at Guantanamo would watch the TV show “24” and”You could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas.” The Senate Report likewise provides torture porn. Apparently, films and words about torture are stimulating to USA society in a very sick way. Reading about torture, or seeing it in films, is not making the USA take action to prevent torture, but it may be getting some dicks hard.
CIA Did Not Act Alone
In addition to providing salacious torture porn, the narrow focus of the Report completely ignores clear evidence that the CIA was not acting alone when it established the rendition, detention and torture programs. The Report does not analyze the role of the attorneys who drafted the so-called legal justification for these CIA programs, or at the pressure being exerted by the military and the White House to use harsh interrogation techniques.
Finding #5 in the Report blames the CIA for failing to provide accurate information to Bush administration attorneys, including John Yoo at the Office of Legal Counsel (“OLC”). However, John Yoo was not an innocent by-stander being mislead by the CIA. The European Court of Human Rights has analyzed the events around Abu Zubaydah’s detention and interrogation, and found a clear link between a memo written by John Yoo and the inception of waterboarding. The ECHR found that prior to the August 1, 2002 date of Yoo’s memo, the CIA did not waterboard Zubaydah at all. Immediately after Yoo’s memo was written, the CIA waterboarded Zubaydah 83 times in the month of August 2002.
The Senate Report states that the “OLC relied on inaccurate CIA representations”. Yes, Yoo’s memo claims reliance on CIA statements. However, that doesn’t excuse his complete failure to do independent analysis.
In the August 1, 2002 memo, Yoo was willing to provide legal permission for waterboarding because the CIA was willing to say that it did not anticipate any prolonged harm from waterboarding. Based on his blind faith in these CIA assertions, Yoo concludes that waterboarding is not torture, even when it is obvious that the CIA assertions come from paid psychologists.
The August 1, 2002 memo recognizes that the CIA “consulted with outside psychologists” regarding waterboarding. It’s common knowledge that consultants are paid to provide the answer the client wants. In this case, the client was the CIA, and the CIA wanted to show that waterboarding did not cause harm. That’s exactly what the paid psychologists found. Yoo knew that the CIA was paying these psychologists, but apparently that did not give Yoo any reason to question the CIA claims.
CIA Knew That Inhuman Interrogation Techniques Produced Bad Intelligence
The Senate Report points out that the CIA itself had previously concluded, in 1989, that “inhumane physical or psychological techniques are counterproductive because they do not produce intelligence and will probably result in false answers.” Report, Finding #11. This information would have been available to John Yoo, but it didn’t serve his goals, and didn’t make it into his memo.
Yoo’s August 1, 2002 memo ignores all evidence that inhuman treatment produces unreliable information. Instead, turns this truth on its head, and asserts the need for accurate information as the basis for justifying torture. Yoo writes:
In light of the information you [the CIA] believe Zubaydah has and the high level of threat you believe now exists, you wish to move the interrogations into what you have described as an ‘increased pressure phase.’
Future of Torture?
Feinstein hopes that the release of the Report ensures that USA policy “will never again allow for secret indefinite detention and the use of coercive interrogations.” She writes: “We cannot allow history to be forgotten and grievous past mistakes to be repeated.”
But, some of these grievous mistakes are not history. The grievous mistakes have not ceased, and continue to this day, including the ongoing indefinite detention and forced feeding (considered torture) of men at Guantanamo. After much hue and cry over the Senate Report, sadly it will likely go the way of previous reports and investigations, into the dustbin of history, while the USA continues to engage in torture, and other cruel inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions.