[Re-posted from earlier today]
The CIA director made one small concession yesterday. Here is his Rumsfeldian rumination on whether torture gave the US any actionable intelligence that “saved lives”:
I have already stated that our reviews indicate that the detention and interrogation program produced useful intelligence that helped the United States thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives. But let me be clear: We have not concluded that it was the use of EITs within that program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them. The cause and effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable.
The key word there is “subsequently.” He’s arguing that some useful intelligence was later acquired from prisoners who had been tortured. What’s he’s conceding is that torture gave us no real intelligence – against the claims of his predecessors and Cheney. But he wants the broader question of whether torture played a role in prepping prisoners to give information in traditional, humane and legal interrogations to remain an open one. Well, let’s go through the report to see if he has a leg to stand on.
The Senate’s report lists the plots the CIA has relied most heavily on when making the case for the efficacy of torture:
The report goes on to debunk torture’s role in each of these cases. Here are the key points:
So in this case, all the intelligence necessary to thwart a barely existent plot by utterly unserious criminals was discovered before torture was instigated at all.
Another claim eviscerated by the CIA’s own evidence.
Again: torture was utterly irrelevant to this amorphous plot far from being operational.
Another phantasm of a plot revealed by sources independent of the torture program.
So this canary sang without any torture at all.
And so it goes. Notice that all of this evidence is taken from the CIA’s own internal documents. This is not the Senate Committee’s conclusion; it is the CIA’s.
Yet another dud. And therefore yet another lie.
Look: if every single one of the CIA’s own purported successes evaporates upon inspecting the CIA’s own records, what’s left?
Does Brennan know of other cases of alleged plots disrupted by intelligence procured through torture? You’d think in all its strenuous efforts to prove that its program worked, the CIA would have mentioned other plots. But if they don’t exist, Brennan’s claim of “unknowability” evaporates into thin air. It’s total bullshit. As for the need to interview the torturers, why? When the CIA’s own documents show that these mainly unserious plots were foiled by other means entirely, what is left for the torturers to say? That some things discovered by legal means were also blurted out – among countless untrue things – after torture sessions? As for the details of all these cases, I recommend reading all the footnotes. They flesh out the summaries above.
This seems to me to be a crucial issue of truth and falsehood.
What Brennan said yesterday was, in contrast, spin: some kind of sad attempt to square a circle that is adamantly circular. There is no evidence in the entire CIA archive that shows that any prisoner provided truthful information “subsequently” to being tortured. None. All the information necessary to foil every single plot cited by the CIA was recovered by legal, moral and humane means. All of it. This is not an opinion, a judgment … but a fact.
And that means that on this critical, foundational question, one that gets to the heart of Western civilization, John Brennan is a liar. And his lies and deceptions matter. That a CIA chief can get up and tell us that something is unknowable when it is already fully known is someone who has forfeited the public trust in a profound way. He’s lying to protect what’s left of the reputation of the CIA. He refuses to discipline any war criminal in his ranks, and defends the bulk of them. And let us be perfectly clear: all of this is criminal activity. Committing war crimes and then refusing to acknowledge them as such violates the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention of Torture and domestic law.
I want to move past this as much as Brennan does. But you cannot move past it without reckoning with it, without facing up the the facts, and bringing accountability to government. Obama and Brennan refuse to do it. And by refusing to come to terms with the facts, they have left this as some kind of open debate, when it is, in fact, closed. And that opening is all we need to see torture return.
On this one, the war criminals meep-meeped the president. And he didn’t even seriously try to stop them.
(Photo: CIA Director John Brennan takes questions from reporters during a press conference at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia on December 11, 2014. By Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.)