Torture Didn't Help--It Hindered Our Intelligence Gathering

For the gazillionth time, torture doesn't work. I know that people who like torture and enjoy making people suffer really, really want to believe it does so they don't have to deal with the fact that they may be soulless psychos, but it won't change the fact that it just ain't so:

Defenders of the Bush administration’s interrogation policies have claimed vindication from reports that bin Laden was tracked down in small part due to information received from brutalized detainees some six to eight years ago.

But that sequence of events -- even if true -- doesn’t demonstrate the effectiveness of torture, these experts say. Rather, it indicates bin Laden could have been caught much earlier had those detainees been interrogated properly.

"I think that without a doubt, torture and enhanced interrogation techniques slowed down the hunt for bin Laden," said an Air Force interrogator who goes by the pseudonym Matthew Alexander and located Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, in 2006.

It now appears likely that several detainees had information about a key al Qaeda courier -- information that might have led authorities directly to bin Laden years ago. But subjected to physical and psychological brutality, "they gave us the bare minimum amount of information they could get away with to get the pain to stop, or to mislead us," Alexander told The Huffington Post.

"We know that they didn’t give us everything, because they didn’t provide the real name, or the location, or somebody else who would know that information," he said.

In a 2006 study by the National Defense Intelligence College, trained interrogators found that traditional, rapport-based interviewing approaches are extremely effective with even the most hardened detainees, whereas coercion consistently builds resistance and resentment.

I realize that for many people this is counter-intuitive. But terrorists who hold highly sensitive intelligence are the kind of people for whom a self-image of tough, resistant warriors is definitional. It's not like holding your little brother in a wrestling hold and making him cry uncle. People have studied human psychology long enough now to realize that if you want real information as opposed to false confessions and misinformation from these people, you'll use a different approach. 

But then, I've never been convinced that the people who were ordering the torture ever cared much about the quality of the information it produced. They were interested in "metrics" and "intelligence product." As long as information was flowing they were doing their jobs and that's all that mattered.

Hullabaloo / By Digby | Sourced from

Posted at May 7, 2011, 5:40am

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