New information emerging from the Senate Armed Services report sheds more light on the development of torture as policy in the Bush administration.
The military agency that helped to devise harsh interrogation techniques for use against terrorism suspects referred to the application of extreme duress as "torture" in a July 2002 document sent to the Pentagon's chief lawyer and warned that it would produce "unreliable information."
"The unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel," says the document, an unsigned two-page attachment to a memo by the military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency. Parts of the attachment, obtained in full by The Washington Post, were quoted in a Senate report on harsh interrogation released this week.
It remains unclear whether the attachment reached high-ranking officials in the Bush administration. But the document offers the clearest evidence that has come to light so far that those who helped formulate the harsh interrogation techniques voiced early concerns about the effectiveness of applying severe physical or psychological pressure.
The JPRA runs the SERE program, that program that torture apologists keep insisting doesn't rely on torture. I guess the people who run the program would know. Not only did they know it was torture, they also knew it was ineffective in producing reliable intelligence.
The cautionary attachment was forwarded to the Pentagon's Office of the General Counsel as the administration finalized the legal underpinnings to a CIA interrogation program that would sanction the use of ten forms of coercion, including waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning. The JPRA material was sent from the Pentagon to the CIA's acting General Counsel, John Rizzo, and on to the Justice Department, according to testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
An August 1, 2002, memo from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel authorized the use of the ten methods against Abu Zubaida, the nom de guerre of an al-Qaeda associate captured in Pakistan in March 2002. Former intelligence officials have recently contended that Abu Zubaida provided little useful information about the organization's plans.
Senate investigators were unable to determine whether William J. Haynes II, the Pentagon's General Counsel in 2002, passed the cautionary memo to Rizzo or to other Bush administration officials reviewing the CIA's proposed program.
Haynes declined to comment, as did Rizzo and the CIA. Jay. S. Bybee, who as an assistant Attorney General signed the Aug. 1, 2002, memo, did not respond to a request for comment.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he believed the attachment was deliberately ignored and perhaps suppressed. Excerpts from the document appeared in a report on the treatment of detainees released this month by Levin's committee. The committee report says the attachment echoes JPRA warnings issued in late 2001.
Late 2001. Before Zubaydah was captured. Before interrogators decided they had to use torture to extract information. All of which points to torture a key part of the administration's interrogation plans from the outset. Regarding the efficacy of those methods:
"The requirement to obtain information from an uncooperative source as quickly as possible -- in time to prevent, for example, an impending terrorist attack that could result in loss of life -- has been forwarded as a compelling argument for the use of torture," the document said. "In essence, physical and/or psychological duress are viewed as an alternative to the more time-consuming conventional interrogation process. The error inherent in this line of thinking is the assumption that, through torture, the interrogator can extract reliable and accurate information. History and a consideration of human behavior would appear to refute this assumption."
Incidentally, John Rizzo was the middle man at the CIA charged with forwarding this information on to Justice, if indeed it reached him from the Pentagon. Whether he did or not is unclear, as is whether the information reached "high-ranking officials" in the administration. You might have heard the name John Rizzo recently, after Marcy reported that "Rizzo is the man who provided the list of torture techniques to Jay Bybee for inclusion in the memo--the key link in turning SERE techniques into torture." Marcy also reported that he's still Acting General Counsel at the CIA.
Additional discussion is going on in Big Nit Attack's diary.