Former FBI interrogator, Ali Soufan, is back with another op ed in the New York Times. This time he takes apart Dick Cheney's assertion that the CIA IG report vindicated his position that torture "worked". Spencer Ackerman has a really good post up about it and I suggest reading that in addition to the op ed but I wanted to highlight a particular part of the op ed which should be repeated over and over like an echo whenever Dick Cheney or his wingnut daughter Liz appears on any cable news shows again.
Crossposted at Smooth Like Remy
It is surprising, as the eighth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, that none of Al Qaeda’s top leadership is in our custody. One damaging consequence of the harsh interrogation program was that the expert interrogators whose skills were deemed unnecessary to the new methods were forced out.
Mr. Mohammed knew the location of most, if not all, of the members of Al Qaeda’s leadership council, and possibly of every covert cell around the world. One can only imagine who else we could have captured, or what attacks we might have disrupted, if Mr. Mohammed had been questioned by the experts who knew the most about him.
The Mr. Mohammed Soufan is referring to is Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Now this is the central point that I feel like liberals and progressives are loathe to explore because whether torture worked or not, it was illegal and should have never been pursued. I get the sense that many of us on the left also are hesitant to press the case because we think there is a chance that torture did yield useful information. Now on the one hand I am sure that torturing normal people is prone to making them tell more than they would without it. But members of Al Qaeda are not regular people anymore than our soldiers are regular people. And above and beyond that no matter how much information was given up, there still is the question of if it was credible. We have a culture whereby we have been conditioned to believe that because torture works in movies or on popular Tee Vee shows then it works in real life. But the truth, as counterintiutive as it might be to some of us, is that it doesn't.
As Ali Soufan points out, if torture was so effective then why the hell haven't we caught the Al Qaeda leadership, all of whom were know to KSM? Why didn't he tell us where they were and what they were up to? Why don't we have bin Ladin's head on a platter right now when instead, 8 years after 9/11 the guy is still putting out propaganda tapes? Can anybody answer that one? Can one single torture advocate answer that question?
Traditional interrogation was never tried on KSM, and that's the dirty little secret that nobody, including the mainstream media, ever wants to talk about. Soufan points out in the op ed all the information extracted from other HVDs who were tortured because the FBI was still allowed to use traditional interrogations either before or after the torture. When they were able to use traditional interrogtions prior to the torture they were able to extract information just fine and the torture wasn't even necessary and only ended up making the detainee shut down to the point where the FBI had to be called back in time and time again just to get them to start back talking. In the cases where traditional interrogation was used after the detainees were tortured the interrogators had to work their asses off to undue the harm the torture had done just to get the detainees to talk. In short, torture made it harder and less likely to get information out of the detainees in just about every single instance. This isn't some DFH saying it, its a hardened FBI interrogator who actually was in the room and got good information from several members of Al Qaeda and helped prosecute them both here and abroad.
Now I realize that torture advocates will never admit that torture didn't work and actually harmed our efforts to head off more attacks, but its time for everyone else to start calling bullshit on them too. Its not enough just to stick to the legality of the situation when the other side is appealing to people's primal instinct for revenge. People need to know that our ability to extract revenge was actually hurt by people like Dick Cheney ordering torture. As Soufan infers with his rhetorical question the very reason we don't have Al Qaeda's leadership dead or in custody now is precisely because Cheney ordered the torture of the men who could have led us right to them.